[Paleopsych] NYT: For McNamara and Wolfowitz, a War and Then the World Bank

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Business > World Business > For McNamara and Wolfowitz, a War and Then the 
World Bank
March 22, 2005


    WASHINGTON, March 21 - As defense secretary in the 1960's, Robert S.
    McNamara never showed any emotion in public about the war in Vietnam
    that he directed for seven years. But after he took over as the
    president of the World Bank in 1968, Mr. McNamara openly wept when he
    gave his annual reports about the dispossessed.

    "I cried because I felt so involved in what we were doing," he said in
    an interview.

    Now, a generation later, Mr. McNamara has a rare appreciation for the
    predicament facing President Bush's nominee to head the World Bank,
    Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense who is best known
    as an architect of the war in Iraq.

    Both men made their national reputations directing divisive wars. Both
    were rewarded with nominations to head the World Bank and both are
    adamant that their qualifications rest on their interest in
    development and the world's poor; in Mr. Wolfowitz's case, it includes
    his work in the 1980's as the American ambassador to Indonesia.

    But when the European members of the World Bank hold a private meeting
    on Tuesday to discuss Mr. Wolfowitz's qualifications, the Iraq war and
    Mr. Wolfowitz's advocacy of using American influence to spread
    democracy around the world will be at the top of the agenda. Since it
    appears that their governments are willing to approve of Mr.
    Wolfowitz, much of the discussion is expected to turn on how Mr.
    Wolfowitz's record will translate into development policy, especially
    on the question of whether he will seek to make democracy-building
    paramount over basic aid issues like education, health and economics,
    according to diplomats involved in the decisions.

    "There is a sense of discomfort over Iraq, but the fact that he is a
    heavyweight political figure with good intellectual qualities makes us
    think that it could be worse," said one of the officials who insisted
    on not being identified because of the sensitivity of the nomination.

    European business journals that watch development issues, like The
    Financial Times and The Economist have been critical of Mr.
    Wolfowitz's appointment. In an editorial, "Wolf at the Door," The
    Economist compared him to Mr. McNamara, who had ambitious ideas about
    eliminating poverty but, the magazine argued, ended up weakening the

    "His appointment tells the world that Mr. Bush wants to capture the
    World Bank and make it an arm of American foreign policy," the
    editorial stated.

    Of special concern at the bank, an organization within the United
    Nations system, is how Mr. Wolfowitz handled Iraq after the Saddam
    Hussein regime fell. These include his public rejection of the
    recommendation by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, then the Army chief of staff,
    to send more troops to stabilize the country, the subsequent breakdown
    in security needed to rebuild the country and the mistaken premise
    that the country could be rebuilt largely from Iraqi oil revenue.

    "I support Paul Wolfowitz but with the big caveat that he shares
    responsibility for the failures of postwar Iraq," said Sebastian
    Mallaby, author of a contemporary history of the World Bank, "The
    World's Banker: A Story of Failed States, Financial Crises and the
    Wealth and Poverty of Nations" (Council on Foreign Relations/Penguin
    Press, 2004). "That is a piece of his record that he has got to live

    John Cavanagh, director of the liberal Institute for Policy Studies,
    said that Mr. Wolfowitz's record in Iraq suggested that he had a
    difficult time admitting mistakes and should not be given a second
    chance at the World Bank.

    "He ignored or belittled anyone who disagreed with him before the war
    in Iraq," Mr. Cavanagh said, "and when it turned out there were no
    weapons of mass destruction, shut out the Europeans from most
    reconstruction contracts."

    Mr. Wolfowitz frames his move as continuing to work for peace "on a
    different line of action."

    He points to his work as the American ambassador to Indonesia in
    Ronald Reagan's administration. According to two career diplomats who
    carried out his policies in Indonesia, Mr. Wolfowitz did break new
    ground promoting human rights in East Timor, giving financial aidto
    local labor unions and Islamic groups and documenting official

    David Merrill, a retired foreign service officer who directed the
    United States aid program under Mr. Wolfowitz, said that his former
    boss had supported economic development for its own sake as well as
    being a necessary means for building a middle class, the civil society
    and a democracy. To that end, he approved aid for environmental
    activists, labor rights groups and private Islamic groups, which was a
    rarity 20 years ago.

    "He listened to our ideas and we listened to his and it was the
    perfect relationship," Mr. Merrill said.

    Fighting corruption was one of his big causes, Mr. Merrill said.

    At one point, Mr. Wolfowitz told him to end a food aid program because
    the wife of President Suharto was profiting hugely from the program
    through her partial ownership of the flour mill where the American
    wheat was milled.

    Timothy Carney, the political counselor at the embassy under Mr.
    Wolfowitz, said he had to make a long, extensively documented report
    on corruption. "We weighed in against corruption and its bad effects,
    essentially arguing back to Washington that the Suharto administration
    had exceeded the norms," Mr. Carney said. Mr. Wolfowitz also
    encouraged him to publicize human rights abuses in East Timor and in
    Indonesia as a whole.

    Mr. Wolfowitz resists the idea that his work at the Pentagon played a
    role in his nomination to head the World Bank.

    Likewise, Mr. McNamara rejects the notion that he asked to run the
    World Bank to atone for the destruction in the Vietnam War.

    "No, it was not redemption for Vietnam," he said. "Frankly, I don't
    think Vietnam had anything to do with me going to the bank."

    Mr. McNamara said he thought that Mr. Wolfowitz's war experience would
    be of little help at the World Bank.

    "I know there is a theory out there that giving economic aid to failed
    states will help combat terrorism, but there are so many of those,
    you're not going to be able to deal with them all," Mr. McNamara said.

    It is really a question of political will, not of terrorism or
    democracy, Mr. McNamara said, and whether the richest countries in the
    world will give the resources needed to help poor countries improve.

    "In the Defense Department I learned that identifying the problem is
    always more difficult than finding an answer," he said.

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