Wolfowitz Pick for World Bank Prompts Head-Scratching
sending arch-unilateralist John Bolton to the United Nations sent
a message of contempt for multilateralism, what does U.S. President
George W. Bush mean by sending that ardent advocate of "hard
power," Paul Wolfowitz, to the planet's single biggest purveyor
of "soft power," the World Bank?
confirmation at a press conference Wednesday that he had chosen
the deputy defense secretary, best known for being the administration's
earliest and most outspoken advocate of war with Iraq, caused general
consternation among both the national security elite and Bank-watchers
in the development community.
been trying to get my head around the logic of Wolfowitz being the
head of the Bank, and I just can't get there," said the director
of one U.S. development group who asked not to be identified.
35-year public and academic career, notably lacking in direct experience
either with banking or development, let alone the Bank's supposed
core mission of poverty reduction, has also steered a wide berth
around both Africa and Latin America, two regions of enormous importance
to the Bank.
from a two-year stint in the late 1980s as ambassador to Indonesia,
the post where he reportedly gained his interest in Islam, Wolfowitz
has never lived in a developing country.
his possible nomination was first brought up two weeks ago, the
reaction was overwhelmingly skeptical, and the Pentagon almost instantly
knocked it down.
a Mar. 7 op-ed entitled "Clueless on the World Bank,"
Washington Post international economics columnist Sebastian
Mallaby expressed relief, noting that, while Wolfowitz has some
qualities that might recommend him for the job, "his association
with the Iraq war makes him
anathema to most World Bank shareholders"
a consideration that, depending on the reaction of European
governments, could still kill his nomination.
his being regarded as the administration's highest-ranking neoconservative,
his temperament and ideas often defy the stereotype. While neoconservatives
tend to be socially somewhat incestuous and intellectually dogmatic
on key issues, for example, Wolfowitz is seen as intellectually
curious with a much broader array of social contacts.
closest female companion over the last several years has been a
Tunisian-born Bank official who has fueled his interest in democratic
change in the Arab world.
with all neoconservatives, Wolfowitz sees the rise of Adolph Hitler
as the defining event of the 20th century from which critical foreign
policy lessons above all, the importance of overriding military
power and preempting threats before they fully materialize
must be learned. The family of his father, a Polish mathematician
who immigrated to the U.S. in 1920, perished in the Holocaust.
with other neoconservatives, Wolfowitz also believes in a "Pax
Americana"; indeed, his 1992 draft of the "Defense Planning
Guidance" under then-Defense Secretary Richard Cheney almost
got him fired when parts of its were leaked to the New York Times.
paper, which urged a doctrine of preemption against rogue states
seeking weapons of mass destruction; the prevention of the emergence
of any potential competing regional or global power; and "constant"
U.S. military intervention to preserve global peace and security,
was repudiated by the administration of former President George
H.W. Bush, only to be codified by the younger Bush in his National
Security Strategy of September 2002.
as with his fellow neoconservatives, Wolfowitz also has special
concerns about the fate of Israel, where he lived during part of
his teenage years and which now is his sister's home.
unlike his ideological fellow travelers, whose politics generally
identify closely with the views of the right-wing Likud Party in
Israel, Wolfowitz has long expressed sensitivity to the plight of
Palestinians, support for their national aspirations, and opposition
to the Jewish settler movement.
many leading neoconservatives, including former Defense Policy Board
chairman Richard Perle, with whom he first began working in 1970,
Wolfowitz also has shown little taste for polemics or the media
is unique among the most prominent neoconservatives for working
in government for 27 of the past 35 years, as opposed to journalism,
law, privately-funded think tanks, lobbying, or business consultancies,
often for arms industries.
the eight years of the Bill Clinton administration, he served as
president of the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International
Studies (SAIS), where he recruited, among others, Francis Fukuyama,
a close friend from college days at Cornell, who also worked under
Wolfowitz when the latter was director of policy planning at the
State Department in the early 1980s.
is also considered the most idealistic of the neoconservatives whose
support for democracy and human rights, especially in the Arab world,
is a relatively recent development for many of them.
assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs, he worked with
former Secretary of State George Shultz in persuading Ronald Reagan
to abandon former Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos during the
"people power" uprising in 1986.
later encouraged far-reaching political reforms in South Korea that
eventually removed the military from power, and was the first U.S.
ambassador to Jakarta to meet publicly with opposition leaders despite
the disapproval of former President Suharto.
is a serious and thoughtful person who is genuinely interested in
the promotion of democracy and human rights around the world, and
someone who understands that very few interests can be advanced
without paying attention to the way people are being governed,"
said Tom Malinowski, the head of the Washington office of Human
Rights Watch (HRW).
another neoconservative expressed concern that Wolfowitz's departure
from the Pentagon could dilute the administration's proclaimed commitment
to democratic change.
president has sent pretty clear messages about that, but the number
of senior administration officials who truly believe in the [democratic]
tenets of the Bush Doctrine is relatively small," Tom Donnelly,
a national-security analyst at the American Enterprise Institute
(AEI) told IPS. "I for one am a little nervous about how policy
itself may change."
might rather have been secretary of state, but that job was already
taken," Donnelly added. "This is an administration that
has been sort of inbred and has relatively few individuals to move
around to these jobs."
White House had been under growing pressure to nominate a prominent
individual to the World Bank post by the Bank's annual spring meetings
next month, two months before the scheduled departure of the incumbent,
the other hand, according to Donnelly, Wolfowitz is certain to take
his democratic ideals with him. "It's not quite like John Bolton
going to the UN, but you're going to get someone who's really devoted
to president's agenda.
[T]he World Bank could be a useful
tool of American statecraft, that would be great."
former official said he thought Wolfowitz, who had most wanted to
be secretary of state or defense, had finally despaired of achieving
those goals, not only because the posts are still occupied, but
also because, given Wolfowitz's over-optimistic predictions about
the aftermath of the Iraq invasion and his part in exaggerating
the threat allegedly posed by Saddam Hussein before the war, his
confirmation by a majority of the Senate would be uncertain at best.
move to the Bank thus made good professional sense, according to
the war in Iraq, the Pentagon is increasingly consumed by the [military]
'transformation' process, and is turning inward," he said.
"By going to the Bank, where he has a guaranteed five-year
term, he can keep doing things he feels passionate about."
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2005 Inter Press Service