Thicker Than Oil: America's Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia

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9780195167436: Thicker Than Oil: America's Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia
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For fifty-five years, the United States and Saudi Arabia were solid partners. Since 9/11 this partnership has been sorely tested. In Thicker than Oil, Rachel Bronson shows why the partnership became so intimate and the problems that it spawned. This normally secretive relationship comes alive with stories of American diplomats heaped on the floor before the Saudi King--and a bizarre request for the Saudi government to subsidize Polish pork exports, a request the U.S. Ambassador refused to deliver. Drawing on a wide range of archival material, declassified documents, and interviews with leading Saudi and American officials, Bronson chronicles a long history of close contact. Contrary to popular belief, Bronson shows that the relationship was never just about "oil for security." Saudi Arabia's religiously motivated foreign policy was deemed an asset when fighting "godless communism," as was Saudi Arabia's geographic location. From Africa to Afghanistan, Egypt to Nicaragua the two worked to beat back Soviet influence. Overlapping strategic interests helped compartmentalized differences around issues such as the Arab-Israeli conflict. But decisions taken for hard headed Cold War purposes left behind a legacy that today inflames the Middle East. In today's fight against terrorism, Saudi Arabia is both part of the problem and part of the solution. Not withstanding real troubles, Bronson outlines the dangers of allowing the relationship to further deteriorate. Saudi Arabia, she notes, faces a violent and zealous opposition. If this opposition gains complete control of the state's huge resources, it will direct its efforts towards destroying the United States, auguring a true clash of civilizations.

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"A thoughtful history of U.S.-Saudi relations. It challenges the common characterization of the relationship as a bargain in which the Saudis provide easy access to oil in exchange for U.S. security guarantees."--Foreign Affairs"This is the most solid book to date on the vital relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, with important new historical material and a hard-headed look at our tough policy choices for the future."--Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus, The Council on Foreign Relations"Well researched.... The best sections of her impressively researched book explain the complexity and ambition of joint U.S.-Saudi undertakings against communist governments and guerrilla movements during the Cold War -- not only in Afghanistan...but also in the Middle East, Africa and Central America.... A reliable, efficient book that policymakers and regional analysts will find useful."--Steve Coll, Washington Post Book World"Dr. Bronson provides a highly readable survey of the twists and turns that have typified the US-Saudi relationship. While there is plenty of intrigue, she also paints a picture of a relationship far more complex than most would expect. The author brings a refreshing sense of balance to one of the hot-button topics of our day. Thicker Than Oil points the way to redefining the national interests of both America and the Saudis." --Robert W. Jordan, United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 2001-2003"Rachel Bronson has written a book, at once 'cool' and authoritative, on a subject of great controversy and importance. She makes her own way through the thicket of US-Saudi relations. A work of careful scholarship and analysis loaded with interviews and drawing on a vast literature. No axe to grind, just the story told with care and judgement."--Fouad Ajami, Majid Khadduri Professor and Director of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies"Thicker Than Oil is a highly-engaging book on a critical topic--the nature and future of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Rachel Bronson brings much-needed balance to an issue that has too often been the subject of unhelpful polemics, and she has proven herself to be a world-class researcher, unearthing numerous gems about that relationship. Her book is a vital reminder of the value of our long-time allies at a time when we have developed a bad habit of taking them for granted."--Kenneth Pollock, Director of Research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, and author of The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America"Smart, balanced, and wonderfully readable, Thicker Than Oil is the perfect antidote to the sensationalism that has recently characterized books and movies about U.S.-Saudi relations. With an eye for the telling detail, Rachel Bronson brings down the temperature of the debate and tells the fascinating story of how the Saudis and the Americans came to be blood brothers, brought together not simply by the black gold but by geography and a common interest in fighting godless Communism. This well-documented study should be required reading for policymakers, students, and indeed anyone interested in truly understanding this most crucial and tense relationship at the crossroads where it now stands."--Noah Feldman, Professor of Law at New York University, and author of After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy "A thoughtful history of U.S.-Saudi relations. It challenges the common characterization of the relationship as a bargain in which the Saudis provide easy access to oil in exchange for U.S. security guarantees."--Foreign Affairs "This is the most solid book to date on the vital relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, with important new historical material and a hard-headed look at our tough policy choices for the future."--Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus, The Council on Foreign Relations "Well researched.... The best sections of her impressively researched book explain the complexity and ambition of joint U.S.-Saudi undertakings against communist governments and guerrilla movements during the Cold War -- not only in Afghanistan...but also in the Middle East, Africa and Central America.... A reliable, efficient book that policymakers and regional analysts will find useful."--Steve Coll, Washington Post Book World "Dr. Bronson provides a highly readable survey of the twists and turns that have typified the US-Saudi relationship. While there is plenty of intrigue, she also paints a picture of a relationship far more complex than most would expect. The author brings a refreshing sense of balance to one of the hot-button topics of our day. Thicker Than Oil points the way to redefining the national interests of both America and the Saudis." --Robert W. Jordan, United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 2001-2003 "Rachel Bronson has written a book, at once 'cool' and authoritative, on a subject of great controversy and importance. She makes her own way through the thicket of US-Saudi relations. A work of careful scholarship and analysis loaded with interviews anddrawing on a vast literature. No axe to grind, just the story told with care and judgement."--Fouad Ajami, Majid Khadduri Professor and Director of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies "Thicker Than Oil is a highly-engaging book on a critical topic--the nature and future of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Rachel Bronson brings much-needed balance to an issue that has too often been the subject of unhelpful polemics, and she has proven herself to be a world-class researcher, unearthing numerous gems about that relationship. Her book is a vital reminder of the value of our long-time allies at a time when we have developed a bad habit of taking them for granted."--Kenneth Pollock, Director of Research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, and author of The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America "Smart, balanced, and wonderfully readable, Thicker Than Oil is the perfect antidote to the sensationalism that has recently characterized books and movies about U.S.-Saudi relations. With an eye for the telling detail, Rachel Bronson brings down the temperature of the debate and tells the fascinating story of how the Saudis and the Americans came to be blood brothers, brought together not simply by the black gold but by geography and a common interest in fighting godless Communism. This well-documented study should be required reading for policymakers, students, and indeed anyone interested in truly understanding this most crucial and tense relationship at the crossroads where it now stands."--Noah Feldman, Professor of Law at New York University, and author of After Jihad: America and theStruggle for Islamic Democracy "A thoughtful history of U.S.-Saudi relations. It challenges the common characterization of the relationship as a bargain in which the Saudis provide easy access to oil in exchange for U.S. security guarantees."--Foreign Affairs "This is the most solid book to date on the vital relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, with important new historical material and a hard-headed look at our tough policy choices for the future."--Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus, The Council on Foreign Relations "Well researched.... The best sections of her impressively researched book explain the complexity and ambition of joint U.S.-Saudi undertakings against communist governments and guerrilla movements during the Cold War -- not only in Afghanistan...but also in the Middle East, Africa and Central America.... A reliable, efficient book that policymakers and regional analysts will find useful."--Steve Coll, Washington Post Book World "Dr. Bronson provides a highly readable survey of the twists and turns that have typified the US-Saudi relationship. While there is plenty of intrigue, she also paints a picture of a relationship far more complex than most would expect. The author brings a refreshing sense of balance to one of the hot-button topics of our day. Thicker Than Oil points the way to redefining the national interests of both America and the Saudis." --Robert W. Jordan, United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 2001-2003 "Rachel Bronson has written a book, at once 'cool' and authoritative, on a subject of great controversy and importance. She makes her own way through the thicket of US-Saudi relations. A work of carefulscholarship and analysis loaded with interviews and drawing on a vast literature. No axe to grind, just the story told with care and judgement."--Fouad Ajami, Majid Khadduri Professor and Director of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies "Thicker Than Oil is a highly-engaging book on a critical topic--the nature and future of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Rachel Bronson brings much-needed balance to an issue that has too often been the subject of unhelpful polemics, and she has proven herself to be a world-class researcher, unearthing numerous gems about that relationship. Her book is a vital reminder of the value of our long-time allies at a time when we have developed a bad habit of taking them for granted."--Kenneth Pollock, Director of Research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, and author of The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America "Smart, balanced, and wonderfully readable, Thicker Than Oil is the perfect antidote to the sensationalism that has recently characterized books and movies about U.S.-Saudi relations. With an eye for the telling detail, Rachel Bronson brings down the temperature of the debate and tells the fascinating story of how the Saudis and the Americans came to be blood brothers, brought together not simply by the black gold but by geography and a common interest in fighting godless Communism. This well-documented study should be required reading for policymakers, students, and indeed anyone interested in truly understanding this most crucial and tense relationship at the crossroads where it nowstands."--Noah Feldman, Professor of Law at New York University, and author of After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy "A thoughtful history of U.S.-Saudi relations. It challenges the common characterization of the relationship as a bargain in which the Saudis provide easy access to oil in exchange for U.S. security guarantees."--Foreign Affairs"This is the most solid book to date on the vital relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, with important new historical material and a hard-headed look at our tough policy choices for the future."--Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus, The Council on Foreign Relations"Well researched.... The best sections of her impressively researched book explain the complexity and ambition of joint U.S.-Saudi undertakings against communist governments and guerrilla movements during the Cold War -- not only in Afghanistan...but also in the Middle East, Africa and CentralAmerica.... A reliable, efficient book that policymakers and regional analysts will find useful."--Steve Coll, Washington Post Book World"Dr. Bronson provides a highly readable survey of the twists and turns that have typified the US-Saudi relationship. While there is plenty of intrigue, she also paints a picture of a relationship far more complex than most would expect. The author brings a refreshing sense of balance to one of thehot-button topics of our day. Thicker Than Oil points the way to redefining the national interests of both America and the Saudis." --Robert W. Jordan, United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 2001-2003"Rachel Bronson has written a book, at once 'cool' and authoritative, on a subject of great controversy and importance. She makes her own way through the thicket of US-Saudi relations. A work of careful scholarship and analysis loaded with interviewsand drawing on a vast literature. No axe togrind, just the story told with care and judgement."--Fouad Ajami, Majid Khadduri Professor and Director of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies"Thicker Than Oil is a highly-engaging book on a critical topic--the nature and future of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Rachel Bronson brings much-needed balance to an issue that has too often been the subject of unhelpful polemics, and she has proven herself to be a world-class researcher, unearthing numerous gems about that relationship. Her book is a vital reminder of the value of our long-time allies at a time when we have developed a bad habit of taking them for granted."--Kenneth Pollock, Director of Research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the BrookingsInstitution, and author of The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America"Smart, balanced, and wonderfully readable, Thicker Than Oil is the perfect antidote to the sensationalism that has recently characterized books and movies about U.S.-Saudi relations. With an eye for the telling detail, Rachel Bronson brings down the temperature of the debate and tells thefascinating story of how the Saudis and the Americans came to be blood brothers, brought together not simply by the black gold but by geography and a common interest in fighting godless Communism. This well-documented study should be required reading for policymakers, students, and indeed anyoneinterested in truly understanding this most crucial and tense relationship at the crossroads where it now stands."--Noah Feldman, Professor of Law at New York University, and author of After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy

About the Author:

Rachel Bronson is a Senior Fellow and Director of Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University and lives in New York City.

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