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Two Years Ago Bruce Bartlett Wrote About Paul Wolfowitz

One of the nice things about computers is that it makes it easy to look back and assess people's analytical track records. Compare, for example, the views two years ago of Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank of Sebastian Mallaby, who is Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies, Deputy Director of Studies, and Paul A. Volcker Senior Fellow for International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, with Bruce Bartlett, who is not:

Bruce Bartlett column for 3-23-05: President Bush[s'] nomination of... Paul Wolfowitz to be the next World Bank president... is a disappointing decision for those who care about international economic development... [that] shows a casual disregard for the Bank.... [or] a politicization of the institution that could seriously hamper its work.

The World Bank was established after World War II as part of the Bretton Woods Agreement, which sought to put the world economic system back together.... The International Monetary Fund and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (now the World Trade Organization) were part of the same effort.... The IMF was to maintain stability among world currencies.... The GATT was to break down tariff barriers.... The Bank’s function was to help the countries that had suffered most from the war get back on their feet....

[The Bank] should probably have closed up shop [in the late 1950s]... since its primary goal [or reconstruction from WWII] had been accomplished. But decolonization created a large number of newly independent countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America that needed help achieving economic prosperity. Since their poverty was thought to make them fertile soil for Communism, international economic development became an important goal of Western policy. So the Bank lived on.... In practice, the U.S. Executive Director simply puts forward a nominee [for president of the World Bank] when there is a vacancy and it is rubber-stamped by the other directors....

[T]he Treasury Department appears to have been totally out of the loop on the nomination. Historically, it chose the Bank president.... Having worked at the Treasury... I cannot believe that it recruited Wolfowitz or favored his appointment.... He has no experience in banking or finance, has never worked in the development field except peripherally, and is not known to have studied or written on the subject. The nomination appears to have been imposed upon Treasury by the White House.

By all accounts, Wolfowitz had hoped to succeed... Rumsfeld. But... [the World] Bank presidency is conveniently available (Wolfensohn’s term runs out in May), pays well, and requires no messy Senate confirmation.... Bush may have no other motive than rewarding a loyal aide....

[I]t is also possible that Bush wants to use the Bank to pursue his goal of spreading democracy to the Middle East and elsewhere. In the past, the Bank has generally ignored domestic political factors in making loans, judging each one on its own merits.... [T]he Bank takes account of corruption... [but] is rightly wary of compromising its neutrality by seeming to have a political agenda. Doing so would greatly complicate the Bank’s job.... Similar concerns were expressed when Robert McNamara, a former Secretary of Defense, was named president of the World Bank in 1968 and it survived. However, I’d feel better if President Bush had appointed an actual banker to this position.

McNamara had at least successfully run the Ford Motor Company before becoming Secretary of Defense and then World Bank president. He was a very competent administrator of large organizations. Wolfowitz had never run anyhing.