Paul Wolfowitz will be gone from the World Bank as soon as his lawyer Bob Bennett can negotiate a more-or-less graceful exit for him. His tenure got off to a rocky start and never really solidified. On arrival he made the mistake of announcing he would go after corruption in the Bank’s aid programs, when senior bureaucrats for years had tolerated skimming of World Bank funds by leaders of recipient countries in the hope some money would still trickle down to projects intended to help the citizenry.
It soon became a case of Us vs. Them, with the Europeans in particular lined up against Wolfowitz because of his role in the Iraq War. In the end, his only allies were some African countries. The pretext for driving him out: the arrangements he made with the State Department to second his lady friend from the World Bank. He did this by the rules, but it made no difference. His enemies at the bank ginned it up into a “scandal” and it soon took on a life of its own.
What now? Tradition has it that the president of the World Bank is to be an American. This time, however, President Bush should think outside that box. He could make a ten-strike, so to speak, by nominating Tony Blair, who leaves Number Ten Downing Street at the end of June. It would be a perfect grace note on Bush’s part for Blair’s steadfast support of the Iraq War and for his thorough understanding of the nature of the radical Islamist war against Western civilization.
Blair has made it clear that at age 54 he would like a new role on the world stage. Had the European Constitution been approved and an EU presidency created, he would have been the logical candidate. That, however, will not happen any time soon.
After 10 years as Britain’s prime minister Blair can look back at a strong record in the area of development of underdeveloped countries. In fact, he has been a “communitarian” since his school days.
During his time as prime minister, the UK has regularly increased its share of gross domestic product devoted to foreign aid. During Britain’s leadership of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in 2005 he secured from his colleagues increased pledges of aid, especially to Africa.
Although the Iraq war is publicly unpopular in Britain and on the continent, Blair is liked and respected in European policy circles and his support for Bush in Iraq is likely to be overlooked by the members of the World Bank board of directors.
Blair, by concentrating his considerable energy and eloquence on the matter of reforming international aid to less-developed countries, might well accomplish the things Wolfowitz could not.
A Blair presidency of the World Bank would have two byproducts. For Gordon Brown, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) about to become PM, there would be the relief of not having his former boss hanging around, looking over his shoulder. More importantly, in terms of getting international cooperation, George Bush, by making a non-traditional nomination, would surprise his international critics and deflate the bogeyman image they have created for him.