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.