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For about as long as America has had a torrid love affair with petroleum, the American government has had a torrid love affair with Saudi Arabia—never mind that the kingdom’s become a hotbed for the sort of Islamic fundamentalism that doesn’t exactly love America back. This has led plenty of pundits to declare that, duh, oil corrupts—and 260 billion barrels of oil reserves corrupts absolutely. But there’s a lot more to it than that, says Rachel Bronson, a Middle East scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of Thicker Than Oil: America’s Uneasy Partnership With Saudi Arabia. Rather, Bronson argues, the U.S.–Saudi relationship is just as much a Cold War coupling as an Oil Age, strengthened by years of anti-Soviet machinations in places like Afghanistan, Egypt, and Nicaragua. Of course, the Cold War’s been over for 15 years now, and—try as the Bushes and Prince Bandar might—these haven’t been the friendliest 15 years in the partnership’s history. Ask Bronson what’s next when she speaks and signs copies of her work at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Mike DeBonis)