A bracing corrective to the myths that have shaped economic, military, and diplomatic policy, dispelling our oil-soaked fantasies of dependence.
There is a conventional wisdom about oil―that the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf is what guarantees access to this strategic resource; that the "special" relationship with Saudi Arabia is necessary to stabilize an otherwise volatile market; and that these assumptions in turn provide Washington enormous leverage over Europe and Asia. Except, the conventional wisdom is wrong.
Robert Vitalis debunks the myths to reveal "oilcraft," a line of magical thinking closer to witchcraft than statecraft. Oil is a commodity like any other: bought, sold, and subject to market forces. Thus, the first goal of this book is to expose the suspect fears of oil scarcity and conflict. The second goal is to investigate the significant geopolitical impact of these false beliefs.
In particular, Vitalis shows how we can reconsider the question of the U.S.–Saudi special relationship, which confuses and traps many into unnecessarily accepting what they imagine is a devil's bargain. The House of Saud does many things for U.S. investors, firms, and government agencies, but guaranteeing the flow of oil, making it cheap, or stabilizing the price isn't one of them. Freeing ourselves from the spell of oilcraft won't be easy―but the benefits make it essential.
Robert Vitalis is Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. His books include America's Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier (Stanford, 2007), named one of the best books of the year by the London Guardian and an essential read by Foreign Affairs, as well as White World Order, Black Power Politics: The Birth of American International Relations (...