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Wolfowitz At The World Bank
he nomination of Paul D. Wolfowitz to head
the World Bank may be good news for
Israel. Whether it is also good for the United
States, the bank and the rest of the world is less clear.
As deputy defense secretary, Wolfowitz was among
the key players in formulating and carrying out the
invasion of Iraq and the attempt to put a liberal,
democratic government in Baghdad in place of
Saddam Hussein. The policy reflected his strong
belief, shared by virtually all of the top rank of
President George W. Bush's advisers, that the incur-
sion will lead over time to a more moderate and
open Middle East with an Arab leap into modernity.
But his faith in democracy as the antidote to fun-
damentalist Islam should not be the issue
in his management of the World Bank, an
unwieldy 10,000-employee bureaucracy
that is supposed to promote global eco-
nomic development by arranging financing for cru-
cial infrastructure projects in developing lands. The
challenge is to build an accountable, transparent
capitalism in parts of the globe where cronyism and
corruption along with poverty have held back hun-
dreds of millions of people.
Wolfowitz's skills as a manager have been sharp-
ened by his time in the Pentagon, where he has sig-
nificantly aided the direction of thinking and
resources away from the Cold War practices and
toward the demands of combating terrorism and
As the World Bank's directors ponder whether to
accept the Bush nominee, this skill should be widely
valued. There is no doubt, for example, that
Wolfowitz would make sure that the hundreds of
millions of dollars in loans slated for
a Palestinian-run Gaza are used on
schools and hospitals and roads and
not funneled into the pockets of
anti-Israel terrorists like Hamas.
But his enthusiasm for American
unilateralism in Iraq does not sit
well with the bank's European direc-
tors, who control a third of the
votes for his confirmation and who
are pressing for Bush to suggest
other names for the job.
Japan, another major economic
force, may also be cool to the
appointment because, as
one bank official recendy
put it, Wolfowitz at the
top gives the multination-
al institution "the face of a certain
The fact that he is Jewish rankles some of the
Muslim countries that rely on the bank's programs,
but only his ability to serve should matter.
The nomination comes on the heels of Bush's in-
your-face appointment of John Bolton as American
ambassador to the United Nations, an institution
that Bolton regularly disparages as a powerless,
meaningless relic of the last century. Bush says he is
seeking to rebuild cooperative ties with Europe, but
his choices for these two multinational institutions
send exactly the opposite message.
Wolfowitz has large shoes to fill; for the last
decade James D. Wolfensohn has won nearly unani-
mous praise for leadership of the bank that was both
Sink Or Swim
Even the example of Max Fisher, who
scattered, brave efforts to build new hous-
invested in Detroit with almost no hope of
ing, and what remains is the abyss.
realizing a financial return but because he
Chrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche remarked
believed it was the right thing to do, does
recendy that he has never experienced such
not persuade them.
a dysfunctional relationship between a city
I don't think there is any question that
and its suburbs. Welcome to Detroit, Mr.
many of these institutions, including Belle
Zetsche. That's the name of the game here.
Isle itself, would be better served by a
Puzzled newcomers have been pointing it
regional authority. Something along the lines
out for years. Nowhere else in the country is
of Huron-Clinton Metroparks, which operates CAN TOR
every issue viewed through the prism of
a wonderful string of recreational areas.
Every issue. After a while, people just
It's out of the question, of course. This is the
third rail of Detroit politics.
It is interesting that basketball player
Any civic leader who advocates such a regional
Rickey Paulding, who went to Central High
approach is quickly smeared as a "Sambo," a shuffling
in Detroit and now plays professionally in
sell-out. Even when this is the only way to save them.
Jerusalem, recently said he felt safer walking around
For many years, it was a point of pride among the
the Israeli capital than in his hometown.
city's black middle class that it would stay the course.
That comparison falls a bit short of a ringing
To leave was shameful, an admission of failure.
endorsement of security in Jerusalem. Still, it's a ter-
But from all the demographic evidence, this pop-
ribly sad statement coming from a young African-
ulation group, as the white middle class before it, is
American who grew up here.
heading out. It has endured all it can of the empty
The aquarium is just another indication of
rhetoriciiand empty promises.
Detroit's slow submergence. Time to change the
There are streets in the city that can make you
city's motto, I'm afraid.
weep. Scratch the veneer from the Woodward corri-
Instead of "We hope for better things; it rises
dor, a handful of historic neighborhoods and the
from the ashes," how about "Glub."
get the feeling that the struggle to save the
Belle Isle aquarium may mark a watershed (if
you'll forgive the pun).
Detroit no longer wants, nor can it afford, this
100-year old Albert Kahn jewel. Attendance has
declined, and there is also the perennial pipe dream
of a new aquarium on the Ford Auditorium site. So
lock the doors and kiss the Belle Isle site goodbye.
There was no one around this time to come rid-
ing to the rescue with a $500,000 gift. Like so
many other cultural institutions in the city, it can-
not sustain itself
But any suggestion that Detroit surrender control
is viewed as part of the great suburban conspiracy to
strip the city of its treasures.
There are many in the Sharon McPhail wing of
the city's electorate who are convinced that this is an
actual long-term strategy. Depopulate the city of its
middle class and, when property values collapse,
swoop in and grab it off at distressed prices.
George Cantor's e-mail address is
effective and diplomatic. In the coming weeks,
Wolfowitz should be open about what he wants to
do at the World Bank and about how he intends to
He needs to realize that his Iraq legacy is a disrup-
tion and that the burden is on him to win over the
bank directors and managers. His brilliance is not in
doubt, but his tolerance for listening to other points
of view is.
The bank exists as a way for the world's leading
economies to assist the countries that are trailing
without seeming patronizing. If Wolfowitz can
avoid the appearance of arrogance, he can be a fine
leader for a vital institution. ❑