Democracy Arsenal

March 17, 2005


One-two punch of Bolton and Wolfowitz – but one’s worse than the other
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

A week after the administration nominated John Bolton to become ambassador to the UN, it has put forward Paul Wolfowitz for World Bank President. The signal heard around the world is that the Bush administration intends to continue to do what it pleases in global affairs. But that comes as no surprise: even apart from recent strides in the Middle East that have reinforced President Bush’s already healthy sense of rectitude, the Administration was never going to correct mistakes that it could not admit to having made. While cordial appearances with foreign dignitaries may help the medicine go down, Bush’s prescription for world affairs has not changed.

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March 16, 2005


Wolfowitz: Dreaming of Nixon to China
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

A newspaper writer just asked what I think of Wolfowitz for the World Bank.  The sad thing is, in a different Bush Administration, he might have been an interesting Nixon-to-China type of appointment, instead of the lightning rod of anti-US sentiment that he’s going to turn out to be.  Here’s why:

He’s very, very smart.

He is – or at least used to be – genuinely intellectually open and thoughtful.  Sitting at a Washington NGO a few years back, I watched him make time again and again for a left-ish international figure whose insights on Asia he respected.  Not too many folks around town do that, Democrat or Republican.

He doesn’t lack courage or independence.  Remember, this is the American Jew whom the Bush Administration sent out to speak to fiercely pro-Israel demonstrators a couple years back – and who got booed for telling them that Palestinians suffer too?

He’s actually had some developing-world experience – as Ambassador to Indonesia– and is in a position to understand as well as anyone the complex but real links among indignity, poverty and insecurity.

Obviously, though, he’s not a captive of the development community, a plus for two reasons:  first, influence with this Administration.  Second, the Bank and the international financial institutions need a profound re-thinking and modernization.  Someday, someone is going to come along and lead a deep and difficult process of making them relevant to the global concerns of 2050, not 1950.  Many good people have exhausted huge effort on making piecemeal changes.  Some of it has worked, especially at the Bank; but everything from how the institutions raise money to whether they lend it or give it away needs another look.  The US needs to make sure we are in on the ground floor of this re-think with someone who can bring our government along behind.

But I’m dreaming.  Wolfowitz is not that person.  Apparently, his rapport with President Bush is not so good.  We can’t hope that he would be able to influence the President on matters such as meeting the pledges he’s made on funding for AIDS or supporting the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, much less on broader issues.

More important, of course, he has seemed perfectly pleased to be portrayed as the architect of the Iraq war, the episodic mayhem that has followed it, and all the larger posturings that have not yet followed  (Iran, Syria).  So it is fair enough that his name will be received with disdain and dismay by the countries that are the most reliable aid donors as well as many that are perennial recipients.  Quite understandable if our friends see this as one more “dis,” not as the effort to give Wolfowitz an honorable exit that it may well be.

Europeans say that Wolfowitz’s name was circulated informally a few weeks ago, and that their response was negative.  We shall see whether enough homework has been done to head off an ugly fight – or whether, again, these folks just don’t care.  That’s too bad for the future of the Bank; it’s too bad for the US image in the world; and at some level it’s even too bad for Wolfowitz.  Genuinely good minds -- even neo-con ones -- are too hard to come by to waste on this kind of wrangling.

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