Wolfowitz and the Bank
American president George Bush has made many mistakes in his time as the president of the United States. Some may accuse him of a sluggish response to terrorist capability before the Al Qaeda September 11 attacks, which is applicable. Even more point to Bush's endorsement of the controversial Medicare and Medicaid policies that provide health care for the old and poor, two systems that are doomed in the short term and the crises of which are actually more imminent than that of social security – a classic program that Bush wishes to reform… or, damage. Perhaps the most insidious decision by the Bush administration was the initiation of the War in Iraq, the architect of which was Paul Wolfowitz. Assessing the monstrosity and inaccuracy of a long line of Wolfwitz's war planning, one could easily infer that the recent nomination for Wolfowitz to be head of the World Bank – another Bush decision – is a wrong one.
In the wide spectrum of Republican policy, Paul Wolfowitz is an upheld intellectual "genius", or so some rightists would consider. Wolfowitz found his way into the Bushite circles of this millennium when he was chosen as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's right hand man, the Deputy Defense Secretary. It was in this position that he fueled the War in Iraq – literally. On September 15, four days after 9/11, Wolfowitz suggested the go-ahead to topple the Hussein dictatorship in Iraq, describing an Afghan War as a "quagmire".
He quickly suggested that the War in Iraq should be able to fund its reconstruction with ample oil reserves. It is in irony that, though Iraq has the second largest oil reserve, today citizens have to cope with waiting a full day at times for oil in their cars, and naturally the oil isn't funding the reconstruction. Wolfowitz also backed the Rumsfeld notion that troop commitment would subside after the actual war, another fallacy since the number of American soldiers in Iraq has risen to 150,000 since Bush has declared an end to major combat operations more than a year ago. Timetables were neglected, and regarding specific costs, the genius claimed, "I think it's necessary to preserve some ambiguity of exactly where the numbers are."
And such ambiguity gets the US where they are today, in a pile of debt, not to mention 1,500 plus war deaths. Nonetheless, in perhaps a Republican fraternity or pre-established meritocracy, Wolfowitz was selected by the Bush administration to be the next head of the World Bank. The decision adheres to a Bank tradition, where America is first in line (by code and by superior financial aid to the organization) to choose the president, who is not immune to rejection by country representatives on a special board. Europeans likewise commonly choose the IMF (International Monetary Fund) leader, who is also speculated upon in a board decision.
But before further criticizing the prodigy, it is necessary to understand what the Bank stands for and commonly does. Originally manifested as a reconstruction tool for post-WWII, the organization became the forerunner in international development under the presidency of the romantic Paul McNamara. Among many recent Bank goals are controlling the AIDS virus, providing economic assistance to countries, providing common utilities to the impoverished, and even striving to end poverty itself.
The World Bank implements – or attempts to implement – these presented tasks with a loans and assistance. Loans apply to many things, including something so small as rebuilding a village well or bridge to something as large as building a dam to give thousands electricity.
That it not to say the World Bank has always succeeded in its endeavors. Across Africa and in the Philippines, where Bank strategies have truly flopped, there is mass outrage over the debt caused by Bank deeds. The debt amounts from impractical projects, corruption, excessive borrowing, and the introduction of the free market that spawned nothing at all.
Opposition to the Bank takes the form of non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, who often possess fundamental aims parallel to the Bank's. The NGOs nonetheless accuse the Bank of failing to address environmental issues, enacting policies that never materialize or that truly give nothing to the countries they were designed to aid, and for being generally regressive. Indeed, the Bank began to develop into an imperialist establishment throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, when ineffective leaders pushed bigger, more elaborate projects that created an undoing on all fronts, i.e. for the communities they were designed to help and for the Bank's image.
It is only fair to say that the current Bank leader, James Wolfensohn, blunted the complaints of anti-globalizations advocates and other NGOs that reigned in the 80s and 90s. As a matter of fact, Wolfensohn addressed such organizations head on when he took office in 1995, allowing NGOs to write to the World Bank and guaranteeing replies, those of which had a personally signed note by the Bank head. Wolfensohn was also seen reading material critical of Bank policies.
What is more, Wolfensohn had a mass amount of credentials behind him. He had served as a top member of many prominent banks, including the British strong house Schroeder's Bank. He founded his own independent company with a fortune he built from company work and thereafter met many new acquaintances, that is to say, more than the former buddies from various international economic organizations. He is well read and well experienced in the field of development, as he was (to a lesser extent) before he took office. Most importantly, he considers the abolition of international poverty as a goal, not a job. With vast connections, a large personality, and an impressive history, Wolfensohn achieved Bank presidency and, for some part, emancipated a tarnished Bank image of the 80s and 90s.
Having learned this information, it is thus relevant to compare Paul Wolfowitz (nominated president for World Bank) to Jim Wolfensohn (active president).
Unlike Wolfensohn, Wolfowitz has a comparably uninvolved past in development and economics. Wolfowitz states the authority for the new position by evoking his past participation in the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, a profession that has only somewhat to do with economics, much less with poverty or even development. The most pivotal past position that applies to the neo-Conservative's experience is his ambassadorship to Indonesia in the 1980s, for which he announced, "economic development was the most important issue on the agenda." These activities, when compared to the expansive exploits of Wolfensohn, are trite mockeries.
Apparently, however, Wolfowitz along with others believe that personal ambition is the key to assuring his Bank presidency. Paul Wolfowitz, the man who was a patron of the Reagonite policies of the 1980s as well as Reagon-economics, states that ending poverty is a major intention of his (on top of his agenda, presumably), put as a "noble mission". Wolfowitz calls to memory the specific instance of the tsunami disaster, which demonstrated the need for action in the field of poverty and development. Feeling personally moved, Wolfowitz states his ambition is clean and cold-cut.
Beware though – this is a man of some touchy ambitions. Should I recall the War in Iraq, his ambition to oust dictator Saddam Hussein on the basis of illicit WMD possession as well as nonexistent terrorist threats that were indeed independent of 9/11? Or perhaps one should note his partisan advocacy of Republicanism, playing a role in the Reagan and both Bush administrations (i.e. both father and son). Also noteworthy is the staunch support that Wolfowitz gives to the GOP is his promotion of the Middle Eastern campaign for democracy, an idea so far only prematurely vindicated by non-US instances. Meaning, Iraq was and continues to be a prolonging situation of inaction, thereby proving that the American efforts to impose democracy in the region have failed.
Wolfowitz however denies that his political ties will have anything to do with a Bank presidency. Some experts say he may have an advantage over the White House with such connections; skeptics believe vice versa. If Wolfowitz did comply to Washington wishes, democratic countries would of course see more Bank loans poor in. This would be outrageous, considering the US already has a program to provide financial incentives to countries that abide by their democratic calls.
All things considered, Wolfowitz is entering the presidential race for the World Bank as a suspicious Capitol Hill stooge, and neither the opposition nor the neutral will cease to address his fervent rightist character. With his reputation on their side, NGOs are even claiming that, with Wolfowitz as president, people would no longer hold more radical claims on the Bank as radical. After all, James Wolfensohn only used politics to ensure his presidency, not to determine it.
President Bush considers all this in apathy, voicing his joy of the appointment by saying: "I've said he was a man of good experience. He helped manage a large organization – the World Bank is a large organization, the Pentagon's a large organization. He's been involved in the management of that organization." The gap between military and economy of course has no place in this quote.
In the end, the choice of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank is a terribly bad and wrong decision. If public outcry over the Wolfowitz doctrine and his questionable political involvement in America – hard felt in Europe and by half of the US itself – doesn't already disqualify him for Bank presidency, then definitely a lack in past credentials should. These credentials include a void in necessary experience and amount to a base of mere ambition. In finality, we should be practical. It is a Pentagon head honcho who was chosen by the Bush administration to fight international poverty and booster development when in fact he's better at and more renowned for propelling these things.
If the world knows what is good for it, Wolfowitz will be dismissed as World Bank president.