That's only partly true. Saudi Arabia is a tricky case because their leaders maintain control by whipping up public resentment against us while privately doing what we want them to, within limits.
So, the limitations there are both because the Saudi leadership has too much influence over ours, and because they are hampered by their own strategy for maintaining control.
Though, I would also submit that any puppet government we install will end up with their leadership having too much influence over ours, and will also end up having to resort to a similar strategy to maintain control. When you try to maintain an empire covertly, the dishonesty puts you at a disadvantage that those who you purportedly control can use to gain undue influence.
Come to think of it, that explains some other things about Saddam Hussein.
He sarted out as a puppet government of ours. But, in order to maintain control of his people, he had to manufacture conflict and threats where none existed. So, he decided he had the nod from us to invade Kuwait (manufacture conflict). Then, when we beat him back, he had another scapegoat for public anger, us. The problem is, he really was angry at us, and stopped doing what we asked.
All this covert mucking about in the affairs of other countries just leads to worse troubles. I don't know why we can't seem to learn. Probably the collective we have, but the covert actions of our government are not in our control in even a small way.
*nod* It's a great failure of our press that they don't report on it. :-( Who are you? You're from the eastern seaboard. :-)