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Paul Wolfowitz as Head of the World Bank

by Thorsten Stegemann Friday, Apr. 15, 2005 at 4:31 AM

In an Internet poll, Wolfowitz is regarded as a global disaster by over 80% of respondents while less than 10% see Bush's decision as a master stroke..The political scientist Bernd Kubbig points to Wolfowitz' contradictory and sinister role in the iraq conflict.


George W. Bush wants to make Paul Wolfowitz the President of the World Bank. While European governments announced their consent, clear criticism cannot be ignored.

By Thorsten Stegemann

[This article published 2/26/2005 in the German-English cyber journal Telepolis is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www,telepolis.de/r4/artikel/19/19752/1.html.]

“The World Bank Group’s mission is to fight poverty and improve the living standards of people in the developing world.” No one will seriously deny that the World Bank has not done justice or even approached its own claims in the past decades. However since George W. Bush nominated his friend and under-secretary of defense as successor to James D, Wolfensohn in the middle of 2005, many observers fear that the institution could completely lose sight of its original goals and wither to a mere executor of American international policy.

Criticism focuses on the isolated and somewhat conspiratorial decision-making of the US government and Wolfowitz’ person whose nomination caused a regular shock and who was surprised himself by the nomination. In an Internet poll (1), Wolfowitz is regarded as a “global disaster” by over 80% of respondents while less than 10% see Bush’s decision as “a master stroke.”

As an advocate of an exaggerated nationalism who ruthlessly defends the hegemonial claims of the US, Wolfowitz played a central role in planning and realizing the last Iraq war and is not a consensus candidate. Although the 61-year old sees himself as a “democratic realist” or “pragmatic idealist,’ he leaves no doubt that the US must always be at the top and that unprovoked use of military force at any time can be a tried and tested means of attaining political goals.

The political scientist Bernd W. Kubbig analyzes the motives for this thinking and conduct – radical from a European standpoint – in his study “Wolfowitz’ World: Development and Profile of a `Democratic Realist’” (2).

Remembrance of the American trauma of Pearl Harbor, duplicated by the attacks of September 11, 2001 is the key stimulant that justifies Wolfowitz’ fear of a surprise attack and his obsessive or compulsive idea of preparing for any eventuality. His reflections are oriented internationally. In his 1972 dissertation “Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East. The Political and Economic Aspects of Nuclear Desalination,” Wolfowitz warns on 350 pages of a re-armament of this region. Twenty years later, these thoughts gained an international dimension and appeared as a planning guideline “Defense Planning Guidance” that flowed directly into the “National Security Strategy” of September 2002.

As another “leitmotif,” Kubbig names Albert and Roberta Wolhstetter, Henry Jackson, Jack Wolfowitz, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill as Wolfowitz’ intellectual mentors who made intensive efforts at democratizing other countries and regions. This engagement could be seen in the early 1980s during his activity as “Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs” and induced him to join in the overthrow of the Marcos regime in the Philippines. In addition, the personal recollections of the Jewish son of immigrants play an essential role.

“(…) What happened in Europe in the Second World War has greatly influenced my general views about politics and foreign policy. I think it is terrible when people obliterate other people and persecute minorities. This does not mean we can prevent all of these incidents (…).”

Paul Wolfowitz

That Wolfowitz prefers democratic states because American interests can be realized more easily in them and that he is not afraid of cooperating with authoritarian governments when this serves American interests in particular cases should not be ignored. Therefore Kubbig rightly refers to Wolfowitz’ contradictory and sinister role in the Iraq conflict.

Whoever thinks in such a nationalistic and superior-arrogant way uses means and methods that distort the difference between liberating democrats and oppressive dictators from whom people should be liberated.

Bernd W. Kubbig

What does all this mean now for the World Bank? Will Wolfowitz use his first-class contacts to the Bush administration to focus on urgent problems and organize assistance for distressed and structurally-weak regions or is his only interest in making the World Bank into the platform for exporting American values?

Opinions are divided in Europe. While individual politicians are skeptical, the great majority of the community of states and above all important representatives like Germany and France have already announced their consent.

In an open letter (3) to German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, 13 non-governmental organizations opposed Wolfowitz’ nomination. Greenpeace, WEED, the Environmental & Development Forum, German Nature Conservancy, NABU, Attac, Debt Cancellation Alliance, Ancient Forests, BLUE 21, INKOTA-Network, Global Policy Forum, BUND and Asia House protest against the undemocratic “selection” procedure and plead for the nomination of a “credible president experienced in development questions so the World Bank can be finally effectively engaged in combating poverty and destruction of the environment.” “The prevailing discrepancy between claim and reality in the political praxis of the World Bank must be abolished. Democratization and joint-determination must be promoted and ecological and social guidelines strengthened.”

Telepolis asked Peter Wahl, the director of WEED (World Economy, Ecology and Development) who is also a member of Attac-Germany’s coordinating circle why these goals cannot be realized with Paul Wolfowitz.

Mr. Wahl, what are the reasons for rejecting the nomination of Paul Wolfowitz to be president of the World Bank?

Peter Wahl: The World Bank is the most important institution for global development and many countries of this earth are oriented in it. Therefore the person at the top is crucial. With Wolfensohn, we at least had the impression that the problems of the third world were considered even if the solutions did not convince us. We regard the present decision as a strategic decision that could lead to a shift in policy in the exclusive interest of the US.

What do you expect concretely?

Peter Wahl: …That projects will be blocked that do not fit in the American concept although they are very important from a developmental standpoint. This also happened in the past. We need a right of bankruptcy for states that are insolvent.

Countries that are heavily indebted must prove their credit-worthiness by implementing structural adjustment programs. We fear that countries will be forced in the direction of a neoliberal social policy and naturally bound in the struggle against terrorism.

What do you think of the fact that Wolfowitz as a mathematician or political scientist has no specific expertise?

Peter Wahl: I don’t consider that crucial since there were presidents in the history of the World Bank who didn’t come from an economic environment or temporarily carried on other activities. Robert McNamara was previously Secretary of Defense. In principle, a drama theorist could assume the office. That one has the right advisors is vital. Nevertheless Wolfowitz’ political views speak clearly against his nomination.

What do you suggest to European governments?

Peter Wahl: To say “No”! The US had no problem rejecting Caio Koch-Weser as head of the International Monetary Fund because they regarded him as unsuitable. All the partners must work together so that these selections proce3ed more transparently and democratically.

There are hardly any indications that Europeans will follow your recommendation. The Swedes might follow but certainly not Germany, France and other central countries.

Peter Wahl: Unfortunately that is true. We regret very much that the German government committed itself so early. Massive pressure was obviously exerted on the other countries, particularly on developing countries. From our perspective, this was an unwise imprudent decision since much more could have been gained. But to that end the German government would have had to show more backbone.

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WB dances with Rabid Wolf? DLi Friday, Apr. 15, 2005 at 4:26 PM

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