US Steps Up Wolfowitz Support

Hank Paulson, I think, has the proper attitude for a senior

US official when it comes to l’affaire Wolfowitz. He’s concentrating on the

process, but is leaving himself an honorable opening whereby he can support

Wolfowitz’s ouster so long as the process by which it is obtained is fair.

Condi Rice, on the other hand, is now actively

lobbying European foreign ministers on behalf of Wolfowitz. And apparently

she’s being joined by the White House: "the United States is shoring up

support for the former U.S. deputy defense secretary among a clutch of allies

like Canada and a few Asian and African countries," reports

Reuters today.

The White House, which had previously deferred questions over the matter

to the U.S. Treasury, insisted on Wednesday it was not "hanging Paul

Wolfowitz out to dry" and that he had the Bush administration’s strong


The Treasury is officially responsible for U.S. World Bank policy, but Wolfowitz

is strongly identified with the White House as an architect of the American-led

invasion of Iraq.

In other words, Paulson is being overruled by Bush and Rice, which bodes ill

for any deal and makes it more likely that the Europeans will be forced into

an unwanted direct confrontation with the Americans on the World Bank board.

Wolfowitz has to go, for a multitude of reasons. He no longer has the support

or the respect of the Bank’s staff, for starters. He also gave his girlfriend

a monster raise, even after he had proposed recusing himself from any decisions

pertaining to her. And he has changed his story on exactly what happened a good

three or four times by now, which means he’s hardly been open and honest with

the board. It’s well worth reading the statement

of Ad Melkert, the director of the bank’s ethics committee

at the relevant time:

As the Ethics Committee had advised that Mr. Wolfowitz’ proposal for

recusal from personnel matters was insufficient because it did not include

recusal from professional contacts, it is completely incomprehensible that

subsequently Mr. Wolfowitz did exactly what he originally had proposed not

to do: to engage directly in personnel matters concerning his partner. It

would have been perfectly appropriate for him to instruct his relevant Vice

Presidents to resolve the issue in accordance with the advice he had received

from the Ethics Committee and with the Bank’s rules and practices, and

then to otherwise recuse himself from the negotiation and approval of the

terms and conditions.

It’s not obvious why the US is spoiling for a fight over this. Wolfowitz is

sure to go one way or another, so at this point the interests of the US are

in making his departure as painless as possible, and maximizing US control over

the choice of his successor. Unfortunately, the US seems to be acting in direct

opposition to both of those interests right now.

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