Monday, April 30, 2007

Crying Wolfowitz

It's not personal. If I knew him I might even like him; he's reputed to be smart and interesting. But from a policy perspective, there are few public figures I find more reprehensible than Paul Wolfowitz, now in trouble as president of the World Bank. Wolfowitz has been an architect iof neoconservative foreign policy theory and practice, and in his previous job as deputy defense secretary was one of the chief progenitors of the disastrous war in Iraq.

So there's a certain Schadenfreude in seeing him in trouble, with most of the World Bank staff lined up against him and plenty of people calling for his resignation. However, I'm not sure if the current beef is a valid one. It revolves around his girlfriend, an 11-year employee of the bank. When Wolfie came on, he informed the bank's ethics people of the potential appearance of a conflict of interest (though she wouldn't report to him) and the deal worked out was that she would transfer to the State Department with theWorld Bank paying her salary -- with a raise, since she was due for a promotion.

That's the public "scandal" that has precipitated his problems. I'm not sure they're warranted.

There's a more serious beef against Wolfie, that he's an incompetent manager, that his anti-corruption campaign is selective and perhaps hypocritical, that he's arrogant, that he's surrounded himself with cronies whose signal characteristic is loyalty rather than competence. I don't know enough to judge that charge. It may just be that he's shaken up the bureaucracy at the World Bank, a gaggle of overpaid and underworked stuffed shirts in an institution that probably does more harm than good.

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