Excerpt from The fall of the House of Saud, By Robert Baer, The Atlantic Monthly, May 2003
Robert Baer served for twenty-one years with the CIA, primarily as a field officer in the Middle East. He resigned from the agency in 1997 and was awarded its Career Intelligence Medal in 1998. This article is adapted from his book Sleeping With the Devil (June, 2003, Crown Publishers), Saudi Arabia today is a mess, and it is our mess. We made it the private storage tank for our oil reserves. We reaped the benefits of a steady petroleum supply at a discounted price, and we grabbed at every available Saudi petrodollar. We taught the Saudis exactly what was expected of them. We cannot walk away morally from the consequences of this behavior–and we really can’t walk away economically. So we crow about democracy and talk about someday weaning ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil, despite the fact that as long as America has been dependent on foreign oil there has never been an honest, sustained effort at the senior governmental level to reduce long-term U.S. petroleum consumption. Not all the wishing in the world will change the basic reality of the situation.
Saudi Arabia controls the largest share of the world’s oil and serves as the market regulator for the global petroleum industry. No country consumes more oil, and is more dependent on Saudi oil, than the United States. The United States and the rest of the industrialized world are therefore absolutely dependent on Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves, and will be for decades to come. If the Saudi oil spigot is shut off, by terrorism or by political revolution, the effect on the global economy, and particularly on the economy of the United States, will be devastating.