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Rain Man
08-28-2011, 08:33 PM
I was at the mall today and there was some middle eastern fellow there who was about 20 years old and looked as rich as ... as ... someone who's really rich. And it got me thinking about the whole arab sheik thing and how this one royal family in this total backwater marry-my-camel place is rich as ... as ... someone who's really rich, and the bottom line is that they really had no power or resources other than a bunch of dead dinosaurs that they had nothing to do with. They didn't even really have good national borders until maybe the 1970s.

So my question is this. The oil era came of age in a less wimpy time, when people didn't care so much about things like ownership and people who weren't white and stuff. Post-WWII, we just said, 'eh, kick the Palestinians out and give that land to the jews', for example.

The sheiks could raise an army of maybe 500 people with spears, max. So in 1925 or so, how was the decision made to pay the sheiks as opposed to just, you know, killing them and taking their dead dinosaurs?

I'm not advocating this, but you had a bunch of people running major countries at the time who didn't exactly coddle people, and they had to recognize that that big ol' pile of sand was going to be worth a lot of money, and it was guarded by an ill-defined kingdom that was about 20 years more advanced than cavemen. So how did the sheiks survive all that?

alnorth
08-28-2011, 08:45 PM
It would have eventually failed if it would have been tried. Colonies where the ruling class is different ethnically and culturally from the common people don't really work well anymore, (not that it works all that well anyway, see: Civil War, American) in an age where communication and small arms have improved to the point where popular uprisings are more successful.

The problem with wanting to "take their oil", is you've got to wipe the people out, bring in your own people, and live there. The morality of genocide aside, there aren't many western people who want to live in the middle east.

Rain Man
08-28-2011, 08:56 PM
It would have eventually failed if it would have been tried. Colonies where the ruling class is different ethnically and culturally from the common people don't really work well anymore, (not that it works all that well anyway, see: Civil War, American) in an age where communication and small arms have improved to the point where popular uprisings are more successful.

The problem with wanting to "take their oil", is you've got to wipe the people out, bring in your own people, and live there. The morality of genocide aside, there aren't many western people who want to live in the middle east.

But do you have to bring in your own people to live there? Maybe some workers to drill it and ship it, but even now that's not done by natives. It's all western or Filipino or something.

It seems like a pretty easy beheading, maybe not even a genocide. I'm not sure how big the cities are, but for the most part those bedouins out in the desert aren't going to care if there's a government. And it seems like the cities would be fine as open ports like Macau or Hong Kong.

If you're Calvin Coolidge, I think you take out the sheiks, let it go under local warlords in each of those cities, and just start drilling.

But yeah, point understood that it would've been against what happened in the 40s and 50s. But places like India and Vietnam had significant populations. I'm not sure that Arabia is populated enough to even have a revolution.

alnorth
08-28-2011, 09:05 PM
But do you have to bring in your own people to live there? Maybe some workers to drill it and ship it, but even now that's not done by natives. It's all western or Filipino or something.

Yeah, pretty much. It has to be your country and your people. The natives don't mind working for American oil companies because their country will tax the hell out of the oil leaving the country. If instead you have a foreign entity taking something so incredible valuable as their oil and paying little to nothing for it (wages for some workers, that is it), the people will look around at their lack of jobs, social services, etc and eventually say "get lost, white guy, that oil field is ours now"

Amnorix
08-29-2011, 05:47 AM
This is not an area of history that I am terrifically familiar with, but essentially huge swaths of the Middle East's oil rich areas were part of the Ottoman Empire, which looked like this in 1914 (when WWI started):

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/firstworldwar/maps/map_images/ottoman_empire.gif

Note that that map includes modern Iraq and Kuwait, as well as a significant portion of what is now Eastern Saudi Arabia along the ocean. The backward deserts were ignored.

The second factor here, which I am unable to locate or identify, is the production of oil in the Middle East as of 1914 or so. I know that as of 1895 or somesuch, Standard Oil was THE dominant oil producer in the world. So about 15-20 years before the Great War, oil production in the Middle East hadn't really taken off. Big surprise since the Ottoman Empire was, at this point, a pathetic shell of what it had once been.

Fast forward to 1918. The Ottoman Empire falls and is being dismantled. The colonial powers, primarily England and France, are fighting over the remains. Pre-war agreements, which disgusted Lawrence of Arabia (who favored Arab self-governance) basically carves up portions of the former territory into spheres of influence. Certain tribes of Arabia which had fought in support of the Triple Entente (England, FRance, etc.), then fell into a bit of a civil war, though the House of Saud came out on top, again, and it was pledged as a British Protectorate until the late 20s.

At this point, Britain has significant influence in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and all the way through to India, which at that time was part of the UK. Oil production is NOT nationalized, but rather is largely controlled by foreign interests, particularly the British, who (IIRC) lease large swaths of land to build production etc.

Oil is CHEAP, stable and endless.

Fast-forward to the end of WWII. Now America has a significant voice, and the Seven Sisters (the nickname for the seven dominant oil companies in the world) effectively control Middle East oil production, still under leases, etc. Over the years in different parts of the world, some of the countries threaten to nationalize the oil fields, to get a better deal. Profit sharing starts to come into the mix.

Fast forward to the 70s. Countries begin to exert self-control, especially in the wake of foreign support for the Yom Kippur War between Israel and a bunch of Arabian countries in 1973. Iran has a revolution. Over the next decade or so, pretty much all the significant producers nationalize their oil production and kick the foreigners out, who essentially must bid for oil produced by the native countries, which more or less leaves us where we are today.

I may be off in various particulars, but that's the rough synopsis of the history of Middle East oil production as I understand it.

DanT
08-29-2011, 12:14 PM
Page 15 of the 1939August21 Life Magaine has a very interesting article about the King of Saudi Arabia's decision to lease a big chunk of land to Standard Oil of California and Texas, even though businesses from other countries were willing to pay lots more money for the leasing rights. According to the article, the King liked the fact that the Americans were all about business and getting things done, not meddling in politics. The article also talks about how pious the King was. Anyway, here's a tinyurl link to it:

http://tinyurl.com/3rgfygl

If the above link doesn't work, then you should be able to find it in books.google.com by querying on, for example,

august 21, 1939 and ibn saud

or by using the below link instead:
http://books.google.com/books?id=9EEEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA15#v=onepage&q&f=false

I happened across this article because I like to read old magazines from just before major events, to see what was being said. This particular magazine appeared a couple of weeks before the German invasion of Poland.

Amnorix
08-29-2011, 12:30 PM
Page 15 of the 1939August21 Life Magaine has a very interesting article about the King of Saudi Arabia's decision to lease a big chunk of land to Standard Oil of California and Texas, even though businesses from other countries were willing to pay lots more money for the leasing rights. According to the article, the King liked the fact that the Americans were all about business and getting things done, not meddling in politics. The article also talks about how pious the King was. Anyway, here's a tinyurl link to it:



Thanks for the link. Standard Oil of California and Texas, better known as SoCal, is one of the splinter entities resulting from the breakup of Standard Oil. It is now known as Chevron.

The US's close relationship to the Saudis predates WWII, as you note here. Thanks for the link. I'll read it later with interest.

Not sure off the top of my head hwo this relationship turned into Aramco (Arabian-American Oil Company or somesuch), but that was the intermediate step (probably involving profit sharing), before full nationalization of the Saudi oil fields and subsequent renaming to Arabian Oil Company or whatever it is, which IIRC is the most valuable business in the world in terms of assets (since it has multiple trillions of oil holdings).

DanT
08-29-2011, 12:48 PM
One of the photo captions in that Life Magazine article is extremely interesting to read in the wake of 9/11:


King Ibn Saud is by far the ablest of Arab rulers. His people are the super-pious Wahabis. Ibn Saud pampers their fantacism but is a shrewd and realistic autocrat who has repeatedly outsmarted the English. He has built up his great kindom singlehanded, against the Turks, English, Yemenites, Iraquii. He naturally champions Palestine Arabs against Jews.

Anyway, beware of the link. Those old magazines are super interesting to read. You might end up wasting a lot of time. ;)

Amnorix
08-29-2011, 12:50 PM
One of the photo captions in that Life Magazine article is extremely interesting to read in the wake of 9/11:



Anyway, beware of the link. Those old magazines are super interesting to read. You might end up wasting a lot of time. ;)


Me? Wasting alot of time reading about random stuff that happened a hundred years ago?

http://theassemblyarea.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/inconceivable.jpg

Rain Man
08-29-2011, 01:43 PM
I love looking at old newspapers and magazines. It's interesting to see the fog of uncertainty and misinformation that people deal with in real time. I think history books do a little bit of a disservice by analyzing and simplifying stories, when in real time people are always dealing with imperfect information and making decisions accordingly.

When I was in college, I wandered around the library occasionally, and at one point found a treasure trove of old New York Times newspapers on microfilm or microfiche or something. You learn stuff like rumors of German paratroopers in Hawaii during Pearl Harbor. I also liked the fact that Europe news was delayed before the telegraph, so there was a section of the newspaper that started out something like "Europe 30 Days Later". As ships got faster, it went down to "Europe 28 Days Later" and "Europe 20 Days Later" and so on until they could get real-time news.

DanT
08-29-2011, 02:20 PM
I love looking at old newspapers and magazines. It's interesting to see the fog of uncertainty and misinformation that people deal with in real time. I think history books do a little bit of a disservice by analyzing and simplifying stories, when in real time people are always dealing with imperfect information and making decisions accordingly.

When I was in college, I wandered around the library occasionally, and at one point found a treasure trove of old New York Times newspapers on microfilm or microfiche or something. You learn stuff like rumors of German paratroopers in Hawaii during Pearl Harbor. I also liked the fact that Europe news was delayed before the telegraph, so there was a section of the newspaper that started out something like "Europe 30 Days Later". As ships got faster, it went down to "Europe 28 Days Later" and "Europe 20 Days Later" and so on until they could get real-time news.

Exactly!

You not only get to see the sort of misinformation and uncertainty that people were dealing with, but you also get to see what the journalists thought was important to say or not say, which gives some insight into how sophisticated or not the journalists thought their readers were about particular topics. It's also interesting because the changes in what is or is not considered acceptable language or thought are revealing. The journalism at any time or place is very constrained.