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Wolfowitz tapped for World Bank

NY Times | Mar 16 2005

President George W. Bush said Wednesday that he plans to nominate Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense and one of the chief architects of the invasion of Iraq two years ago, to become the next president of the World Bank.
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The announcement, following the appointment of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was greeted with quiet anguish in many foreign capitals where the Iraq conflict and its aftermath remain deeply unpopular and Wolfowitz's drive to spread democracy around the world has been viewed with some suspicion.
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In Washington, the appointment removes Wolfowitz from the president's inner circle and removes a skilled bureaucratic in-fighter from the Pentagon.
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It clears the way for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to take further control of Iraq policy and opens the field for possible successors to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, whose future is a constant source of speculation in Washington.
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The World Bank is the institution that allocates the resources and sets development policy for much of the Third World.
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Wolfowitz's appointment to succeed James Wolfensohn raises questions about whether Wolfowitz's ideological views will be reflected in development aid. But as U.S. ambassador to Indonesia from 1986 to 1989, Wolfowitz developed a passion for development and aid issues.
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"Paul is committed to development," Bush said Wednesday. "He's a compassionate, decent man who will do a fine job."
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Despite the displeasure of some diplomats, who hoped that the administration would appoint someone with a reputation for smooth relations with nations around the world, they said that they expect Wolfowitz to receive the approval of the World Bank's board of directors in time for Wolfensohn's departure in May.
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Announcing the appointment at a news conference at the White House, Bush said he had called various foreign leaders, including Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, to make the case that Wolfowitz will be a strong and effective leader at the World Bank.
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Bush appeared expansive and almost light-hearted at the morning news conference, and he was clearly reveling in the developments in Lebanon and Iraq, where he argued that democratization was on the way.
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But he also, for the first time, made it clear that his patience with Iran - to which he extended modest new offers of U.S. incentives last week to give up its nuclear program - had only one chance to take the deal he has offered, with France, Germany and Britain.
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Wolfowitz is likely to be a target of critics, especially in the Middle East, where he ranks among Israel's strongest defenders in the administration, and because of his views with respect to Iraq.
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"We'll have to swallow Wolfowitz like we swallowed John Bolton, since this is what we now know the administration means by effective multilateralism," said a foreign diplomat in Washington who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.
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By tradition, the United States names the president of the World Bank while Europe chooses the head of the International Monetary Fund, the other organization in the United Nations family that determines international economic and financial policy. Most developing countries want this tradition to change.
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A former dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Wolfowitz has a doctorate in international relations and, in addition to his service in Indonesia, was a ranking State Department official for Asian affairs under President Ronald Reagan.
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Those are qualifications that most of the other candidates for the job lacked. Moreover, Wolfowitz also has the ear of the president.
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Wolfensohn, who was part of the consultations that led to the choice of Wolfowitz, had high praise for him as his possible successor, saying in a statement that he is "a person of high intellect, integrity and broad experience both in the public and private sectors and has qualifications that would be critical to leading" the World Bank.
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Timothy Carney, a retired ambassador and career diplomat who served under Wolfowitz in Indonesia and Iraq, said that he "will bring experience in the developing world, enormous energy and intellect, and a willingness to listen to divergent views to the World Bank."
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"The downside," Carney said, "might be that it takes him too long to change his mind when he finds out he is wrong."
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Key among the concerns of his critics is Wolfowitz's reputation for pursuing an ideological agenda.
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Several officials said they feared he would use his position as World Bank president to focus on the Middle East and his notion of democratization, rather than continue the current emphasis on Africa and poverty reduction through a variety of new tests, including policing of corruption and heavy spending on education instead of the military.
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Among poverty activists, the announcement was treated with almost universal disdain.
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"As the most prominent advocate of imposing the U.S.'s will on the world - the architect of the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq - this appointment signals to developing countries that the U.S. is just as serious about imposing its will on borrowers from the World Bank as on the countries of the Middle East," said Njoki Njoroge Njehu, director of the 50 Years is Enough Network, which opposes most of the World Bank's policies.
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