This will be the big week in finally sorting out the Paul Wolfowitz mess at the World Bank. If Wolfowitz resigns, the Bank will have to initiate a period of healing and reorganization to assure its supporters and clients that it is going to expend its energies trying to help the developing world rather than on internal politics.
If Wolfowitz somehow survives, the Bank will start hemorrhaging staff — from the senior levels to entry level — and will likely lose needed European financial support for the next round of development capital needed to infuse World Bank resources.
Some have allegedly found evidence that Wolfowitz knew he was crossing appropriate lines in over-directing Shaha Riza’s compensation and performance evaluation “package.” At minimum, Wolfowitz has made this battle about himself rather than the survival and reputation of the Bank he heads — and for that enough, he should go as Sebastian Mallaby writes.
I have been in touch with staff from the World Bank this morning who inform me that many in the place will engage in serious internal civil disobedience if Wolfowitz does not resign or is not fired. Blue ribbons worn openly to protest Wolfowitz’s continued tenure are being worn throughout the Bank. Tensions are seriously rising.
I have been reminded by many that perhaps wrecking the Bank is what some supporters of Wolfowitz hope to achieve. This could be true, but I’m not that cynical yet.
I think that Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson and his Deputy at Treasury Robert Kimmitt and other important political and economic personalities around President Bush realize that this vanity play that Wolfowitz is making will cost the U.S. significantly from its dwindling pool of global political capital.
To many Europeans, Wolfowitz’s tenaciousness in fighting for a job he can’t really ever have back resurrects for many the feeling of watching America embrace unilateralism as its preference with equal disdain for its allies and other key stakeholders in the international system.
The Wolfowitz fight is a fight over unilateralism all over again.
For those who follow Warren Olney’s excellent KCRW show, “To the Point,” which airs between 12 pm and 1 pm Pacific time and is on at 3 pm EST on the local Natioinal Public Radio affiliated WAMU station in Washington, DC, I will be on talking about Wolfowitz and the World Bank — along with Krishna Guha of the Financial Times, Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and others.
— Steve Clemons