…Given an ever-increasing demand for oil, because of its[America's] “addiction”, and given its limited domestic sources of crude oil, the U.S. will remain dependent on imported oil well into the future. U.S. policymakers, by their past and present actions since the end of WWII in pursuing this addiction, have apparently concluded that the nation’s interest in oil and other ‘strategic’ resources outweighs the nation’s avowed values to support democracy.
This strategic policy is not new, though we refer to it today by the name of ‘neoliberalism’. As Diaz notes in his documentary film The End of Poverty?: “Neoliberalism managed to bankrupt many economies of the [global] south which allowed international capital to take over. This was achieved by imposing a new form of structural violence that was used for decades to maintain these countries in a state of underdevelopment. Such violence was implemented by the dictators of the south and their repressive apparatus which finally brought social unrest that was unkind to the free market economies. The special agents and economic hitmen were born and became the new, less visible means, to maintain such control over the globe’s resources” (2009).
But it is not considered good etiquette to discuss such nasty policies of inflicting structural violence on other peoples within the confines of America’s major media outlets; as a consequence, self-censorship plays a large role in silencing the mainstream U.S. media. As Herman and Chomsky explained in their work Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), the corporate-owned mass communications media are in the business to make money. Hence, it is the profit motive which dictates all successful forms of media in the U.S.—print, radio, television, etc.—to opt for stability, which distorts their editorial bias. As a consequence, the public interest is often subordinated to the interest of the profit motive. Likewise, reporters and the companies they work for will often actively avoid contending with governmental and corporate sources so as to maintain access to news developments and a steady stream of advertisers. Similarly, academics will oftentimes tow or parrot the government line in order to attain jobs, receive funding, promotions, and media relevance.
With the mainstream media structurally motivated to echo and support U.S. government and corporate policies as they facilitate America’s addiction to oil, one should note that its reticence to report negatively on the Gulf monarchs has a long history. In fact, if we trace the modern history of U.S. involvement in the Middle East in particular, we find that this fatal decision to embrace the Gulf monarchs is the result of a deal forged between FDR and Ibn Saud back in 1945.
The deal established what was referred to as a “special relationship” between Saudi Arabia and America. ‘Special’ indeed, as the soon-to-be co-victor of the second world war was establishing a position of predominance in the Middle East with access to cheap oil in perpetuity in exchange for a guarantee to maintain the rule of a single family while locking its populations into a straightjacket of undemocratic and dictatorial rule. This equation of maintaining a single family in power in exchange for cheap access to oil would become the model for a subsequent post-WWII U.S. foreign policy in dealing with countries which were naturally blessed with this crucial resource. Former bureau chief for The Washington Post and current scholar at the Washington, DC-based Middle East Institute, Thomas W. Lippman, writes that Ibn Saud received from FDR a promise that the U.S. president would “do nothing to assist the Jews against the Arabs and would make no move hostile to the Arab people” (2005, p. 29).
Subsequent U.S. actions have clearly aided and abetted Israeli expansion and aggression in the region, though not normally to the detriment of Arab rulers, who from Ibn Saud’s perspective constituted “the Arab people.” The masses, from Ibn Saud’s point of view, as well as that of his fellow autocratic rulers in the region, are not considered autonomous agents with free will and self-determination but rather a dangerous rabble to be ruled over with an iron fist and dictated to. FDR and subsequent U.S. administrations have concluded that when it comes to dealing with oil-rich countries, it is not only easier to placate one ruling family, as opposed to a democratic mass, but, as well, it is politically viable—at least for a certain period of time—as negative blowback  from dictatorial rule will primarily fall upon the indigenous ruler and not his external military backers. As John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman (2004), describes the process: “If we don’t like what a democratically-elected leader of another country is doing, for example opposing the exploitation of oil in his country, someone who looks like me will walk into that president’s office–I had the job at one time–walks into the office and says: “And now I just want to remind you that I can make you and your family very, very rich if you play my game, our game.
Or I can see to it that you’re thrown out of office or assassinated if you decide to fulfill your campaign promises. And usually it’s still a little more subtly than that, because there may be a tape recorder listening. But they get the message, because every one of those presidents knows what happened to Arbenz of Guatemala and Allende of Chile and Roldós of Equador and Lumumba of The Congo and Torrijos and on and on. The list is very long of presidents that we have had thrown out or assassinated. There’s no question about that. And they all know this. So we perpetuate the system that way. Here you are: From this pocket, you offer a few hundred million dollars of corruption. Or from this pocket, you offer subversives, jackals, to go in and overthrow the government or assassinate the president. And this has happened time and time and time again. Usually, the economic hitmen are successful, so we don’t need to send in the jackals. But on those occasions when we’re not successful—as for me, I failed with Omar Torrijos in Panama and Jaime Roldós in Equador—and, so, the jackals were sent in and assassinated these men” (Diaz, 2009).
Though each of these post-WWII interventions, coup d’états, and assassinations were motivated by various determinants, it has been the centrality of oil that has consistently informed U.S. foreign policy since 1945. This is because WWII highlighted to all sides the centrality of oil to modern economic and military supremacy. Dr. Keith Miller, a speaker with the Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lectureship Series since 1999, provides the following vignette about an incident involving the famous American Army General George S. Patton as he was directing a frontal tank assault across Europe in WWII: “Let me begin with a short story. The great tank commander—George S. Patton—found out the hard way how important oil was (in the form of gasoline) to the war effort. His tanks were moving so fast as they approached the Seigfried Line of Germany, they all ran out of gasoline. To get more fuel to the fiery general, as quickly as possible, it had to be airlifted from Normandy.”
Miller continues: “But, many more stories of a similar kind could be told. The truth is—oil was the indispensable product, in all its forms, to the Allied campaigns around the world. Without it World War Two could never have been won. For oil, once processed or refined in various ways, became the source or indispensable material for laying runways, making toluene (the chief component of TNT) for bombs, the manufacturing of synthetic rubber for tires, and the distilling into gasoline (particularly at 100-octane levels) for use in trucks, tanks, jeeps, and airplanes. And, that is not to mention the need for oil as a lubricant for guns and machinery” (2002).
Ready access to oil on an inexpensive and dependable basis would become the lens through which nearly all major U.S. subsequent foreign policy actions would be assessed. And neither Christian morality nor American democratic values would hinder this quest. Hence, the Faustian bargain between FDR and Ibn Saud in 1945 was truly a pact with the devil from which the U.S. may never be able to extricate itself from…