Zoellick Ascends at World Bank


In just about 90 minutes, President Bush is going to speak to the “international development agenda” of his administration and announce his support for Robert Zoellick as President of the World Bank.
Both Bob Zoellick and current Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Robert Kimmitt were at the top of my list to succeed the embattled and self-destructive Paul Wolfowitz as CEO of one of the world’s most important financial institutions.
We were all very lucky that the thin-skinned former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist withdrew from contention. I have liked Frist from time to time — mostly because he believes in science and rationality — but recently had an odd personal battle with him that exemplified why the former Tennessee senator would have been a personnel disaster at the Bank.
Zoellick — who has served as US Trade Representative and as Deputy Secretary of State in this Bush administration — is a walking hyper-synthesis of geostrategic and geoeconomic thinking. He is one of the few people I know — beyond Bob Kimmitt and a few others — who understands the economic dimensions of national interest as well as the classic military realities of national security and pulls them together brilliantly and articulately.
He also is a coalition-builder who can work beyond the parochial dimensions of America’s needs and wants and help meld collaborative international efforts to handle big challenges. He has done this sort of international bridge-building many times, though his perch at the World Bank will now give him his largest platform.
Getting the “developing nation problem right” is important to Zoellick — and more importantly, the Europeans trust him in large part because of his famous friendship with former EU Trade Commissioner and World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy. But to be fair, former US Ambassador to Germany Robert Kimmitt has similar levels of trust — which is important in healing a bank that has lost confidence in itself, its mission, and leadership.
Many in the Bank do not trust Zoellick like I do. I have known and observed Bob Zoellick for a very long time and nearly worked closely with him at CSIS in a role in which he was trying to make a large organization more dynamic and more — well, “21st century.” I didn’t join Bob there, though I nearly did — and instead helped set up and build the New America Foundation.
But here is some friendly advice to Bob Zoellick from a blogger who considers himself a friend of the new nominee:

1. Quickly establish and communicate a plan for international economic development efforts that has benchmarks, clear strategic goals, and that highlights pilot efforts as part of a continual R&D effort that is empirical and not tethered to ideological assumptions.
Wolfowitz never established a plan — and everything from his African anti-poverty projects anti-corruption efforts seemed ad hoc, reactive, and part of a constantly changing calculus on his part that few understood. Even his friend and one of Wolfowitz’s political appointees at the Bank, Karl Jackson, kept saying about Wolfowitz, “he has no plan.”
2. “Listen, listen, listen” to your senior World Bank staff. You may disagree with them, but listen to their views and counsel.
Wolfowitz failed to listen and thus at the end of his painful struggle at the Bank meekly offered “listening sessions.” Get this right up front. Make sure that your staff know that you value excellence (which I know you do) and while you will want to put your own mark on the direction of the bank and its interests, try your best to make them stakeholders in your decisions.
3. Break out of the ideological game. Ignore those who will want to pitch your efforts one way or the other as promoting free trade or protectionism. You are doing neither. You are building capacity and trying to get large multiplier effects from Bank programs.
Former Under Secretary of Commerce for International Affairs Grant Aldonas is writing a book now on global economic development and posed the question recently at an economic forum I helped organize, “If we gave a damn about international economic development, what would we negotiate for?! Not what we are negotiating for now.” Aldonas has a point. Meet with him. Figure out how to benchmark World Bank project decisions and constituency building around a theme — like “building a global middle class” for example.
4. Curb the tendency to tell the “Zoellick story” through the prism of your role in the George W. Bush administration. You have many facets. You helped orchestrate the reunification of Germany. You are known as one of James Baker’s leading acolytes. You kept providing Bush the younger with platforms to discuss trade and international economic policy during a war — when most of the Cabinet disparaged trade and didn’t believe in economic policy. The Zoellick story is one that is far larger and more impressive than the George W. Bush administration roles you have played.
For some reason, Wolfowitz focused all too much on his links to and allies within the Bush administration than either his credentials as a policy intellectual or his former service as Ambassador in Indonesia and the Philippines.
5. Get Japan back on board with the Bank — and with you personally. While you were U.S. Trade Representative, to say that your relationship with Japan was “rocky” is a bit of an understatement — where you took relations with Europe to new highs despite the broader pugnaciousness towards Europe in the Bush administration. But you need Japan and its strong involvement in the Bank.
6. Continue to cultivate China and Chinese collaboration with Bank efforts — even if informal. You were the conceptualizer of the “stakeholder” notion regarding Chinese international engagement and were the ONLY person in the Bush administration when you were there thinking strategically about China and its importance. That is a strong suit here because Chinese economic activity in the developing world — while mostly mercantile — is generating a larger footprint than either American or European activity.
7. This is the time to become a soft Republican, a more pragmatic Republican — veering toward an “independent.” Your tenure at the Bank needs to survive political transition in the country — and won’t work if you play a hand one way or another in the upcoming presidential race. Keep your eye on the international economic agenda.

These may be self-evident, but it’s important that the U.S. get the World Bank in better shape. I have confidence in Bob Zoellick to do the job, but many inside the Bank do not and are emailing me mountains of email expressing doubts and uncertainty.
But he is a smart, capable guy whose ego is large enough for this massive responsibility but not so large that he can’t welcome critique, introspection, and robust collaboration with other smart, effective people.
— Steve Clemons


26 comments on “Zoellick Ascends at World Bank

  1. Tokyonotes says:

    Zoellick is truly a neo-con, and a believer of China Fantasy. Economic success will maintain the dictatorship.
    Now it is high time to think about the fundamentals not trivials. World bank destroyed the world order in the spirit of market fundamentalism.
    Financial empire together with the added flavor of the Wall street villains cannot save the world.
    Zoellick choice will be an added distrust of unilateralism or impostions of America.
    Very sad for the great country.


  2. steambomb says:

    I do not understand why anyone that Bush says he knows and endorses for a specific position in government would be at the top of anyones list for anything. Bird of a feather flock together. Keep right on flocking.


  3. deblonay says:

    Zoellick is Jewish,as was Wolfowitz,and before him Wolfensohn! I know that the President of the Wolrd Bank must be American,./.but does he also have to be Jewish!!!!
    and how about those conspiracy web-sites which talk about the Jews controlling the world;s money..??


  4. ... says:

    >>Alternatively, they can just suck it up and bow down to Bush as their Master. It should make for fun times at the World Bank, whose relevance in the world has been becoming increasingly unclear anyway.
    Posted by JohnH at May 30, 2007 03:37 PM<<
    john have you considered the idea that the usas relevance in the world under bush has become increasingly unclear as well? just a thought and nothing he or the usa has been doing the past few years is changing the general direction either, only adding to its lack of prestige and position on the world stage..


  5. leigh says:

    Is there no Gentile in this whole country who could serve as President of the World Bank? I am sick of these zion-firsters that Goldman Sachs seems to hatch.
    I don’t care how “realistic” he appears, he signed the PNAC. And that makes his a Zionist first, an American second. Is there a dual citizenship in his background as well?


  6. Pissed Off American says:

    So, don’t be duped by a letter. Zoellick’s career overall is something to pay more attention to.
    Steve Clemons
    Are you saying he signed a PNAC letter whose content he didn’t believe in? If so, he’s perfect for the appointment. We wouldn’t want Bush to deviate from his perfect record of appointing spineless Israel firsters with no conviction or integrity.


  7. TB says:

    “I have liked Frist from time to time — mostly because he believes in science and rationality … ”
    So when he diagnosed Terry Schiavo via video tape, was that him being scientific or was that him being rational?


  8. MP says:

    GRG: “AGAIN, LIBBY IS A VERY OPEN ZIONIST. There are Jews who are not Zionists, so please make that distinction.”
    What do you think a Zionist is, GRG?
    Maybe it would help if we had some definitions on the table.
    Here’s a start: “Zionism is an international political movement that supports a homeland for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.”


  9. GoRonGo says:

    AGAIN, LIBBY IS A VERY OPEN ZIONIST. There are Jews who are not Zionists, so please make that distinction.
    That is, unless you want all Jews hated by many all over who view Israel’s actions, including her support of South Africa back when South Africa was an apartheid nation, and her slow and sometimes fast genocide of the Palestinians, Lebanese, etc., as indicative of ALL Jews’ beliefs and values.
    Given that we get only 17% of our oil from the Middle East and have spent $430,249,215, 938 “spreading democracy to Iraq” *eye roll*
    An amount that literally increases moment by moment — source National Priorities Project — check out for yourself how fast the cost of war increases by the second:
    While following the primarily Zionist neo-conservatives’ game plan i.e., endless war against Israel’s enemies — I would have to say, yet again, that in terms of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, Zionists are causing our trouble.
    Our primary sources of oil are Canada and Mexico. Canada alone has huge resources in Alberta.
    And again, all Zionists on deck. I’m sure an enlistment form for the IDF is not too hard to find. But some of the Zionists in the U.S., who are true armchair warriors, are just too cowardly to actually fight Israel’s wars.
    Instead, they think that the U.S. military, those poor souls who joined to get an education, or to help their state out during a natural disaster, or who truly believed that they would only be used to DEFEND the U.S., should be Israel’s proxy warriors.
    And NO I won’t take that back — if you stupidly equate all Jews with Zionism then THAT will be the backlash that you get.


  10. Jessica says:

    The appointing of a new president of the World Bank opens a new era for the Bank and is an opportunity that ought not to be missed. This is a chance for the Bank to address and push for the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals, which call for cutting world hunger in half by 2015 and eliminating it altogether by 2025. has been calculated that $19 billion would eliminate starvation and malnutrition worldwide. Compare this number with the United States’ current defense budget—$522 billion—and the task of ending global hunger seems well within reach. During this time of transition and change, the World Bank is in a unique position to make the Millennium Goals a top priority.


  11. Jeremy says:

    Zoellick is of course a rabid neo-con who thought Iraq would be a raging success. I guess he was half right.
    Zoellick has never run a large organisation, he has no empathy at all for those outside his worldview, he vociforously a Zionest, and has many other disgusting qualities (an inability to tell the truth when required).
    In his favour he is somewhat more honest than Wolfie.


  12. Sandy says:

    Zoellick also had some harsh words for evil dictators, and while he was at it, he parroted the strong pro-Israel line of the new GOP:
    “…The United States must counter those dangerous states that threaten its closest friends, such as Israel, or its vital interests, such as maintaining access to oil in the Persian Gulf. In dealing with the likes of Iraq and North Korea, the United States needs to offer consistent long-term directions to guide coalitions that will deter and even replace their brutal regimes.
    Concessions to blackmail and threats, even if they serve as temporary expedients, will exacerbate these problems. The United States must retain the initiative so that its opponents are so worried about what America is planning that they cannot plot attacks or new forms of blackmail. Theater and national missile defenses will let the United States counter missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction from those countries that might target U. S. conventional forces or paralyze the United States if it intervenes against their threats. Time is on America’s side, not that of these decaying dictatorships — if the United States has the confidence and determination to stand up to, and if necessary defeat, its enemies….”


  13. JohnH says:

    An alternative view of Zoellick from the Nelson Report:
    It sounds like the World Bank board would be crazy to accept another dysfunctional narcissist as their leader, particularly after they went out of their way to ask for a more transparent selection process that would include them. Alternatively, they can just suck it up and bow down to Bush as their Master. It should make for fun times at the World Bank, whose relevance in the world has been becoming increasingly unclear anyway.


  14. Sandy says:

    Bill Frist believes in science????
    There’s a nifty new museum with the dinosaurs walking amongst the people….two by two.
    Terry Schiavo?
    Terry Schiavo was trying to talk? Examining a VIDEO???


  15. Sandy says:

    Thank you, GoRonGo, for the links and information. I knew you were not confusing the two Z’s. And, you are definitely right — Zoe…may not be as overt….but I had known him as a PNAC signer….and those people ARE neo-cons, make no mistake about it. Israel first. Do not be fooled. And, there it was….in the 2004 article….from the 2002 speech by the other Z. He SAID it. What more “EVIDENCE” is needed? Good Lord! Someone needs to hit you over the head with a mallet?
    Bomb Iran?
    I’m convinced that even then….when it happens….and oh yeah, it IS going to happen…..even then….we will hear constant equivocations…..to “mislead” (uh, LIE!) people….disavow that ANYONE….oh, gasp….No! …..that ANYONE ….would even THINK of actually DOING such an awful thing.
    Even though they have PUT IT DOWN ON PAPER ….PNAC….A CLEAN BREAK…..SAID SO…..etc. etc.
    Tell it to the mothers of the dead U.S. troops.
    My outrage, though, means nothing. The Dems have sold out. Backed down from requiring W to go to Congress first before BOMBING….and ANOTHER Pre-Emptive WAR!
    Shocking. Truly shocking.
    The troops’ blood ….and the innocent Iranian civilians….women and children (as with the Iraqis)….will be on the hands of every single person complicit in ….contributing to….helping along….this cover up.


  16. Zathras says:

    Why Zoellick and not Kimmitt? Probably because Kimmitt couldn’t be spared at Treasury, and because Zoellick had wanted the World Bank job two years ago.
    I know nothing of Grant Aldonas, but otherwise agree with every one of Steve’s points, especially the last one. Frankly, in another domestic political environment, no Republican administration would waste a high-powered operator like Zoellick on the World Bank, and no such person would accept the presidency. It has never been considered that important a post in Washington; some previous World Bank presidents had to be begged to take the job. The last one before Wolfowitz was as American as Rupert Murdoch, and most others have gone to the Bank after their primary careers were over.
    But the only places for Zoellick right now within the administration are occupied — and it is highly unlikely that anyone getting the Republican nomination next year can get elected President. So Zoellick gets an opportunity to achieve something significant in an important area of international affairs, and the Bank gets a president abler than it has generally had in the past.
    The downside is that Wolfowitz did a lot of damage while he was at the Bank. Zoellick’s primary task for about a year will be repairing it. I’d agree with Steve that he can’t do that and remain active in Republican Presidential politics, and hope he understands that at the moment there is little reason for him to try.


  17. GoRonGo says:

    Since I brought up Norman Podhoretz’s remarks on an Israeli news show, the ones about how he’s certain that the U.S. will attack Iran, I’m having a “Hah, hah” moment, because here is Podhoretz in TODAY’S Wall Street Journal saying the exact same thing:
    “What follows from this way of looking at the last five years is that the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be understood if they are regarded as self-contained wars in their own right. Instead we have to see them as fronts or theaters that have been opened up in the early stages of a protracted global struggle. The same thing is true of Iran. As the currently main center of the Islamofascist ideology against which we have been fighting since 9/11, and as (according to the State Department’s latest annual report on the subject) the main sponsor of the terrorism that is Islamofascism’s weapon of choice, Iran too is a front in World War IV. Moreover, its effort to build a nuclear arsenal makes it the potentially most dangerous one of all.
    The Iranians, of course, never cease denying that they intend to build a nuclear arsenal, and yet in the same breath they openly tell us what they intend to do with it. Their first priority, as repeatedly and unequivocally announced by their president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is to “wipe Israel off the map”–a feat that could not be accomplished by conventional weapons alone.
    But Ahmadinejad’s ambitions are not confined to the destruction of Israel. He also wishes to dominate the greater Middle East, and thereby to control the oilfields of the region and the flow of oil out of it through the Persian Gulf. If he acquired a nuclear capability, he would not even have to use it in order to put all this within his reach. Intimidation and blackmail by themselves would do the trick.”


  18. Karen SanFran says:

    Thanks Steve for the checklist. I’m bookmarking the permalink and revisiting your list this time next year.
    Have to say what I’ve read about Zoellick’s relationship with Japan smacks of Bolton, but I hope your remarks about his thoughtfulness are on the money.


  19. GoRonGo says:

    I didn’t confuse the two men, Zoellick and Zelikow. Please re-read my post. My point was more on the line of “birds of a feather flock together.”
    But, in reading more about Zoellick after Steve cleared it up, it does appear that he’s more of a realist than a neo-con.


  20. GoRonGo says:

    Steve, have you read “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” by John Perkins? It claims that the World Bank helps to impoverish the Third World while expanding the American financial *empire* . It was written by someone who actually was involved.
    Here’s the description on Amazon which explains the book much better than I can:
    ” Perkins, a former chief economist at Boston strategic-consulting firm Chas. T. Main, says he was an “economic hit man” for 10 years, helping U.S. intelligence agencies and multinationals cajole and blackmail foreign leaders into serving U.S. foreign policy and awarding lucrative contracts to American business. “Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars,” Perkins writes…
    Perkins writes that his economic projections cooked the books Enron-style to convince foreign governments to accept billions of dollars of loans from the World Bank and other institutions to build dams, airports, electric grids, and other infrastructure he knew they couldn’t afford. The loans were given on condition that construction and engineering contracts went to U.S. companies. Often, the money would simply be transferred from one bank account in Washington, D.C., to another one in New York or San Francisco. The deals were smoothed over with bribes for foreign officials, but it was the taxpayers in the foreign countries who had to pay back the loans. When their governments couldn’t do so, as was often the case, the U.S. or its henchmen at the World Bank or International Monetary Fund would step in and essentially place the country in trusteeship, dictating everything from its spending budget to security agreements and even its United Nations votes. It was, Perkins writes, a clever way for the U.S. to expand its “empire” at the expense of Third World citizens.
    Is this what the World Bank does Steve — I would really appreciate any inside information you could give us. Thanks!


  21. TokyoTom says:

    Also, it’s obvious that you’ve confused Zoellick with Zelikow.


  22. TokyoTom says:

    GoRonGo: Sure you haven’t confused Zoellick and Zelikow?


  23. Steve Clemons says:

    GoRonGo: Letters are letters — and they last. But Bob Zoellick is the absolute antithesis of a neoconservative. Many “conservatives” were on board with invading Iraq — even some realists — though i was not one.
    Bob Zoellick is an evolved realist — and is someone who does not believe in reckless crusades. He believes in a course of diplomacy and other incentives and disincentives for dealing with nations like Iran and North Korea, which most neocons do not.
    So, don’t be duped by a letter. Zoellick’s career overall is something to pay more attention to.
    Steve Clemons


  24. GoRonGo says:

    Zoellick was affiliated with the Project for the New American Century.
    He signed the 1998 PNAC letter urging Clinton to remove Saddam Hussein. Here’s the letter, straight from the PNAC site — guess who else signed? Wolfie and the Bolton-meister themselves!!!:
    Zoellick also wrote three books with Philip Zelikow, including one in 1998 on the relationship between the U.S. and the “Muslim Middle East”
    Zelikow was the executive director of the 9/11 commission (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States).
    He was also the man who infamously said in a speech at the University of Virginia September 10, 2002 that the coming war on Iraq would be to protect Israel. He should know, shouldn’t he?
    Here’s an article on it:
    So great, we have yet another neo-con at the World Bank. I guess this means “Goooood Moooorning Tehran.”
    Start those conscientious objector files for your kids NOW, not that I think it will stop them from getting their guts blown out somewhere in the Middle East, South Asia, etc., when this escalates into WW III.


  25. Personal Fan says:

    Steve Clemons is *hot*!


  26. b says:

    He understands the economic dimensions of national interest as well as the classic military realities of national security and pulls them together brilliantly and articulately
    What a GREAT qualification to run the world bank …


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