What would happen if America stuck by it's principles?

In other words, what if we actually told Saudi Arabia “Hey! You are an oppressive government. Keep your oil.” It seems that supporting dictators just because they are anti-commy, anti-Muslim extremist, oil rich, allow military overflights or whatever mostly ends up creating more problems than it solves in the long run. I know this is pretty naive but have these scenarios been “gamed out”? Its no wonder we are disliked in so many places. When brutal leaders are supported by us, what do we expect?

Did you mean to ask, “What would happen if America stuck by my principles?”

Who do you propose we buy oil from instead?

And when did America have principles?

I expect he means “alleged principles”.

I’m not expert on this, but it’s my understanding that oil is sold on a commodities market, and we don’t have a system to segregate Saudi oil from other oil.

Of course there’s always “drill, baby, drill”, but that might not get us very far…

And **Czarcasm **is right. We’ve never had the principles outlined in the OP. The US, like every country, does what is in its own best interest.

Since it was convenient. :wink:

There are plenty of other companies that produce oil. This is as good a time as any to remind everybody that the largest source of imported U.S. oil is Canada, and number two is Mexico. This is constantly overlooked.

I’m not sure what that would do to the worldwide oil market. There are oil exporters other than OPEC and Saudi Arabia, that’s for sure. OPEC or Saudi Arabia could cut prices or increase exports to get more business from other countries, or they could raise their prices to make up for the lost revenue. I’m not sure how easily the U.S. could meet its oil needs from Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and other democratic countries.

It often does that. It’s also true that the world is full of bad guys and if you refuse to do business with everybody you say is bad, then you lose your ability to influence them. (And sometimes you don’t have much choice.) The U.S. doesn’t do business with Iran, so China and Russia take its place, and when the U.S. gets pissed at Iran, it doesn’t have many options. The U.S. placed an embargo on Cuba and Cuba wound up with a tighter relationship with the Soviet Union. The U.S. doesn’t do business with the awful regime in Burma, so it has little influence on Burma, which is patronized by China instead.

There’s more to that issue than failing to stick by your principles.

One thing that these kinds of posts don’t explore is what would happen if the regime being discussed was allowed to fail? For example, if the US stopped buying Saudi oil (and we’ll pretend nobody else will), what happens? Is the result better than now?

Take Iran as an example. We propped up a dictator who was no pic-nic who eventually lost power. Did the Iranian revolution bring about a better regime? Would our principles have been better served by supporting the Shah but privately putting pressure on him to change? Do I phrase too many of my points as questions?

Oil is the main reason. The USA could trade with other oil-producing nations, but it’s more expensive and lower quality than the “sweet crude” we get cheaply from Saudi Arabia. Once Saudi oil runs dry, the USA will probably drop Arabia like a two-dollar whore and trade with Canada for oil shale instead…or invade Canada, whichever works. :cool:

Arguably yes. More to the point, they ended up with the regime they did in large part because we supported the Shah in the first place. No support means no American-puppet Shah which means no anti-American revolution to replace a American-puppet Shah who wasn’t there to have a revolution against.

Oil is a globally traded commodity. If the US stopped buying from Saudi Arabia, the price of Saudi Arabian oil would fall and every other country would buy it until its price went right back up to where it was before. The main area of support with Saudi Arabia is we let them buy our weapons systems and the implicit threat that if another country invades them we will protect them like we did Kuwait. If we stopped selling them weapons they would buy them from the Russians, French, or English. If we told them we would do nothing if they were invaded by another country they would buy alot more weapons from whoever would sell them, because they would be afraid of the Iranians. This would probably lead to a regional arms race.

In other words, you’re arguing that the invisible hand of the free market is completely powerless. In reality, what would happen is that other countries would start buying more Saudi oil, and a new equilibrium would be reached, but in that new equilibrium, Saudi oil would still be cheaper than it was before, and Saudi Arabia would end up with less money.

If Saudi Arabian oil was cheaper than before, why would anyone else besides America buy oil from anyone else? They would not. The invisible hand would guide the market back to an equilibrium pretty much exactly like the status quo ante. The Saudis would lose a little money in the time between our announcements and the new equilibrium but in this world of computerized trades, the time would be very short.

See: Jimmy Carter, overthrow of the Shah of Iran, rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the second energy crisis of 1979.

Because we aren’t a small, poor and isolationist nation (anymore). Countries that can afford to tell other nations who do stuff that is distasteful to them to go take a hike are nations that don’t matter and have no real foreign policy or expectations of having any sort of global impact or influence. Even superpowers (even hyperpowers like the US) HAVE to get along with the greater international community, if for no other reason than to protect their trade interests and strategic resources outside of their own borders. Which brings us to this:

As others have pointed out, what would we do for oil if we decided to do this? Even leaving aside what would happen to SA if the US decided to just tell them to go pound sand (heh), oil is an international commodity. How would the US buy oil that was untainted by the Saudi curse? Where would we get it from? And how much more would it cost us (even if we could get all we needed through some sort of back channel by working with only countries we ‘like’)?

It doesn’t seem that way to me at all. Look at former dictatorships such as South Korea for instance. Would it have been better in the long run to let the North Koreans take over all of Korea, or to support dictator type rulers who did distasteful things in the short term? A lot is made over how bad the Shah of Iran was (and he was not what anyone would consider a ‘nice guy’), but how did letting him fall help out either the world or even the Iranian people in the short or medium term? Iran is now an international pariah due to it’s support of terrorist and para-military groups and it’s continued attempts to produce nuclear weapons. The current regime has been every bit as brutal as the Shah was (hell, more so, since they have actually taken away more of their personal freedoms and forced the population to conform to religious fundamentalist ideals and rules). This has impacted their quality of life, and impacted their ability to trade and work freely with the community of nations.

We are. But we are liked in many places too, contrary to popular wisdom and assumption. As a superpower, we are going to attract the good with the bad.

I would expect that brutal leaders are going to continue to be brutal whether we support them or not. If we choose not too, then we won’t have any influence on their actions at all…and, most likely someone else who is more realistic will. Making a principled stand is something that individuals can and should do…nation states who want to be more than isolationist introverts need to take a more pragmatic look on reality wrt the way the world actually works.


Nothing whatsoever.

Oil is fungible. If you stop buying Saudi oil, all that happens is that the Saudis will sell it to, say, France. France will then buy less oil from Norway, who will sell more to Spain, who’ll buy less from Canada, and then the US buys more oil from Canada. The total amount of oil produced and consumed will remain the same, all in all, and will affect Saudi Arabia not at all.

We had them, once, for twenty minutes, in…oh, never mind.


You might want to read up on the invisible hand. That’s not how it works. The new equilibrium would be exactly like the old equilibrium.

However, we can’t stop buying Saudi oil short of an embargo, as John Mace points out.

We could have just burned slaves for oil or said that Saudi Arabia was part of our manifest domain.

One who sticks by one’s principles tends to get stuck with them, if not on them.