Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A Wolf in the World Bank's Corridors?

I was waiting for the comparisons between departing Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, and the NYTs obliged yesterday.

Like McNamara, Wolfowitz is defending himself from criticism that he isn't properly qualified for the position along with hostility from much of the world that his tap to fill the position is ideologically motivated.

Wolfowitz addressed the former criticism by pointing:
to his work as the American ambassador to Indonesia in Ronald Reagan's administration. According to two career diplomats who carried out his policies in Indonesia, Mr. Wolfowitz did break new ground promoting human rights in East Timor, giving financial aid to local labor unions and Islamic groups and documenting official corruption.
Also, Wolfowitz and colleagues that worked with him like to point out his anti-corruption efforts in Indonesia when he was that country's ambassador in the early-to-late 1990s. Timothy Carney worked for Wolfowitz at the Indonesia embassy and told the NYTs that Wolfowitz "encouraged him to publicize human rights abuses in East Timor and in Indonesia as a whole." This would have been a deviation from prior policy, considering the Ford Administration, under Kissinger's influence, gave Indonesia's Suharto the greenlight to crush East Timor's independence movement in 1975.

Yet Jason Vest of the Village Voice dredges up some other evidence that Wolfowitz isn't all idealist and democracy promoter. As opposed to his hurried effort to cut Hussein out of the Middle East, Vest argues "Wolfowitz was quite happy to encourage a go-slow-and-gentle approach to dealing with Suharto." As the National Security Archives state, Suharto was responsible for "perhaps 200,000 dead in the years since" the 1975 Ford/Kissinger headnod. Vest concludes this safe approach was to ensure U.S. business interests, pursued by the U.S.-Indonesia Society, weren't harmed. Conveniently, Wolfowitz sat on the Society's Board of Trustees. While Wolfowitz may have been publicizing Suharto's corruption and human rights abuses in the embassy, the Society, according to a 1997 Progressive article by Eyal Press used by Vest as a source, was part of a Washington Suharto lobby consisting:
of major multinational corporations, Suharto insiders, Indonesian billionaires, and U.S. foreign-policy elites all working in harmony to achieve two shared objectives: downplaying human-rights abuses, and bolstering U.S. commercial, diplomatic, and military support for Suharto.
With this knowledge, it doesn't seem paranoid to ask whether ensuring American corporate primacy isn't also one of Wolfowitz's chief aims, which as head of the World Bank would make him indeed a wolf guarding the sheep pen. Even the conservative Economist wrote "his appointment tells the world that Mr. Bush wants to capture the World Bank and make it an arm of American foreign policy." This may be a bit harsh, considering Christopher Hitchen's characterization of him as a "bleeding heart" yesterday on Slate.

I am genuinely confounded by Wolfowitz. Although military imposition of democracy is dangerous, I like his public pronouncements about democracy promotion, yet I can't help but be suspicious that part and parcel with "democracy promotion" comes American capital and the corporate takeover of once national and local businesses. Democracy of this kind is one of a very stunted variety.