Bob Zoellick’s Global Listening Tour: US Government Would Not Help on Plane


This afternoon, World Bank President nominee Robert Zoellick departed on a grueling two-week long “global listening tour” to check in with key stakeholders and clients of the Bank.
Zoellick is hitting Africa first — before Europe. The first trip defines much of the mission. He is going to Ghana, which chairs the Africa Union now. He then goes to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which is the official headquarters of the Africa Union.
Then, Bob Zoellick will travel to South Africa; then up to London, Paris, Berlin, and Oslo. While Norway is not part of the European Union — in Zoellick’s estimation, Norway is hitting way above its weight in Bank matters. Then before the trip is over, he will jump continents to Mexico City and Brasilia.
Sources report to TWN that the travel agenda and listening tour Zoellick has embarked upon would have been completely global if the U.S. government had sprung for a plane — but it seems that the U.S. government may be skittish about doing too many favors for the next World Bank president given the trouble that Paul Wolfowitz got in for getting employment favors and help from the Pentagon and State Department for his girlfriend. (actually I have no idea why the USG wouldn’t help out with a requested plane — but my speculation seems reasonable I think)
Ding Dong. . .Note to US government — helping Bob Zoellick accomplish his “actual mission” and help connect with key stakeholders around the world is not an inappropriate exercise to support. The USG should have lent the Bank a plane for this important trust-revitalization effort. That’s the least we could have done for the length of time we stretched out the Wolfowitz ordeal.
Bob Zoellick nonetheless is reaching out to think tank players in DC and around the world to help him build support networks that feed him advice and counsel. I know some of the players, and they are first rate and would impress World Bank professionals.
In my view, he has committed to a whirlwind, minimal sleep exercise (five nights of sleeping on planes) to “show respect” to Bank stakeholders as well as to get the “healing process” underway inside the Bank, and outside.
My only concern about Zoellick’s first steps is that he may be trying to do too much, too fast. His appointment will most likely come through near the end of this month — after ratification by the World Bank board of directors. And his bridge-building and “listening sessions” are exactly what is needed at this time.
But Zoellick — who was Senior Co-Captain of Swarthmore College’s cross country team — knows the difference between sprints and long-distance running. He’s at the start of a marathon, and while he may want to make some early moves to establish the crowd’s confidence in him — he can’t be the rabbit in this race. He needs to plan for a long haul.
There is a lot of inaccurate speculation in the blogosphere that Bob Zoellick is another neoconservative following in the footsteps of Paul Wolfowitz. This simply is not the case. The evidence that some critics provide is that Bob Zoellick signed a 1998 PNAC letter advocating war against Iraq. The truth is that Zoellick is a pragmatist in policy affairs and well known to be one of the best and brightest of the James Baker crop of political practitioners.
Roughly half of PNAC’s letters dealt with the Middle East broadly — and focused particularly on Saddam Hussein and Iraq. The other half focused on China and standing by the Taiwanese in their incremental push for independence from the mainland. Zoellick is a realist on China — and is author of the “China as global stakeholder” template for talking about China’s rise and the terms of its international engagement. This is completely antithetical from PNAC and neoconservative views.
I have learned that Bob Zoellick has met all of the Bank’s executive directors — or just nearly all of them already.
Folks are scrambling to know more about him, his management style, and his ideas. One of the other interesting tidbits I picked up today in trying to learn his views on climate change is that Zoellick was one of the “heroes” who got the US government to sign on to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change signed in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Zoellick headed the US effort and was the guide for EPA Administrator William Reilly through that effort.
Today, I have spoken with a number of environmental leaders at organizations such as the World Resources Institute who have said that Zoellick has been actively engaged with them — from the early 1990s up til now. I was surprised to learn this given the general hostility of the Bush administration to environmental friendly and climate change oriented policies.
In any case, I still have a number of emails from World Bank staff members — some who were involved in the insurrection against Paul Wolfowitz — who are worried about Zoellick.
I remember the first tremors I heard about Wolfowitz’s internal decisions in the Bank which preceded much of the mainstream furor that later followed. In January 2006, this blog actually broke the story of Wolfowitz pushing his cronies, Robin Cleveland and Kevin Kellems, which the Financial Times and Washington Post later turned into major stories.
Zoellick is under the watchful eye of many now — in ways that Wolfowitz was not, particularly 18 months ago when I started digging into Wolfowitz’s decisions on bank management and projects. He is one of the smartest policy players in Washington, in my view, and will work quite vigorously to start out on the right track — and then will hopefully keep going.
More later — but wanted to get the word out on Zoellick and his global “listening” and “show the world respect” trip.
— Steve Clemons


11 comments on “Bob Zoellick’s Global Listening Tour: US Government Would Not Help on Plane

  1. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Yeah Steve, Reid’s a real prize. Have you heard his comments on the amnesty sell-out yet? He says millions of people can now “come out of the shadows”. I don’t what what planet Reid lives on, but the illegals around here are hardly “in the shadows”. Anyone supporting this amnesty bill has completely lost touch with their constituency. I do not know one single citizen that supports this bill. Zip. Nada.
    Screw Reid.


  2. eatbees says:

    What do you have to say about this? “Announcing Muhammad Yunus’ Candidacy to Head the World Bank”
    Are you willing to go out on a limb and help publicize this cause?


  3. Justnamerican says:

    Robert Zoellick is very much a Neo-con. If you doubt it.There is a BBC documentary by Adam Curtis. This film explores the origins in the 1940s and 50s of Islamic Fundamentalism in the Middle East, and Neoconservatism in America, parallels between these movements, and their effect on the world today. From the introduction to Part 1:
    “Both [the Islamists and Neoconservatives] were idealists who were born out of the failure of the liberal dream to build a better world. And both had a very similar explanation for what caused that failure. These two groups have changed the world, but not in the way that either intended. Together, they created today a nightmare vision of a secret, organized evil that threatens the world. A fantasy that politicians then found restored their power and authority in a disillusioned age. And those with the darkest fears became the most powerful. Part 1 of this 3 hour documentary is called, “The Power of Nightmares, Baby its Cold Outside.”
    Adam Curtis reveals the complex truth about Bush’s war and power grab in a compelling fashion. He starts in the 1940s to show how the US government in its lust for empire, and against the knowledge much less the wishes of its own citizens, created worldwide death, misery and blowback.
    It’s hardly a surprise that this BBC masterpiece can not be viewed on TV in the US, but only on the Internet.
    Watch the first 10 minutes, and I promise you that you will view the entire 3 hours series.
    Web link….


  4. Steve Clemons says:

    Thanks POA — It’s funny. I stand by what I’ve written about Zakheim, Reid, and Hagel. Hagel has been key in vote after vote on Iraq and demonstrated real leadership. Dov is the guy who first introduced me to Syria’s Ambassador to the US Imad Moustapha in a meetin Dov chaired. Zakheim believes we should be negotiating and getting a peace deal with Syria. Reid is great overall and has good days and bad days — like all of us — but I still believe is shutdown of the Senate on Frist was one of the greatest of days in recent legislative history…though I respect your disagreement.
    Be well — and will catch up with you soon,
    Steve Clemons
    The Washington Note


  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    As astute as Steve seems to be, his endorsment of individuals is not neccesarily a harbinger of good things to come from the individual. He has also endorsed Dov Zakhiem, Harry Reid, and, as you all know, Chuck Hagel. Zakihiem too was presented ass “moderate”, when history tells us he is a staunch neo-con. Reid ended up being a paper tiger in the Phase Two incident, and his balls are in Robert’s trophy case. Hagel was shown to be just another posturing crook, by his handling of the the ES&S thing.
    His last post on Zoellick included the assertion that Zoellick was not a neo-con at all, and that we should not concern ourselves with the fact that Zoellick had signed on to the oddly prescient PNAC letter, outlining and advocating the exact course of action that has landed this nation in the mess it finds itself in Iraq.
    Truth be told, Zoellick is a knotch above a mere neo-con. Like so many involved in this treasonously corrupt and damaging Administration, he could more accurately be described as a “zio-con”, whose neo-conservative views and advocations are designed as much to appease and advance the aims of the right wing factions in Israel as they are to advance the best interests of the United States.
    This is a no brainer. Zoellick was appointed because he will continue to act to pursue the goals and agenda of the Bush Administration And we can expect that pursuit to be offered unilaterally, presented offensively, and to be divisive and adversarial, further alienating us from the world community. Has this Administration acted in any other manner? Why should we expect yet one more zio-con to give a performance that differs from the history of the last seven years?
    Steve’s faith is enviable, and he certainly has a far more knowledgeable basis for his opinions than this mere outsider and layman has. But my bet is Zoellick’s future performance CAN be predicted by his past performance. And his past performance includes signing onto a strategy that evolved into the worst foreign policy debacle in the history of the United States. Such a resume should not be taken lightly.


  6. Linda says:

    Zoellick might be as good as we can get as a nominee from this administration, and I think that’s why some of us are less enthused about this choice. There is no doubt that Zoellick is very intelligent and has done some good things in foreign policy and is doing the right things now with his “listening tour.”
    The World Bank position had to be filled, and it is a six- year term that means most of it will be when we very likely will have a Democrat in the White House–who if he/she only serves one term won’t even get a chance to fill this position.
    James Baker did not sign the 1998 PNAC letter to Clinton that clearly was suggesting that we take out Saddam by force. And he advised against doing that in the Kuwait War because he understood the likely consequences–and those were no different in 1998 than in 2003. Also the preemptive war policy clearly was written in 1992 by Khalilzad and Wolfowitz but rejected by 41 and not implemented until 43 was in office. Our Constitution and our policy for centuries has always been adequate to respond to any threat. But this country changed to a preemptive strike policy, rejected Kyoto treaty, pulled out of ABM treaty, started speaking about “Axis of Evil,” and lost respect of others all around the world.
    Eigtheen people signed the 1998 PNAC letter, and they did so voluntarily as private citizens who surely had a First Amendment right to do so, and they knew that the letter would be published. It wasn’t meant to be classified. Eleven or twelve of those eighteen have served in some capacity in either DOD or State in this administration. None of them to my knowledge (which is limited) except Frank Fukuyama has ever written or said publicly that the policy was a mistake.
    The next administration is going to have to try to put a lot of toothpaste back in the tube in order to restore this country’s reputation–not as an aggressor to be feared or an inreliable ally that honors treaties only when convenient, and kills innocent people. That reputation makes us fair game to be attacked and plays into the hands of terrorists. We need to be seen as a country that does more to feed the starving and malnourished, to provide them with safe water, and to eradicate and treat disease and suffering–not one that uses military force first to kill them.
    I give Fukuyama great credit for publicly writing and saying that the policy was wrong. Until all the others do, I don’t want them representing our country or serving in high positions.
    Here are those who signed that PNAC letter:
    Elliott Abrams, Richard L. Armitage, William J. Bennett, Jeffrey Bergner,John Bolton,Paula Dobriansky,Francis Fukuyama,Robert Kagan,Zalmay Khalilzad,William Kristol,Richard Perle,Peter W. Rodman,Donald Rumsfeld, William Schneider, Jr., Vin Weber, Paul Wolfowitz, R. James Woolsey, and Robert B. Zoellick.
    USA is a big country and has lots of talented, capable, and sensible loyal Republicans–so I personally would prefer that none of these people be in positions of power and authority until they admit as publicly that they were wrong when they signed.


  7. jojo says:

    Whole article reads like a Zionist commercial.
    Enough is enough. Why always an American heading the world bank and worse a zionist Jew that has no experience in banking. And this B.S. that he only signed on to invade Iraq–please get off the pot and do some constructive work–like get this regime out of office? Iraq was his dream of protecting Israel and the oil companies and this guy is suited for the world bank— all crap !


  8. liz says:

    I personally think it is past time for the US government to go on a listening tour. They need to be quiet and listen for a while. This country has become frightening to many Americans. It has always been frightening to people outside of our borders. But the day I am not permitted treatment for an infection at my own expense in the USA is the day all eyes should be fixin DC not the rest of the world.
    Our largest problems are in DC


  9. M Beeley says:

    Hmmm, Steve…I don’t know if the Bank can get it’s act together being that it’s kind of irrelevant as of late…and Mr. Z has an intriguing track record.
    Back in the old days when he was the US’ front man at every negotiation in our hemisphere, he managed to anger pretty much everybody; the Argentines claimed he said that “if you don’t sign a FTA with the US, you can trade with your sheep (Patagonia’s we guess)” and on the Chile round, strangely pushed for less environmental protection and labour liberalization…
    Negotiators say he’s ill-tempered and stubborn. Good in some cases, but really bad for the 3000 + staff at the Bank.
    Will he give the Bank a more ‘human’ face and, will he untangle all those ‘conditions’ that the Bush administration loves? More importantly, will he NOT be another ‘bushie’?
    Sorry to say, but we don’t think so.
    After all, it’s only fair to doubt his credentials.
    Montserrat Beeley


  10. Steve Clemons says:

    profmarcus — your skepticism is completely understandable. glad you are waiting and watching. that is the way it should be. i have offered so much by way of criticism about some of the bush administration’s nominees that it’s nice to be able to point out the strengths of some of the recent picks. but good to stay alert.
    steve clemons
    the washington note


  11. profmarcus says:

    i appreciate your thoughts and will give serious weight to them as i always do when you take the time to set them out like this… you must also understand that, after 6 1/2 yrs. of being incessantly bamboozled, lied to at every turn, watching those who you thought had enough integrity and/or cojones to take things in the right, or at least a better, direction (colin powell leaps to mind), my jury will remain out on zoellick until more evidence accrues…
    i am of the strong opinion that one of the reasons bush put wolfowitz in the world bank position in the first place, besides to advance u.s. global interests, was to push the bank strongly back into iraq, something he was pushing for up to the end, and, even following his resignation, he managed to get an iraq director appointment announced… world bank loans to iraq will be used to rebuild the country’s seriously damaged oil infrastructure, the loan terms will require payback from oil revenues, the oil law, when and if passed, will disproportionately favor the global oil majors, and the oil giants will not have to invest a cent in infrastructure rebuilding… a cozy arrangement, to be sure…
    zoellick’s first test in my book will be the position he takes on iraq, the oil law, and future loans to the iraqi government…


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