Oil, the State, and War

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365 pp., 6 x 9
ISBN: 9781647122379 ()

ISBN: 9781647122393

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June 2022
Sales Rights: World


Table of Contents

Oil, the State, and War
The Foreign Policies of Petrostates
Emma Ashford

A comprehensive challenge to prevailing understanding of international implications of oil wealth that shows why it can create bad actors

In a world where oil-rich states are more likely to start war than their oil-dependent counterparts, it's surprising how little attention is still paid to these so-called petrostates. These states' wealth props up the global arms trade, provides diplomatic leverage, and allows them to support violent and nonviolent proxies. In Oil, the State, and War, Emma Ashford explores the many potential links between domestic oil production and foreign policy behavior and how oil production influences global politics.

Not all petrostates have the same characteristics or capabilities. To help us conceptualize these differences, Ashford creates an original classification of three types of petrostates: oil-dependent states (those weakened by the resource curse), oil-wealthy states (those made rich by oil exports), and super-producer states (those that form the backbone of the global oil market). Through a combination of case studies and analysis, she illustrates how oil shapes petrostates' behavior, filling a major gap in our understanding of the international implications of oil wealth. Experts have too often treated oil-rich states as passive objects, subject to the energy security needs of Western importing states. Instead, this book highlights the agency and power enjoyed by petrostates.

As the oil market undergoes a period of rapid change, Oil, the State, and War sheds light on the diversity of petrostates and how they shape international affairs.

Emma Ashford is a senior fellow in the New American Engagement Initiative at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council and a nonresident fellow at the Modern War Institute at West Point. Her work focuses on questions of grand strategy, international security, and the future of US foreign policy. Ashford is a regular columnist for Foreign Policy, and a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

"Oil-exporting countries play an outsized role on the world stage. But analysts often misunderstand their importance, or fail to notice how much they differ from one another. Emma Ashford's new book is a deep and valuable analysis of the surprising and even contradictory ways that oil wealth tends to shape a country's foreign policy."—Michael L. Ross, author of The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations

"By exploring the many ways in which oil production influences foreign policy, Emma Ashford broadens our understanding of petrostates and the roles they play in international politics. Oil, the State, and War is an agenda-setting book."—Emily Meierding, author of The Oil Wars Myth: Petroleum and the Causes of International Conflict

"In this superb book, Ashford delivers a clear, systematic account of the distinct foreign policy characteristics of different types of oil-rich states. Her thoughtful, carefully researched analysis is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the critical role of oil in global politics."—Caitlin Talmadge, associate professor of security studies, The Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

"Oil has been central to US foreign policy for decades, but much of the conventional wisdom about oil is wrong. In this lucid and provocative book, Emma Ashford shows that oil wars are rare, oil supplies are secure, and the 'oil weapon' is largely useless. Oil does have a strong influence on petrostates, to be sure, just not in the ways that we have imagined. Scholars and policymakers will learn much from this account."—Joshua Rovner, associate professor, School of International Service, American University

"Oil, the State, and War is a book that helps understand the times we live in. It will be a great addition to the library of both the general reader interested in global affairs and the political scientist. Ashford's book combines, in a difficult feat, expertise with an accessible style."—The New Arab

Table of Contents
List of Illustrations


1. Petrostates: A Typology

2. Applying the Typology: Petrostates at War

3. Resource Arms Racing: Oil Wealth and Military Power

4. Petroleum Proxies and Oil Altruism: The Light and Dark of Oil Wealth

5. Institutions, Intelligence, and Personalization: The Resource Curse and Foreign Policy

6. Crude Power: The Oil Weapon in Practice

7. Under the Umbrella: Soft Oil Power and Hegemonic Protection

8. Facing the Future: Peak Petrostate?


A. Methods and Measurements

B. Oil and Conflict

C. Military Spending and Arms Sales

D. Soft Power, Sanctions, and Oil



About the Author