Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Carrie Manning

Second Advisor

Dr. John Duffield

Third Advisor

Dr. Michael Herb


Does the presence of oil influence U.S. foreign policy towards Sub-Saharan African oil states? This study attempts to answer this question through a study of U.S. foreign policy towards Sub-Saharan African oil and non-oil states since the early 1960s. Although presidents from Woodrow Wilson to Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush have indicated that the United States has a moral obligation to promote democracy, democracy promotion became a central element of U.S. foreign policy after 1990. Scholars as well as policy makers, however, have suggested that the United States has frequently sacrificed the promotion of democracy and human rights in favor of other goals. In recent years, although promoting democracy and good governance have been described as leading U.S. foreign policy objectives in Africa, they may have been overshadowed by two other goals: the global war on terror and energy security. Gulf of Guinea countries have attracted U.S. attention as it tries achieving energy security. The United States in 2008 imported about sixteen percent of its oil from the Gulf of Guinea, and this figure is likely to increase to 25 percent by 2015. As U.S. oil interests in the region increase, some fear that the United States is likely to forgo its support for democracy in favor of energy security. This dissertation evaluates whether or not U.S. concerns about energy security or commercial interests have overshadowed its policy of promoting democracy in oil-exporting African countries. The dissertation finds that, in fact, there is no direct correlation between presence of oil and U.S. democracy promotion. When dealing with African oil states, the United States has not compromised its democratic and human rights principles, particularly since 1990.