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Wolfowitz and the "International Order"

| 31 Comments | 4 TrackBacks

The Washington Post is reporting that the Europeans are backing off, which means Paul Wolfowitz looks like a lock for the top job at the World Bank (and not a minute too soon).

The Wall Street Journal has a good article about Bush's recent international appointments that extends my recent "Reshaping the U.S. State Department" post. They will help you understand the internal logic behind these moves, whether or not you support them.

For the external logic, I'd like to draw your attention to an excerpt from the Washington Post. It illustrates some cold home truths about international politics that we forget at our peril. It also ties in very nicely with the predictions of a STRATFOR global strategy analysis that Discarded Lies covered back in January. We'll start with the WaPo:

"[German chancellor] Schroeder's comments made it clear that a European-led challenge to Wolfowitz is not in the offing.....

Wolfowitz's apparent success in preempting opposition to his candidacy reflected a number of factors, including his own spirited effort to dispel concerns about how he would run the bank.

His nomination aroused fears that the Bush administration would use the bank -- which lends about $20 billion annually to developing countries for anti-poverty projects -- to further U.S. foreign policy aims, especially in the Middle East. But Wolfowitz, a former academic and ambassador to Indonesia, began meeting with board members and granted interviews in which he repeatedly stressed his dedication to the bank's antipoverty mission and said he understood that his role would become that of an "international civil servant" responsible to the entire board.

More important, according to board sources and many outside observers, was the simple recognition by governments wary of Wolfowitz that challenging him directly could carry a steep price."

The paragraph that matters in this story? That's easy - the last one I quoted. In fact, that's almost the only one that matters. Reassurances are nice, and they have their place. I also happen to believe that Wolfowitz's background abroad, and unwavering promotion of liberty and accountability among U.S. enemies and allies, combine to make him the right choice for thr World Bank. Frankly, it funds too much tyranny, has too little accountability, and far too often neglects the truth that many countries are poor for reasons of their own making. Unsurprisingly, the World Bank's spending to real help ratio needs work. It needs to do better. So appointing Wolfowitz is nice.

Is this dispute really about any of that? Hell, no.

Compare the above Wahington Post quote to the STRATFOR analysis "The Second Term":

"This puts in motion two processes in the world. First, there is a major rethinking of American staying power in the war going on. The assumption of a rapid conclusion of the Iraq campaign due to U.S. withdrawal is gone -- and it is surprising just how many non-Americans believed this to be a likely scenario. The reassessment of the United States is accompanied by the realization that the United States will not only maintain its pressure in Iraq, but on the region and the globe itself.

American pressure is not insubstantial. Virtually every country in the world wants something from the United States, from a trade agreement to support on a local conflict. They can do without an accommodation with the United States for months, but there is frequently serious pain associated with being at odds with the United States for years. Throughout the world, nations that have resisted U.S. actions in the war -- both within and outside of the region -- must now consider whether they can resist for years.

We can expect two things from Bush in general: relentlessness and linkage..... Countries that made the decision not to support Bush did so with the assumption that they could absorb the cost for a while. They must now recalculate to see if they can absorb the cost for four more years -- and even beyond, if Bush's successor pursues his policies. For many countries, what was a temporary disagreement is about to turn into a strategic misalignment with the United States. Some countries will continue on their path, others will reconsider. There will be a reshuffling of the global deck in the coming months.

Reshuffling commencing. Back to the Washington Post, for a concrete example of the dynamics described by STRATFOR:

"The United States traditionally chooses the World Bank president as part of an informal agreement in which the European Union gets to name the head of the International Monetary Fund. But the boards of the two institutions operate by consensus -- indeed, a German candidate for IMF chief was forced to withdraw five years ago for lack of support from Washington and other capitals.

...."It's a closed matter, because there is no willingness on the European side to oppose the nomination," said a European source at the bank who spoke on condition of anonymity, as did the other sources, because of the highly charged nature of the controversy.

...European governments felt they were in no position to [challenge the USA] because the United States readily acceded to Europe's choice last year of Rodrigo de Rato, Spain's finance minister, as head of the IMF; future European candidates for other jobs would almost certainly be at risk if the Europeans challenged Wolfowitz."

Hence the "steep price" mentioned earlier. The rest is relevant only to the extent that it avoids making other states believe they must act despite the consequences. It can even be a "fig leaf" - something they believe to be false - but if it gives them a plausible excuse not to act and they'd rather not pay the price, then it will serve its purpose and they will be pleased to have it.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the way international relations really works - and always has.

Speaking of "fig leaves", just so you're crystal-clear that there's no real friendship at work:

"Some officials in Europe have privately voiced disgust that nations such as South Africa and Brazil have refrained from putting forward an alternate candidate, since developing nations have complained loudly about rich countries' control of international financial institutions. But poor countries would be taking an enormous risk in challenging a U.S. candidate for the World Bank presidency, since their opposition might put at risk their prospects for getting loans."

In other words, if they could have pulled a power play, they would have tried one. Had South Africa and/or Brazil made a move, the Europeans could have used that as a fig leaf of their own, drumming up support for it behind the scenes while citing their supposedly-reluctant opposition and "no consensus" in public. It would be pretty close to a bald-faced lie, of course, but some people in the USA seem predisposed to take this kind of cloaked Euro power play at face value and they'd be the enabling audience.

Except no-one seems to be reaching for their diplomatic guns here. Not the E.U. set, and not the so-called Third World.

The truth is, what they'd be putting at risk goes far beyond the World Bank - and they know it. The enmity of the United States of America is not something many states care to arouse these days, and that's good. It means the USA is re-establishing its disastrously-frayed aura of deterrence abroad.

It's a mean and very self-interested world out there, folks, as the news proves every day. There are good guys, and bad guys, and they do not deserve equal treatment. The U.N. is a corrupt joke precisely because it's structurally incapable of grasping that, and one would sooner turn New York's policing over to the Mafia than take the U.N.'s genocide and terror-abetting pretenses of security seriously.

Nobler ideals than the ones which motivate the U.N. do have power, and the nature of particular regimes matters in a whole bunch of ways, but on their own neither is sufficient to establish security. You can ask people nicely not to walk in and shoot you, or steal from you, or camp on your property. Or you can put up this sign:

"

In the international world, there are no cops. You had absolutely better have a sign - and if you do, everyone else needs to see and believe there's a dog behind it. Come to think of it, a sign like this wouldn't hurt, either:

"

Considerations other than straight power politics may be motivations to action. They even carry a power of their own. The USA, as a nation founded in liberty and heir to the ideas of Western Civilization, forgets that at its peril. Still, when push comes to shove and it's time to get things done, power and price are what determines the result... and woe to any society historically ignorant or deluded enough to forget it.

Fortunately, America elected people who remember. Good luck to Mr. Wolfowitz in his new job.

4 TrackBacks

Tracked: March 23, 2005 8:25 PM
Intelligence on Wolfowitz Nomination... from Portside/s*a*m*i*z*d*a*t
Excerpt: ...select notes & intell from a meeting of DC based NGOs on what's unfolding on Wolfowitz...
Tracked: March 24, 2005 1:13 PM
Wolfie and the World Bank from The Eleven Day Empire
Excerpt: Great article over at Winds of Change about Paul wolfowitz' nomination to run the World Bank and why he'll be...
Tracked: March 24, 2005 3:01 PM
Wolfowitz and World Politics from Ghahre Pascale
Excerpt: Read this article at Winds of Change highlighting the struggle between Paul Wolfowitz..
Tracked: April 3, 2005 11:41 PM
Link Rodeo 4/3 from Mental Borborygmus
Excerpt: Mark Steyn has a good commentary on what John Bolton is all about. Chrenkoff gives three cheers for one of our best allies in Europe: Albania. Winds of Change has a good article on the new international order after the Iraq war, which basically consists

31 Comments

INTELLIGENCE ON THE WOLFOWITZ NOMINATION....

This just in from a gaggle of DC-based NGOS....

• Wolfowitz has been invited to a meeting of European Union heads of state on Tuesday (22 March) at which his nomination is on the agenda.
• The Board of Directors is expected to vote on the nomination by March 31.
• There is strong, widespread opposition to Wolfowitz among WB staff, and the WB Staff Association has issued a statement declaring it wants staff views to be considered before a final decision is taken.
• Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota) issued a press release against Wolfowitz and is seeking other support on Capitol Hill with some difficulty.
• Bono has apparently had two phone conversations with Wolfowitz. It’s unclear whether Bono has endorsed Wolfowitz’ nomination.

...and all of it will come to naught, for the reasons I've explained above.

The World Bank staff had better get used to the idea of having Wolfowitz as their boss, and the idea that they are accountable to the outside world rather than the reverse. Some of them might even be advised to polish their resumes.

BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO!

Amen brother Joe.

This is the message of common sense and not of the diplolmatic creed of our fickle "allies" who can't keep their fingers out of the "til" all the while thumbing their noses at us for the uncouth ruffins we are!

"The World Bank staff had better get used to the idea of having Wolfowitz as their boss, and the idea that they are accountable to the outside world rather than the reverse. Some of them might even be advised to polish their resumes."

I imagine there will be mass resignations. There was mass chaos when Wolfensohn started. He also had grandiose ambitions.

You know, if the World Bank was really working well, that might disturb people.

Theodore Lowi, among others, discusses the tendency of bureaucratic organizations to devolve into vehicles for the interests of their staff rather than those of their funders and clients. This is also a key insight of Public Choice Economics, and hence of the conservative social science critique of the welfare state and government.

It's also part of the liberal critique, however, because this phenomenon can eventually lead to "regulatory capture" by the very people a bureaucracy was meant to protect against. If you want a really virulent example, look at the U.S. State Department, Saudi Arabia, and Prince Bandar's policy of buying influence in advance by giving post-retirement contracts and jobs to officials who prove "helpful" while in government. Liberals can probably think of a few corporate examples, too.

Making staff choices rather than stakeholder accountability a major criterion for heading up any bureaucracy is a major mistake.

If people want to go, that's their call. Who gets hired as their boss, isn't.

Who at the World Bank do you think is doing a bad job, and why should they go?

"one would sooner turn New York's policing over to the Mafia than take the U.N.'s genocide-abetting pretenses of security seriously."

You should see the nice cars that park on the street, with no problem with car theft or damage, in Little Italy.

im not convinced its pure power. Do you think Bush could have gotten a John Bolton into the World Bank spot? Wolfie, who genuinely believes in the mission of the world bank, was harder (ie costlier) to oppose for just that reason.

BTW, the problem with expecting international organizations to adopt the good guy vs bad guy approach we want, if all non-democracies are bad guys, is that not only do all the non-democracies oppose that, but so do most of the democracies. You want a UN consisting the US, Taiwan, Israel, and Australia? Cause I cant think of anyone else who wants a UN with only democracies. Now keeping the worst HR violators off the HR commission is one thing, but the UN is still gonna be a place where non-demos play a role, cause the UN is based on sovereignty, and most democracies want it to be that.

Im not saying that promoting demo isnt a good idea - i think its wolfies best, and i hope the admin sticks to the inaugural approach. But lets be realistic in how we pursue that. I know Wolfie and Condie will be, and i suspect Bolton will be.

The World Bank certainly has no shortage of external critics, as even a little research will show. They're trying, and they need to do better, and it's time to appoint someone to help them get there. Per the WSJ link I included in my post, the World Bank's major stakeholder seems to believe that a shakeup is in order.

RE: who should go and who should stay, that will be Wolfowitz' judgment call once he takes charge. Just as the need for reform in the World Bank is primarily the United States government's judgment call (with caveats as noted above in my post).

Neither item is the judgment call of those who work there, for reasons of accountability that I've already explained.

Instead, the call has been made, and events set into motion, by the major stakeholder with the authority to make that call - and more important, the power and deterrence to make its call stick.

The EU may be big on international bureaucracies that are accountable only to their bureaucrats. I'm not... and the opportunity to bring some reality to the topic of how international relations really works was just to good to pass up.

It's not going to work, particularly if you're referring to the Meltzer report that the WSJ referenced the other day. There's a great deal of arrogance in the idea that Wolfowitz can just walk in there and blow the place up. It'll blow up in his face.

Liberalhawk (#8) - good points. For more insight into the Bolton vs. Wolfowitz point, see this quote in my post:

"The rest is relevant only to the extent that it avoids making other states believe they must act despite the consequences. It can even be a "fig leaf" - something they believe to be false - but if it gives them a plausible excuse not to act and they'd rather not pay the price, then it will serve its purpose and they will be pleased to have it." [emphasis in original]

Bolton's philosophy and incongruent background might have created enough pressure within certain EU constituencies to force opposition despite the price (but this is Europe, who'll roll over for anyone - so who knows?). As you point out Wolfowitz's credentials and coniliatory statements lessen that pressure. Which gives the Euros the fig leaf they need.

So a smart administration puts Bolton in the UN Ambassador position that only Congress needs to approve, and Wolfowitz in the World Bank position, and backs that up with a top team at State to get its political message out internationally. I remember U.N. Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick (your classic "Reagan Democrat" and a formidale speaker and intellect) very well. I don't think Bolton can match her, but I'll enjoy watching him try. As for the State Department - like Hussein's Iraq, it couldn't be made much worse and looks like it will be made both better and more influential amidst the changes we can now see. I'm hoping Mr. Wolfowitz can bring some of the same to the World Bank, and pleased that someone with his ideals is opening this door.

But if you doubt whether the Euros wanted to pull a power play on Wolfowitz, just keep reading to the quote about the "poor countries" "failure" in Euro eyes.

If they thought they had the power, they'd strongarm in a compliant member of the NGO canapes and conferences set in a heartbeat.

Fortunately for the world's poor, they don't.

AFAIK, the World Bank, IMF, etc., have always been primarily tools of USG foreign policy, so it's quite natural that someone from DoD would be tapped to run them.

Wolfowitz knows which corrupt third world elites would be most useful to purchase, and some idea of the cost of buying them.

These organizations have very little to do with actual "development" or "poverty".

Whether this is good or bad depends largely on who is being bought, and for what purpose.

Liberalhawk,

You want a UN consisting the US, Taiwan, Israel, and Australia?
Sounds like a nice start, but why would you exclude Poland, the Czech Republic, etc?

Because Eastern Europe is more corrupt than palermo.

The World Bank staff had better get used to the idea of having Wolfowitz as their boss, and the idea that they are accountable to the outside world rather than the reverse.

Aren't they whipped enough by Melkert

praktike, have you taken a look at Pundita? She apparently either works at the World Bank, has worked there, or has worked closely with World Bank folks.

Joe,

I don't like current European policies at all, but it isn't illegitimate for those who pursue them to follow their self-interest.

Your post boils down to these points:

1) Might makes right, putting the United States in the superior moral postion by default

2) The outside world would like to follow its own self-interest, which is to be condemned for those interests are not congruent with those of the United States

3) Those who follow intersts which are not identical to those of the Unites States should pay a heavy price

Isn't that a bit (or more than a bit) imperialistic? Look at it from the point of view of the outside world or from somebody who doesn't think that Wolfowitz is a really swelll fellow.

#13

Why not Poland, Hungary, Czecho?

I dont think Czecho would go for it if Germany and UK arent in it. And Hungary wont go for it if Germany, UK and Czecho arent in it. And Poland wont go for it if Germany, and UK and Czecho, AND Hungary arent in it. See the problem?

If euro had the power theyd put one of their own guys in. Yup. And if Bush had the power, hed have put a right wing economist in, or Bolton. No one has complete power, so everyone has to play the game. Picking Wolfie was a smart move in the game, but if winning on this leads to arrogance, which i hear implicit in your post (maybe im mishearing) then it will do us harm.

We still need Europe. From Ukraine, to Afghanistan, to development, to many other issues. And over the long haul we will need them MORE, as China grows in strength (im not willing to bet the house on India proving to be an ally) Thinking, oh, we can always walk over them, they'll always cave, is a poor strat IMHO. Almost as poor as being willing to cave ourselves.

Actually, Dave, Pundita makes a good point wrt the Meltzer report that gets at the wrongness of the WSJ editorial page:

Contrary to popular perception, the Bank is not an aid organization. It’s a financial institution and a sound one. It has to remain sound if it wants Bank bonds to have a high rating because the Bank does not only finance projects through grants from member countries. To keep their credit rating high, the Bank has to get returns on their investments—in other words, they have to collect on loans they make to governments.

The worst-case countries really can’t afford to qualify for Bank loans—even with the softest repayment terms and zero interest. Those countries are best helped by outright aid. Yet it seems Brussels wants to remake the Bank into more of an aid organization. That trend got seriously underway during Wolfensohn’s tenure; the Bank has made outright grants. That’s like trying to make your electric blender into a bread toaster. The World Bank can raise big loan amounts just because it’s a financial institution with a good credit rating. If you mess with the formula, you undercut or even destroy the Bank’s capacity to make big-ticket loans.

The Bank has to make loans to China and Brazil in order to finance the other things it does.

"1) Might makes right, putting the United States in the superior moral postion by default

2) The outside world would like to follow its own self-interest, which is to be condemned for those interests are not congruent with those of the United States

3) Those who follow intersts which are not identical to those of the Unites States should pay a heavy price"
-----------

Yes. This is the perspective of all nations. The US just happens to be better at it right now.

"I dont think Czecho would go for it if Germany and UK arent in it"
-----------

If Czech had to choose between that or the US? YOu bet they'd go for it.

"Isn't that a bit (or more than a bit) imperialistic?"

Its imperialistic to try to sculpt the institution we are funding into meeting the ends we believe are just? No, thats called common sense.

"Look at it from the point of view of the outside world or from somebody who doesn't think that Wolfowitz is a really swelll fellow."

Why? Why entertain the dellusional, or even those at odds with our agenda? Im sure the Mullahs and KJI dont think Wolfy is a swell fellow, do they get a vote? This isnt a popularity contest, this is real life. We have power and authority and an agenda that we believe will bring peace, justice, and prosperity. Not pursuing that agenda to placate the cynics and hand wringers of the world would be the crime. If you disagree with that agenda, why for goodness sake should your get a say in how it is implimented?

Its good to see that so many people here want to pursue the far right wing agenda, i.e. reshape the World Bank from an organization that tries to keep people from starving to death to one whose goal is privatizing the natural resources and other assets of poor nations.

After all, what difference does it make it thousands die every day of hunger, and the World Bank was set up to allieviate hunger? Wolfowitz's well established contempt for the lives of the vast majority of humanity that is neither white, Christian, or wealthy makes him the perfect candidate to ensure that what little wealth these nations have winds up in the pockets of wealthy white Christians.

And given the billions upon billions of dollars that remain unaccounted for in Iraq under Wolfowitz's watch (and the reported rampant corruption on the part of our puppet government when it comes to the awarding of contracts) we know that Wolfowitz wasn't nominated to deal with the problems associated with the World Bank's poor contract management. With Wolfowitz at the helm of the World Bank, we can be sure that every possible penny will be diverted into wealthy white Chirstian hands, where GOD ordained it to be....

Yes. This is the perspective of all nations. The US just happens to be better at it right now.

That is not true. Most countries have no illusion that they ever will be the mighiest so they don't like "might is right".

If Czech had to choose between that or the US? YOu bet they'd go for it.

The US is far away. Germany is next door. If they are smart they will ally themself to Germany and the UK

Its imperialistic to try to sculpt the institution we are funding into meeting the ends we believe are just? No, thats called common sense.

who is "we"? The majority of americans are opposed to Bushco's policies --- and that would include changing the World Bank from an institution whose mission is to allieviate hunger and crushing poverty to providing welfare to multinational corporations.

We've already seen the mess that neo-con policies in the World Bank produce --- virtually every country that implemented the Friedman/Chicago School of Economics approach at the behest of the World Bank has experienced the disaster that resulted from those policies.

The arrogance and contempt exhibited by Bushco toward the international community in this appointment (and of Bolton to the UN) is doing tremendous damage to the US's long term security. Threats and bullying may work fine in the short term, but the US is too vulnerable and dependent upon the rest of the world economically and politically---and the rest of the world knows it.

p.lukasiak:

One problem with your conspiracy theory - Wolfowitz isn't Christian. Might get more mileage if you put him as being part of the Great Zionist Cabal™.

Another: Bush won the '04 election, the only poll that really mattered, so saying his policies don't represent the "majority of Americans" isn't borne out by the reality of the vote.

Although I find the arguments for and against here enlightening I thought some here might be interested in the articles under the heading Wolfowitz to the World Bank at Watching America. So far every one of the articles I have read has bemoaned the appointment to no end but have not provided any evidence from a banking / economic requirement as to why they are opposed.

So far every one of the articles I have read has bemoaned the appointment to no end but have not provided any evidence from a banking / economic requirement as to why they are opposed.

well, you can start with the fact that Wolfowitz is completely unqualified on banking and economic issues.

Add to that his consistent failure to analyze the economic consequences of American foreign policy on the countries affected by US foreign policies (especially in Iraq), his complete lack of any record showing that he is interested in the mission of the World Bank (allieviating hunger and crushing poverty), and his demonstrated tendency to allow ideology to overcome facts and common sense in the formation of policies, and you have a whole host of reasons why people oppose him to head the organization.

Its obvious that his support consists of those who liked the idea of killing tens of thousands of Muslims regardless of whether the idea made any sense. No rational person, looking at Wolfowitz' qualification and record and knowing the mission of the World Bank would ever consider him an appropriate choice.

(Personally, I think the only reason Cheney wants him to have the job is that he Wolfowitz was such an complete screw-up that he had to get rid of him, and didn't want him writing a book about the Bush regime. Since the World Bank is a very prestigeous organization whose mission the Bush regime is unconcerned about, its the perfect place to keep Wolfowitz from screwing things up more for Bushco.)

p.lukasiak

Seems one of the biggest arguments that people are flouting about concerning leadership in the World Bank is it's mission on eliminating poverty. Can you tell me or point me in the direction of which / whom the World Bank has lifted out of poverty so far?

Ralf (#16) you've got it slightly wrong here. Try:

1) Might makes action, and if you want action you'd better have might. While ideas are also a form of might, being right won't save you if more tangible forms of might aren't there. EX: if the Euros could have stacked the WB and the IMF, it's crystal clear that they would have.

2) Other countries follow their self-interest as they see it, which needs to be recognized at all times. Much debate and discussion over the past few years seems unwilling to look at this dimension, instead treating other nations' positions as intrinsically valuable. This is a grave and ultimately fatal mistake.

All this is simply reality, and the sources noted in the post are excellent examples of that reality in action and practice. You can put any kind of label on it you want, but the reality won't change. Why not learn from it?

From which follows:

3) Those who follow agendas opposed to the USA should know there are real costs attached, which will escalate with the importance of the issue. This establishes principles of deterrence, preserving freedom of action and saving lives (vid. the VDH article linked above - these phenomena are older than Ancient Greece, and very consistent).

Obstructionism dwindles sharply when it is no longer seen to be costless - as it once was, re: the USA. So do more sinister activities like sheltering terrorists. Too much discourse of international phenomena today focuses on bribes and nebulous things. If you aren't addressing the dimension of what opposition or misbehaviour will cost, it's just wanking and won't produce results.

If you're a smaller international power, these principles still apply. All that changes is the focus of #3, which will be smaller and more targeted than the USA's necessarily wide-ranging interests and activities.

Finally, I'll add that every one of these principles applies in domestic politics too. Read any insider book on politics, and you'll see all of the above on display.

This is, as I said, reality. We forget it at our extreme peril.

ASIDE: Where I disagree with the "realist" school of foreign policy (the Scowcrofts, Kissingers, et. al.) is their blinkered refusal to understand that ideals can be a source of real power - and that they are also a motivation to action that creates different types of players, who must be dealt with differently.

But ideas alone aren't enough, and they will fail and fall into disrepute without power and deterrence. It wasn't "King Arthur and the Gardeners of the Round Table," you know. Welcome to the human condition.

Can you tell me or point me in the direction of which / whom the World Bank has lifted out of poverty so far?

although self-serving by definition, the first place to look for information on successful World Bank programs would be the World Bank website.

http://www.worldbank.org

p.lukaski
I did look there and so far to date the World Bank has not lifted a single country out of poverty. They have spent money placed mandates on these countries concerning their financial well being and they haven't left a single one of them yet. Why is that?

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