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Editorial
Last Updated: 04/13/2005
Lonely at the World Bank?
Simon Stander

The Europeans conceded unanimously in the end, and Paul Wolfowitz will succeed Wolfensohn as President of the World Bank, with the fight against poverty as his top agenda item. And on the surface there is no quid pro quo for the sceptical Europeans. Wolfowitz is staying quiet about whether his deputy will be a European.

 

The appointment has occasioned a number of jumbled news items that have hit the headlines, the crossheads and the more tabloidy press.

 

Is a Republican hawk the right man for the job? What is the likely influence of his Muslim woman-friend, Shaha Ali Riza? How far does Wolfowitz hold to the Pentagon Strategy Plan he masterminded in 1992? How will he respond to the 90% of World Bank employees who, it is claimed, have expressed deep concern at his appointment? How will he correct many of the perceived inefficiencies at the Bank? How will reducing poverty match the ends of US policy? Is Bush mere putty in the hands of a small coterie of hawks and neo-cons? And so on, questions that ripple ever outward from the centre of power .

 

Above all, will Wolfowitz, wittingly or unwittingly, help bring peace in the world? The first thing to get into perspective for optimists and pessimists alike, of course, is that he is only one man. What he can achieve for peace or otherwise will have its limits.

 

Certainly, Wolfowitz speeches are peppered with the word peace despite the fact that he has spent so much time at the Pentagon, the heart and brain of the greatest military force ever known (the current stay as number two to Rumsfeld since March 2001 was his third visit). A typical item of his rhetoric is this: For there to be peace, people in positions of authority on all sides must recognize its value. And while we realize that progress may only be made in small steps, there are also times when people think of making great strides. Or The future belongs to those who dream the oldest and noblest dream of all, the dream of peace and freedom.

 

Major protagonists on the world stage like to make their positions very clear, and Wolfowitz made clear his view on US policy in 1992[i] which to a large extent he has been helping to implement since 2001.

 

  • The US should be the world s only superpower
  • The US should control weapons of mass destruction and the like and prevent proliferation even if it means military intervention in North Korea, Iraq or Eastern Europe (or anywhere else that may arise like Iran)
  • The US should not be bound by the UN
  • NATO should be the major defence force in Europe and the Europeans should not seek European only security arrangements .
  • The US should maintain strong military presence in East Asia (to prevent Korea or Japan filling the security vacuum that would arise from US withdrawal)
  • US access to raw materials must be guaranteed
  • The US and its citizens must be free from terrorist attack
  • The US should be kept safe from drug trafficking

 

It is not immediately clear how his shift from Pentagon policy to World Bank policies will work in practice, especially as President of the World Bank is a job for an international civil servant rather than a national one, and Wolfowitz, as one man, will be without his closest allies. But we have seen enough of what he has to say in writing and in action to know that he will still believe in US dominance, maybe giving away in due course to US leadership, to the primacy of the market and the need to spread democracy world-wide. There are alternatives. A major role for the UN is one (and for those who have forgotten The World Bank is a UN body). Shared leadership with the more advanced economies and the provision of more development aid rather than structural reform is another.

 

Whatever his main thrust, he ll have his work cut out: but he is only one man and he may turn out to be a lot lonelier than he was at the Pentagon. Over to you Ms Riza .



[i] http//work.colum.edu/+amiller/wolfowitz1992.htm Downloaded 3/31/2005

Simon Stander is editor-in-chief of the Peace and Conflict Monitor and Associate Professor of Peace Studies at the University for Peace


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