Media

The World on Wolfowitz

The world press reacts to Bush's nomination of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank.
Last week, President Bush tapped Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz for the World Bank presidency. Wolfowitz, who has no experience in international finance and only a brief record in the developing world as U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, remains a polarizing figure for his role in the Iraq war and the global war on terror. Since the announcement the editorial pages of papers worldwide have struggled to assess what this move indicates for the Bank, American foreign policy, and the fight to end global poverty. The following is a selection of articles about the nomination from around the world.

Britain

"The difficulty with Paul Wolfowitz is that much of the rest of the world will find it difficult to work with him. He may, as is claimed on his behalf, be a highly competent administrator and fundraiser. He may also be 'compassionate and decent', as President Bush described him. But this is nothing like enough to outweigh his ideological baggage. It is hard to escape the impression that he is being parachuted in to reshape the bank as an arm of U.S. policy cloaked in false multilateralism." -Editorial, The Independent, March 18, 2005

"Mr. Wolfowitz's comments on the likely costs of the Iraq war and prospective popularity of the invading forces in Iraq put his judgment in question. But, above all, the world would view a bank directed by Mr. Wolfowitz as no more than an instrument of U.S. power and U.S. priorities. Every piece of advice the bank gave and condition it set would be made illegitimate, in the eyes of recipients, by the perception that it served the interests of the world's 'sole superpower'. The impact on the bank's legitimacy would be hugely damaging." -Editorial, Financial Times, March 18, 2005

Germany

"Do you still remember President Bush's announcement that he wants to consult more with his European interlocutors in his second term? In the meantime, Washington seems to have forgotten this intention. With two decisions the Bush administration has now caused doubts about the seriousness of its promises: first, John Bolton's nomination ... and now Paul Wolfowitz's nomination for the job as World Bank president. To put it in cautious terms: President Bush did not give a damn about the reaction of the rest of the world. Many will consider Wolfowitz's nomination a provocation, and there is the great danger that he will be more detrimental than useful for the reputation of this institution. ... Since the Americans have the right to propose a new president, Wolfowitz could be prevented from getting this job only by causing a new transatlantic dispute. And this is something the Europeans do not want. But his nomination should at least be a reason to question once and for all the absurd U.S. right to nominate a candidate for this post." -Andreas Rincke, Handelsblatt, March 17, 2005

Italy

"Various European countries reacted lukewarmly ... while NGOs were chilly. If Wolfowitz, who is seen as the mastermind of the Iraqi war, is nominated, it will not be easy to 'sell' the World Bank as an institution that takes cares of the poor in the world. The choice is comparable to that of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the UN. As in that case, it is considered by some as a provocation and as more evidence that Bush despises multilateral institutions. The choice raises two questions. The first is what Europe will do, given that Wolfowitz's name had already been informally submitted to them, receiving negative feedback. The Europeans could oppose it, with the support of emerging countries, by reciprocating the veto that the U.S. gave European candidate Caio Koch-Weser for the [International] Monetary Fund. But it will be interesting to see if European countries will be able to move together, as they have tried to do at the IMF. The second question concerns the criteria for choosing nominees to head financial institutions (until now the World Bank has gone to the U.S. and the Monetary Fund to Europe), which should be more transparent, taking into account capabilities, and not only citizenship, and the fact that the world has changed since the system was created 60 years ago." -Alessandro Merli, Il-Sole-24 Ore, March 17, 2005

Russia

"The World Bank may lose face as a leading international organization involved in financing development. It risks becoming a financial prop for 'democratization' in poor countries, with the architect of that policy, Paul Wolfowitz, nominated for president of the bank." -Artur Blinov, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 18, 2005

Austria

"It really seems strange that it should be Wolfowitz, the spiritual father of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, who is considered the right man at the top of the World Bank and thus for the alleviation of poverty in the world. ... It is at any rate not a confidence-building signal in the direction of those countries whose inhabitants' existence depends on the policy pursued by the World Bank. Wolfowitz's nomination once again makes clear how outdated the nomination rituals in two of the most important institutions in the global economic system are. A European in the International Monetary Fund, an American in the World Bank – this was the simple formula according to which the world was divided in the post-world war period. However, this has changed and it is high time that those countries which are most affected by the World Bank's policy are given a loud voice there. ... If Wolfowitz should really become World Bank president, he will start out with a high mortgage. There is a small chance that this will be motivation for him to try and be a president for whom the fight against poverty is a matter near to his heart. For such a fight though, he will need allies - and to find those has so far not been one of Wolfowitz's strong points. That man can really only surprise in a positive way." -Hans Kronspiess, Salzburger Nachrichten, March 18, 2005

Czech Republic

"Wolfowitz at the head of the World Bank is not a bad choice. He can help President Bush 'press' American policy through the World Bank. It would not be surprising if the World Bank gets more involved in the renewal of Iraq and the Middle East in next few years. The growing American budget deficit is becoming a big problem and Bush needs to deal with it somehow. Any contribution will be helpful." -Frantisek Sulc, Lidove Noviny, March 18, 2005

Thailand

"The public memory of Mr. Wolfowitz as one of the main architects of the Iraq war is an obstruction he will have to negotiate if he is confirmed as president of the World Bank. What worries many observers is that his nomination follows the unpopular choice of John Bolton ... as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Bolton is reputed to be a fierce critic of the world body, and a man with esoteric ideas about diplomacy. Does this prove that a second term in power in the U.S. brings less consideration of critics?" -Editorial, Bangkok Post, March 18, 2005

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