Having nominated John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations and now Paul Wolfowitz to the World Bank, it can only be a matter of time before President Bush proposes Dick Cheney to be the next pope.
Somebody in the White House is either having a lot of private fun with these appointments or thinks it makes sense to test to the limits the efforts being made by a lot of America’s allies to forget the troubles of the last four years and start acting like friends again.
“They can’t be serious. Can they?” was the reaction of one Cabinet-ranking European minister when he heard the news Wednesday.
Paul Wolfowitz has become one of the best-known No. 2s in history. He is deputy secretary of Defense, and not a member of the Cabinet, and while he is very smart, there were doubtless all sorts of good reasons why President Bush did not give him a more senior job in the first term.
Read the entire clip — but he ends on an important replay of history in which Vietnam-tainted Robert McNamara was handed the World Bank as his escape hatch from Johnson’s administration.
But in this case, Wolfowitz doesn’t see the World Bank so much as an escape hatch but rather as a new opportunity to bring the world’s leading multilateral institutions sharply to America’s heel.
And finally there are the World Bank’s main clients, the developing countries, who may not have much of a say, but they know when a man is controversial. Above all, they remember the last time the Americans sent a man from the Pentagon to run the World Bank.
It was Robert McNamara, who had just been running the Vietnam War, which was probably even more unpopular internationally than the Iraq war. And what the developing countries will note is the demotion. McNamara was the Secretary of Defense; now they are being fobbed off with his deputy.
But on the other hand, World Bank-watcher Sebastian Mallaby who has been one of the leading commentators on what the criteria should be for the World Bank’s next chief has endorsed Wolfowitz.
I just don’t see how Paul Wolfowitz fulfills the prerequisites for the job, previously articulated by Mallaby. But, Sebastian is a very smart guy and knows Wolfowitz will probably get the job and that this is the wrong time (for Sebastian) to knock him around.
I hope that Sebastian is taking a page out of Bob Woodward’s book — and playing nice now as Woodward did in Bush at War — and then ready to lay it all out as Woodward did in the Bush administration-unfriendly Plan of Attack.
So, my bet is that Mallaby will keep his powder dry for the moment and then expose Wolfowitz when he places the aggrandizement of American power over the important mission of getting the developing-nation problem right.
Ironically, the latter mission, and the more noble one, would help assure sustainable American prominence and influence for generations — while the former more crude imposition of power that Wolfowitz seems good at is more like to wreck and diminish America’s ability to drive global affairs.
— Steve Clemons