Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Wolfie to World Bank; Rummy to oblivion? (updated)

Bush's nomination of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to the presidency of the World Bank, odious as it may be, is in line with his recent nomination of John Bolton to the U.N. ambassadorship. Bush is still giving the finger to the rest of the world, rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding.

According to CNN,

In addition to Wolfowitz's strong support for the Iraq war, Steve Radelet, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and a former undersecretary at the Treasury, said last week the Europeans were nervous that Wolfowitz would prove similar to former World Bank head and Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

Radelet said McNamara was accused of channeling aid to nations based not on need but on their support of U.S. policy.

I suppose this will mean more troops from El Salvador as the Italians begin their withdrawal from Iraq.

But in the case of this particular dark cloud there may be a silver lining—or at least one of a contrasting color. It seems to this student of the Politburo that the departure of Paul Wolfowitz can mean one and only one thing—that Donald Rumsfeld is on his way out.

Have you noticed that Rummy has dropped from the news lately? The last news organization to give him focus is the Army Times—and that only in a story of his return to testify before the House Armed Services Committee that has been dogging him with unanswered questions. He is reported not to have been so "testy" this time.

With the military now acknowledging that 26 deaths of prisoners may have been homicides, the waters swirling about Rumsfeld may be experiencing the effects of global warming—or "climate change," as the Republicans like to say. The time to get out of the Defense Department is now.

Israel, I should think, would much prefer the loss of Rumsfeld to the loss of Wolfowitz, who is one of their very own.

I consider Wolfowitz' departure to be the strongest clue to Rumsfeld's imminent demise. But there are others—such as, Who put up Newsweek to issue a March 7 press release promoting a story that Richard Armitage is coveting Rumsfeld's post? The story that came out on the 14th begins

Just two years ago, Donald Rumsfeld was the big man on George W. Bush's campus—the "matinee idol," as the president once called him—and Condoleezza Rice was just another obstacle for the Defense chief to run through....

Suffice it to say, Condi Rice doesn't need to remind Donald Rumsfeld where she is in the pecking order any longer.

In our media-controlled environment, there are few accidents of timing. Rumsfeld's next "defense team" may turn out to be a pack of lawyers.


This morning Bradley Graham of the Washington Post, one of your "Pentagon insider" sort of reporters, gives a darkly comic account of Wolfowitz' decision to move to the World Bank (emphasis added)—

Wolfowitz had contributed to the impression that he intended to stay by appearing to squelch rumors of his impending resignation that had popped up several times in recent weeks.

But as close associates revealed yesterday, he started thinking seriously about leaving two months ago, spurred by a January tour of the devastation in Southeast Asia caused by the tsunami. The scenes of death and destruction that he viewed in Indonesia and Sri Lanka played on Wolfowitz's long interest in Third World issues of poverty and peace, according to this account, and got him looking at what new career move he could make to help in this area.

Yes, considering the job he's done for the Iraqis, it must have looked like familiar territory.

"The catalyst was being asked to do the job -- it wasn't my decision," he said yesterday in an interview. But he called the tsunami trip "a big deal" that "may have crystallized" his views, and he referred to the visit in a written statement explaining his interest in the World Bank position.

"Nothing is more gratifying than being able to help people in need -- as I experienced once again when I witnessed the tsunami relief operations in Indonesia and Sri Lanka," the statement said. "It is also a critical part of making the world a better place for all of us." [emphasis added]

Wolfie himself says that he was asked to move on. But his sudden interest in humanitarian good works is chilling when you consider what he thinks is (a) humanitarian, (b) good, and (c) works.

More than any other defense official, he is identified with the invasion of Iraq and the campaign to implant democracy there. He also is credited with major roles in shaping policy on anti-terrorism efforts, India, Asia and a range of other issues of particular interest to him.

Just the man for the World Bank. But who to replace this "unparalleled intellectual force" in the Pentagon?

There was little sign yesterday of whom, if anyone, President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld may have in mind to replace Wolfowitz. Rumsfeld's office appeared to be just starting to draw up a list of possible candidates, canvassing various people for suggestions.

All right. We know from Wolfowitz' account that he was asked to leave before his trip to Indonesia in January. Wouldn't it be strange—if Rumsfeld is to be involved in the appointment of a successor—that he should be "just starting" to search? I see two possible explanations: (1) It's a lie. The Rumsfeld list is already prepared. Such statements serve to denote official "surprise" at the decision. (2) It is a face-saver and temporizing move for Rumsfeld to suggest that he is even involved in the selection of Wolfie's successor. A third possibility—that Rumsfeld was really so out of the loop as not to know of Wolfie's impending departure—is just not credible.

And among some fluff we have—

Several lawmakers mused privately that Wolfowitz's departure will add to pressures on Rumsfeld to step down as well. In this view, whoever takes Wolfowitz's place would be a likely successor to Rumsfeld.

Take it to the bank.

Follow-up posts
U.S. ambassador to Turkey resigns, contemplates more mischief (3/22/05)
My tea leaves were wrong (9/22/05)

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