Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2022

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Christopher Dietrich, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Joshua Jordan, Ph.D.


The U.S. initiated U.S.-Saudi relations out of fear of resource scarcity and dependence on overseas oil; however, the U.S. has never been dependent on Arabian oil. Rather, the U.S. projected its influence to secure the Middle East’s balance of power, the global oil market, and American hegemony. U.S.-Saudi relations have withstood seismic world events, diplomatic crises, and domestic turmoil because the partnership’s value extends far beyond the exchange of oil for security. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia wield their relations to pursue their respective national and global interests, which has historically provided sufficient justification for the U.S. to overlook the nations’ conflicting moralities and strategic visions. However, U.S. success in hydraulic fracking for shale oil increases U.S. energy independence and takes Washington off its “diplomatic tightrope” with Riyadh. While U.S. foreign policy is liberated from Saudi influence, the U.S. shale revolution conceives a poor outlook for the kingdom’s stability. Shale oil’s implications on the global oil market jeopardize Saudi Arabia’s oil-dependent economy and system of governance, as well the kingdom’s ability to wield its oil revenue to resolve domestic and regional threats. Saudi instability is further exacerbated under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MBS) growingly assertive foreign policy and disregard for regional peace and international law. The kingdom's divergence from U.S. interests, in conjunction with the U.S. shale revolution, incite a widespread American demand for a re-evaluation of U.S.-Saudi relations. U.S. foreign policy has unprecedented flexibility to reevaluate the kingdom’s value proposition and the terms of an enduring partnership. This paper will evaluate the dominant arguments from Saudi Arabia and American Democrat and Republican policymakers on the direction of relations. My thesis discussion will conclude that a progressive course correction is an optimal strategy for U.S. foreign policy to sustain and reform a U.S.-Saudi partnership that still holds value.