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Who wants Wolfowitz?

17 March 2005

It's usually a done deal by the time the US nominates a candidate. The US government has selected every World Bank president for the past 60 years. But Bush's nomination of US deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz for the powerful post is causing quite some outrage.

An article on TomPaine.com by Jim Vallette suggests the Bush administration has a bone to pick with the World Bank because its previous president, James Wolfensohn, did not back their call for total debt cancellation in Iraq immediately after the invasion. He also says there was grumbling in the Bank's executive board over Wolfowitz' decision to grant "reconstruction contracts" to countries who supported the war only. Vallette links the nomination of Paul Wolfowitz to America's quest for more oil projects in the developing world - despite evidence that oil projects do not alleviate poverty.

So who is happy about the nomination?

The Jerusalem Post cites cheers in Israel:

"Wolfowitz's appointment to head the World Bank will have significance for Israel since the World Bank is expected to play a key economic role in Gaza after Israel's withdrawal.

"He is considered a friend of Israel who knows the issues in the Middle East very well. Although widely viewed as a leading hawk in the Bush Administration, he supports a two state solution here and has not demonstrated over the years emotional attachment to the settlement movement."

Fred Kaplan writes optimistically in Slate (in the cutely titled "Sheep in Wolf's Clothing"), that Wolfowitz seems like the most genuinely idealistic neo-con he can think of: "Wolfowitz is a sort of optimistic globalist who believes in the World Bank's essential tenet: that the developed world can improve the troubled, less-developed world with the aid of rational principles," he writes.

The Washington Post suggests Wolfowitz was inspired to seek the post after the tsunami, but Kaplan thinks it may have more to do with his previous role as defense minister: "He may be ... a latter-day Robert McNamara—a war-weary Pentagon master seeking refuge to wring the blood from his hands," he reasons.

On Voice of America, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described Mr. Wolfowitz as very "distinguished and experienced internationally", and Daniel Keohane, an analyst at the Center for European Reform in London, believes the nomination sends a positive message "that so-called political realists, like Secretary [Condoleezza] Rice, have gained the upper hand within the Bush cabinet", and that this is a good thing because Europeans "can talk to Rice".

In the Financial Times, the vice president of Indonesia, where Wolfowitz used to be US ambassador, called Wolfowitz an "Indonesian friend" who would be "good for the world bank.

Meanwhile Professor Kenneth Rogoff the former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund believes Wolfowitz as president would be so bad it's good:

“The US administration's decision to advance such a brilliant but divisive candidate presents a golden opportunity for the world to challenge the outmoded US prerogative to appoint the head of the World Bank,” says Rogoff.

At least two Democratic senators are said to be happy about the nomination too.

Finally, there is the completely tongue in cheek, Top 10 Reason Paul Wolfowitz Would Make a Good World Bank President by John Cavanaugh, including:  "10. He can develop a pre-emptive poverty doctrine where the World Bank could invade countries that fail to make themselves safe for U.S. business."

Does all this spell good news for the world? I think the odds look bad.

On Indymedia we see the most cynical assessment: " Globally Wolfowitz is known as the bad genius behind the waged US wars, and amid global opposition he is expected to head the World Bank, one of the world's biggest criminal institutions, thus a dirty job that fits Wolfowitz well. "

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