In Oil Money, David M. Wight offers a new framework for understanding the course of Middle East–US relations during the 1970s and 1980s: the transformation of the US global empire by Middle East petrodollars. During these two decades, American, Arab, and Iranian elites reconstituted the primary role of the Middle East within the global system of US power from a supplier of cheap crude oil to a source of abundant petrodollars, the revenues earned from the export of oil.
In the 1970s, the United States and allied monarchies, including the House of Pahlavi in Iran and the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia, utilized petrodollars to undertake myriad joint initiatives for mutual economic and geopolitical benefit. These petrodollar projects were often unprecedented in scope and included multibillion-dollar development projects, arms sales, purchases of US Treasury securities, and funds for the mujahedin in Afghanistan. Although petrodollar ties often augmented the power of the United States and its Middle East allies, Wight argues they also fostered economic disruptions and state-sponsored violence that drove many Americans, Arabs, and Iranians to resist Middle East–US interdependence, most dramatically during the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
Deftly integrating diplomatic, transnational, economic, and cultural analysis, Wight utilizes extensive declassified records from the Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations, the IMF, the World Bank, Saddam Hussein's regime, and private collections to make plain the political economy of US power. Oil Money is an expansive yet judicious investigation of the wide-ranging and contradictory effects of petrodollars on Middle East–US relations and the geopolitics of globalization.
1. Oil, US Empire, and the Middle East
2. The Road to the Oil Shock
3. Pursuing Petrodollar Interdependence
4. The Triangle to the Nile
5. The Petrodollar Economy
6. Visions of Petrodollar Promise and Peril
7. Reform and Revolt
8. Revolution and Invasions
9. Recoveries and Crises
10. End of an Era
David M. Wight is Visiting Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Oil Money offers a rich, thorough and sophisticated description of how petrodollar interdependence has shaped and transformed modern international relations, global capitalism and U.S. hegemony, or as Wight prefers to call it, the American "cooperative empire." [I]t provides us with a fundamental introduction to one of the driving forces behind today's world and its many contradictions.
~The Washington Post
Oil Money is a well-researched study that contributes significantly to our understanding of the role that the financial dynamics of oil played in shaping the projection of US power abroad.
~Enterprise & Society
[One] strength of the work worth noting is the effort, especially in the second half of the book, to integrate a popular cultural analysis. By the end of Wight's narrative, we have the basic outlines of the world in which we still live. Wight has done a yeoman's work in explaining how the world came to be this way.
~Middle East Journal
In rich and engaging detail, David M. Wight elaborates how US officials in the Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations scrambled to adapt to the end of their ability to impose low prices on compliant client states in the MENA region. In doing so, he taps "a wealth of new sources, particularly from declassified governmental records and popular Arab, Iranian, and US media" (p. 4).[T]he publication of Oil Money is timely. It helps us understand why the Biden administration is leading with military weapon provision to intervene in Russia's war with Ukraine.
Covering the 1970s and 1980s, Oil Money helps us understand the past that continues to haunt the present. In his accessible and well-researched account, Wight sheds light on the historical origins of the promise and peril of a relationship in which the United States, the oil-producing Arab countries, and Iran have all failed to bring about a positive transformation of the petrodollar economy.
[T]his book is well-researched and engaging. Among the main strengths of the book is also its emphasis on how the reality of the new petrodollar-based US "empire" was represented, debated, and constructed in the public sphere, both in the US and in the MENA.
~Society for U.S. Intellectual History