Wolfowitz’s Ouster: The End of the Bretton Woods Carve-Up?

We’ve known for a while that Europe’s finance ministers have made up their

mind that Paul Wolfowitz must go as president of the world

bank – the only question is over the manner of his leaving. Today, we

learn just how tough they’re being – and how long they’ve held their hard-line

position. Steven

Weisman in the NYT:

At the annual spring meetings of world finance ministers in mid-April…

top European finance and development officials spoke with Treasury Secretary

Henry M. Paulson Jr. about the possibility that Mr. Wolfowitz

would resign in return for the Europeans’ permitting the United States

to pick his successor.

So the deal on the table was this: the US serves up Wolfowitz’s head on a platter.

In return, the US gets to nominate the next president of the World Bank. Which

is something the US has always been able to do in any event – after all,

there’s no other way that Wolfowitz would ever have been chosen. It’s hardly

surprising that Paulson wasn’t particularly impressed by the offer.

Given that Paulson rejected the offer, however, it’s definitely possible that

the Europeans will follow through on their implied threat to finally drag the

presidential nomination process into the 21st Century and force the nomination

of someone who is chosen on the merits, as opposed to someone who is chosen

on the basis of Executive Branch internal politics. There’s no doubt if that

were to happen that the Europeans would lose their stranglehold on the managing

directorship of the IMF, too – but that would be no bad thing, either.

This could be the single biggest silver lining to the disastrous Wolfowitz

presidency: the end of the outmoded convention that the president of the World

Bank is always an American and the managing director of the IMF is always a

European. If that’s the case, it’s about time.

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