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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Big Bad Wolf

The Bush administration is full of surprises.

First, it decided to send John Bolton to the UN. Now, it is dispatching Paul Wolfowitz to the World Bank.

Paul Wolfowitz is arguably the chief neocon hawk responsible for the Iraq war, which has never been popular around the world.

Apparently, when his name was recently floated by the Europeans, they reacted quite negatively. Indeed, some editorial pages are suggesting that European states might veto Wolfowitz, just as the US (under Clinton) rejected European candidate Caio Koch Weser to head the IMF in 2000.

Some development organizations fear that this signals the Bush administration's attempt to use the World Bank to advance its democratization goals. Neoliberal economic conditionality might be supplemented by new political conditions, which are supposed to be forbidden by the Bank's Charter. From Reuters:
"If the Bush administration wanted to poke a finger into the eye of every nation on Earth, it couldn't have made a better choice," said John Cavanagh, director of the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal think tank.

"Wolfowitz does not have an interest or knowledge about poverty and development problems. With him at the helm, the bank will be seen more and more as a tool of U.S. foreign policy, not a multilateral institution," wrote Alex Wilks, a Brussels-based activist whose Web site ( tracked speculation over the presidency.
And from The Guardian:
Peter Bosshard, the policy director of the International Rivers Network, an American NGO, said: "In his career, Wolfowitz has so far not shown any interest in poverty reduction, environmental protection and human rights. His election as World Bank president would most likely exacerbate the current backlash against social and environmental concerns at the World Bank, and would initiate a new era of conflict between the Bank and civil society."
The historial parallel that leaps immediately to mind is Robert McNamara, who moved from the Secretary of Defense running LBJ's Vietnam war to the Bank. He served from 1968 to 1981.

McNamara actually helped do good at the Bank, orienting it more completely toward anti-poverty goals.

We can hope.

And on the bright side, Bolton and Wolfowitz are now in much weakened positions within the US foreign policy establishment. Especially in a Republican administration, nobody cares that much about the UN, and the Bank isn't exactly a great place to plot neoimperial strategy.

I suspect that someone close to Wolfowitz advised him that his security-related career was over (he's not going to be Secretary of Defense any time soon), so he might as well take this post.

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