Thursday, March 17, 2005

A Wolf In Wolf's Clothing

George Bush’s nomination of Paul Wolfowitz for the presidency of the World Bank is deplorable. Much ink has been expended in the last few years on the demonization of Wolfowitz, some of it with merit, but most of it polemical, hurled by those angry with his neoconservative agenda. I happened to agree with the decision to invade Iraq, though grudgingly, and I never saw a reason to hate the architect behind it. But the reason the WB nomination is so despicable is that it gives further credence to what we already knew: Bush rewards loyalty over merit. Witness the awarding last December of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to incompetent CIA Director George Tenet, the man who said that finding WMDs in Iraq would be a “slam dunk,” and who presided over another of the worst intelligence failures in US history, the 9/11 miss.

Wolfowitz’s greatest credential to lead a development institution is perhaps his economic projection that Iraq’s oil supplies would fund the war. That claim has proved incorrect, to the tune of $150 billion, and counting, in a shortfall that has been met by taxpayers. I can appreciate his deanship of SAIS at Johns Hopkins as a big plus, but briefly being ambassador to Indonesia does not make you a macroeconomic development expert; nor does living in Baltimore make you an expert on poverty. (Then again…) His Pentagon policy staff also raised $50 billion in allied financial support for the first Gulf War. Besides this, his only experience with money, not including the Iraq oil debacle and some fundraising he did as dean, was as a management intern at the Bureau of the Budget, from 1966 to 1967. He does meet one apparent qualification for World Bank head, though: his last name starts with Wolf.

The more significant problem, of course, is that the nomination sends the wrong message to countries dependent on multilateral aid. Political opposition in many developing countries already regards the IMF and World Bank as puppets of the United States. Having a hawkish Bush protégé at its head not only lends credence to that claim, it may cause even the supporters of those institutions to recoil. Wolfowitz may have been right in his belief that bringing elections to Iraq through the barrel of a gun would move the Middle East in a more democratic direction. But surely there is a more appropriate way for Bush to reward such a controversial figure, particularly since he seems so ill-qualified for the job (and so reviled). If President Bush can get away with this one, he can get away with anything.


Blogger RavenT said...

Actually, the SAIS campus is in DC, which also has plenty of poverty, but not anywhere near SAIS' Dupont Circle location. Doesn't change the fact that Wolfie is woefully underqualified, and still another slap in the face of the international community. As Count Almasy says, "Musn't say international, dirty word, filthy word."

10:49 AM  

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