Oil may not grease friendship?

No shit. But MacDonald’s does?

Two researchers published a wonky piece with graphs in YaleGlobal Online about the triangle of relationships between oil, entrepreneurial behavior and friendliness towards the United States. The results are pretty intuitive, as they describe in the abstract:

Researchers have long pointed to some correlations in international affairs: Oil countries tend not to be entrepreneurial; nations dependent on one industry, such as oil extraction, tend to be hostile with the US; and entrepreneurial nations tend to befriend the US.

Like I said, it’s sort of obvious. For example, why would you bother to do anything if you were a Kuwaiti who could sit around in his Range Rover all day and collect cheques at the end of the month? You wouldn’t. Or why try to get a job if you are a Nigerian? Either you have a way to jump into the river of corruption or you don’t.

And I already assumed that Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmedinijad sat around playing backgammon and cracking jokes about oil prices. (Maybe I’ll delve into Bloomberg later and look for evidence.) But the point is, if you have oil you have a lot more lateral in dealing with the United States, whether you are Putin or Qaddafi.

The one place where I think that the Yalies’ assessment is a little lacking is in their treatment of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Check this out:


For oil exports, we found that the “oilier” a country was, the less likely it was to support the US. For example, Venezuela, Iran and Nigeria have voted at only 10 percent, 9 percent and 20 percent in support of the US, respectively, in the nonconsensus category. We found some exceptions: Britain and Norway are oil rich and friendly; a third exception is Saudi Arabia, which was among the largest supporters of the US compared to other nations in the Arab group.

A country with such structure[s as rule of law and property rights] can therefore absorb the gush of oil more easily, or turn the oil wealth into an advantage. In the case of Saudi Arabia, [which is an exception,] we posit that the US may be buying friendship in arms trade, military support and aid.

Fair enough, but I think that their reliance on voting patterns in the UN General Assembly presents them with a pretty limited view of anti-Americanism. Saudi Arabia might look pretty friendly to the United States on paper, but one shouldn’t overlook the fact that people in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states provide much of the funds for Al Qaeda and other Sunni global jihad groups, while propagating a very conservative, fundamentalist view of Islam.

That’s my observation in case Amity Shlaes and Guarav Tiwari, the authors of the paper, wanted it.


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