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March 20, 2005 - Wolfowitz to the World Bank

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Two weeks ago George Bush nominated John Bolton to be our UN Ambassador, which seemed an odd choice at the time (See LINK).  The odd nomination this week was Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank.  George is full of surprises. 


If you have been following reaction to Bush's appointment of Paul Wolfowitz to the head of the World Bank you see some folks see it as a either a calculated snub to war opponents or merely the haphazard disposal of a disgraced Pentagon official long fallen out of favor.  See this for other ideas – and there the writer says this -


But how qualified is Paul Wolfowitz to run the World Bank? At least as qualified as John Bolton is to handle his new duties as America's ambassador to the UN - duties which properly and naturally consist of mooning Kofi Annan at meetings of the Security Council.


And I see in the New York Times that Paul Krugman too is not playing nice –


In Friday’s column Krugman says what Wolfowitz and our crew tried to pull off in Iraq – to make it a showplace demonstrating “the virtues of radical free-market economics” - was ideologically driven nonsense.   But it was “America's largest foreign aid and economic development project since the Marshall Plan.”  One sees that.  Here Krugman claims “the attempt to turn Iraq into a laissez-faire showpiece was, in its own way, as much an in-your-face rejection of world opinion as the decision to go to war. Dogmatic views about the universal superiority of free markets have been losing ground around the world.”


They have?  But our semi-laissez-faire economy works just fine, doesn’t it?  Except for last year’s 665.9 billion dollar trade deficit – and more that a few folks have noted that rounding the figure up to “666” is just unacceptable.  Then there’s the budget deficit, the falling dollar, and most of our treasury bonds held by foreign governments lending us the funds to keep us afloat but wondering what the hell we’re doing.  Oh well.  Close enough.


Send Wolfowitz to the World Bank.  In your face, Euro-weenies! 


And that’s where Robert McNamara went when he left defense policy.  Tradition.  Vietnam didn’t go so well under McNamara at Defense?  Bump him over to the World Bank where he’ll be harmless.  Wolfowitz said we’d be greeted in Baghdad with flowers and sweets, and Iraq oil would pay for everything so we’d easily spend little money on this.  Oops.  Bump him over to the World Bank where he’ll be harmless.  You’d think the guys at the World Bank would be getting tired of taking our failures, but at least McNamara knew something about finance and economics – as he ran Ford before Kennedy tapped him for Defense.  Wolfowitz?  Just a mixed-up nice fellow.  Oh well.


The Krugman item is here -


The Ugly American Bank

Paul Krugman, New York Times, March 18, 2005


And note this - Michael Lind in SALON.COM has a take on this nomination that appeals to those of us out here in Hollywood.  Here he finds the movie character that matches Wolfowitz – and it’s a pretty good fit!


Wolfowitz is the Mr. Magoo of American foreign policy. Like the myopic cartoon character, Wolfowitz stumbles onward blindly and serenely, leaving wreckage and confusion behind.

Critics are wrong to portray Wolfowitz as a malevolent genius. In fact, he's friendly, soft-spoken, well meaning and thoughtful. He would be the model of a scholar and a statesman but for one fact: He is completely inept. His three-decade career in U.S. foreign policy can be summed up by the term that President Bush coined to describe the war in Iraq that Wolfowitz promoted and helped to oversee: a "catastrophic success."


Even the greatest statesman makes some mistakes. But Wolfowitz is perfectly incompetent. He is the Mozart of ineptitude, the Einstein of incapacity. To be sure, he has his virtues, the foremost of which is consistency. He has been consistently wrong about foreign policy for 30 years.


Oh. He’ll do.


And I don’t think the board of the World Bank nor any and all associated financiers and international bankers are even angry with this.  From what I’ve seen in the foreign press they have all just shrugged and moved on.  You know – Americans are like that.  They do the darnedest things.  The grown-ups will take care of things and Wolfowitz will be humored.


One senses a whole lot of the world is no longer angry with us.  They’re starting to work out how to work around us and give us the illusion that we matter.  And that’s the real decline is our reputation, power and influence.  We’ve become the irritating, petulant pre-teen full of simple-minded solutions and strong unshakable and sadly uninformed opinions about everything.  You try to be pleasant with the kid – you listen and work on helping the kid see some detail and subtlety, but sooner or later you go back to work – in the other room with the adults. 






From Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta -


You say one senses a whole lot of the world is no longer angry with us and they're starting to work out how to work around us and give us the illusion that we  matter.


It may be that, but I'm hoping it's just a case of their waiting out Bush until he goes away, taking all these killer clowns with him. Although Wolfowitz is probably actually the more dangerous of the two appointments, I see Bolton as the most blatant Republican example of taking someone who doesn't like something and putting him in charge of it.


But the world, if it's smart -- and I do believe it mostly is -- will know that even if Bush is replaced by a regular person, that regular person will at some point be replaced again by a Republican.


Vince in upstate New York –


Things that bother me about the 'legacy' of this white house (lower case is MINE!) are appointments to World Bank and Federal/Supreme Courts that have legs that carry policy into corners from which it is not easily extracted - even over time!


Therein lies the danger that this is a full blown takeover by a radical minority and not just an elected official in this chair or that!  I don't have that many "lifetimes" left in these bones to wait out the cycles, but yet I worry for my kid and her peers and what they face as adults 20 yrs from now!


(Then again, I'm sure my grandfather - a Midwest farmer - said the same of FDR and all his intrusions into the psyche of small business people in the 40's - in the name of "saving this great nation" and "putting people to work.")






Unlike John R. Bolton, recently named to be America's U.N. ambassador, Wolfowitz is not going to the World Bank as Bush's representative.  Officially, Wolfowitz's name will be placed in nomination by the U.S. executive director and formally accepted by 24 members of the bank's board of executive directors, who represent 184 countries.  At that point, Wolfowitz becomes an international civil servant in charge of a specialized U.N. agency.  He's answerable to the countries that own the bank and oversee its spending -- not to the Bush administration, to "neoconservatism" or to the Republican-controlled Congress.


That from Colbert I. King in the Washington Post here on the matter.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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