Wednesday, March 16, 2005


So it's official now: Paul Wolfowitz, neocon extraordinaire and one of the principle instigators of the Iraq war, has been named to head the World Bank. From that position, one of the most hawkish members of the Bush administration can wreak economic havoc on countries he left out of his grand plan to transform Iraq and the Middle East into zones of peace, tranquility and advanced American-style capitalism.

Key to his appointment, we're told, is his background in Asia, where he was the top US diplomat during the Reagan administration. According to the Associated Press:
Administration supporters of Wolfowitz said Wednesday he is suited for the World Bank post and pointed to his management experiences at the Pentagon and his diplomatic experience at the State Department. He had served as assistant secretary of State for east Asia during the Philippine transition to democracy. He also serves as U.S. ambassador to Indonesia.
So what is that record? Well, that's something I've delved into in detail for numerous publications when Wolfowitz was first nominated as Deputy Secretary of Defense back in 2001. I had the great privilege to cover Wolfowitz when he presided over Asian policy during the Reagan administration, at a time when the United States, in the name of anti-communism, provided military and economic aid to some of the worst tyrants in Asian history. As I wrote in a lengthy piece in Foreign Policy in Focus,
Wolfowitz’s career is a textbook example of cold war politics that focused for nearly 50 years on the care and feeding of dictators like Suharto, Chun Doo Hwan in South Korea, and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. While there were differences in nuance between presidents, these policies remained remarkably consistent from administration to administration. Where Wolfowitz and the Reagan Republicans departed from the Democrats was in their public stance toward these unsavory figures.

Wolfowitz was (Richard) Holbrooke’s immediate successor in the top Asia slot at the State Department, serving there from 1982 to 1986. For the next three years he was U.S. ambassador to Jakarta, and from 1989 to 1993 he was the “principal civilian responsible for strategy, plans, and policy under Defense Secretary Dick Cheney,” according to his official biography. He has remained tightly linked to Indonesia through his role in the U.S.-Indonesia Society, a private group funded by the largest U.S. investors in Indonesia that, behind the veneer of “cultural exchanges,” pushes for closer ties with Jakarta. Its past members have also included members of Indonesia’s intelligence and military forces... During his tenure in the Reagan and Bush administrations, Wolfowitz played a key role in defining U.S. policy toward South Korea and the Philippines at a time of intense repression and growing opposition to authoritarian rule.
Like Bush's appointment of John Bolton to represent the United States at the UN, naming Wolfowitz to run the World Bank is a jab in the eye of global opinion and an insult to Asian countries like South Korea that became democracies in spite of US support for authoritarian rule. For more on his story, read these pieces I wrote for The Nation ("A Skewed History of Asia") and First of the Month ("Asian Fantasies: Paul Wolfowitz's Makeover in the Times").