Thursday, March 17, 2005

Bolton and Wolfiwitz and Their New Homes

First John Bolton to the UN, and now Paul Wolfiwitz to head the World Bank. Is this evidence of the continued neo-con ascendancy in the Bush administration? Keven Drum seems to think so, as do the Europeans. But Greg Djerejian, Daniel Drezner, and Matt Yglesias disagree. And of course, they are correct.

First off, as Yglesias notes, "preventative wars are not, I take it, something the Bank head is able to launch." Indeed, instead of regime change in Iran, Wolfiwitz will be promoting international economic development, a far easier case to make. But more importantly, at the UN and at the World Bank, Bolton and Wolfiwitz will be far removed from the inner-circles of policymaking inside the beltway -- out of the loop, so to speak. Drezner points out, "No neocon worth their salt would want Bolton at the UN or Wolfowitz at the Bank -- because neocons don't believe these institutions are particularly relevant." And combined with the fact that Doug Feith will be leaving the Pentagon this summer, and Richard Myers' term as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair will expire in December, it looks as if management is finally breaking up Team Rumsfeld. In fact, Djerejian bets that Rumsfeld himself will be gone by mid-to-late 2005. So contra the mainstream print media, what we're seeing is hardly a revival of Bush's first term foreign policy team.

Still, regardless of what it means for the direction of US foreign policy, will these appointments be effective ones? I am skeptical but optimistic about both.

The UN is undoubtedly in need of some tough love. Confronted with scandals, impotence, and zero accountability, the last thing the UN needs is another ambassador who, because of a fetish for multilateralism, refuses to confront its problems. Even Kofi Annan has acknowledged this, with his spokesman responding to Bolton's appointment by stating that Annan had “nothing against people who hold [the UN] accountable.” And Bolton will certainly do precisely that. But unlike some, I will refrain from lauding the appointment as a "Nixon goes to China" move, and I have my doubts that Bolton will become a latter-day Daniel Patrick Moynihan. That said -- provided his tendency towards inflammatory rhetoric does not get the best of him -- Bolton, at the very least, will offer a dose of reality and hard truth-telling to an organization that badly needs it.

Now on to Wolfiwitz. Wolfiwitz, as it happens, is my favorite neocon in the Pentagon (Bob Kagan being my favorite neocon in all). Yes, he was badly wrong about many aspects of the Iraq War (necessary troop levels, being greeted with flowers, oil revenues paying for the war), but of all the war's neo-con advocates, Wolfiwitz was the most idealistic about the war's humanitarian and democracy-promotion aspects. Further, when many conservatives opposed the Balkan interventions of the late-90s, Wolfiwitz stood strong in support of Clinton. He's also argued for higher spending on aid to Liberia and the Sudan. In other words, Wolfiwitz accepts and believes in the World Bank's raison de'etre -- that the rich world can and should help the poor world through economic development.

That being said, Wolfiwitz is not an economist and he has had limited experience in development work. So it remains to be seen that he can master the myriad details that running the World Bank requires. Still, at the World Bank he'll be able to put his great intellect to use on aid and democracy promotion, while being restrained from pursuing his more controversial ideas on regime change and preventive war... Everybody wins.


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8:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The good news is Bolton is gone for incompetence and Wolfowitz for corruption. Two very nasty pieces of work.

9:35 AM  

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