Multilateral Development Banks

Defending Wolfowitz

(May 3, 2007) “I’m having a hard time whipping myself up into a state of indignation over Paul Wolfowitz. Sorry. Could it be me? Could it be the onset of delightful weather? Or could it be that Paul Wolfowitz is being railroaded?”

“As best as I can tell, the man did absolutely nothing wrong. So it’s hard for me to figure out precisely how his resignation would “restore the credibility of the institution.”

I’m having a hard time whipping myself up into a state of indignation over Paul Wolfowitz. Sorry. Could it be me? Could it be the onset of delightful weather? Or could it be that Paul Wolfowitz is being railroaded? Could it be that the World Bank, which Wolfowitz has used as an instrument of a significant anti-corruption crusade, would be better off if he stays on as president?

I know, it’s tempting to pile on this former deputy secretary of defense, this architect of a vastly unpopular war, this unpretty man with the abrasive style. He is, after all, an official Washington piñata, who is snared in a controversy involving such mom-and-apple-pie concepts as “ethics” and “conflicts of interest.” He arranged for a hefty compensation increase for his companion (horrible!), at precisely the same time that he was pushing a drive against corruption (hypocritical!).

Wolfowitz once said, “If you want to make poverty history, you have to make corruption history.” Wolfowitz actually meant what he said, and upset countries such as China – the second-largest recipient of World Bank loans – by linking the Bank’s lending policies to a country’s record at fighting corruption. Yet this veritable Eliot Ness of development is now a subject of scorn, with the European Parliament proclaiming the other day, with unsuppressed glee, that Wolfowitz’s “withdrawal from the post would be a welcome step toward preventing the bank’s anti-corruption policy from being undermined.”

To make the whole thing even more of a “slam dunk” (pardon the expression) from the lynch-mob standpoint, it is increasingly apparent that Wolfowitz is being cornered into a forced resignation.

And yet, the more I look at this whole affair the more I think it stinks, and that Wolfowitz is being railroaded not because of lofty “ethical” issues but because of bureaucratic resistance to his anti-corruption drive – and that he is being punished for being the epitome of political incorrectness as a leading neoconservative and Bush administration official.

Read the full story.

Gary Weiss, Forbes.com, May 3, 2007

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