The Next Crusade
Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank.
by John Cassidy April 9, 2007
The Selimiye Mosque, in Edirne, a city in northwest Turkey, is a magnificent stone edifice, with four minarets and an austere, octagonal-shaped body supporting a large dome. Built for Sultan Selim II in the sixteenth century, it has withstood numerous earthquakes and can accommodate more than five thousand kneeling worshippers. One evening at the end of January, I visited the mosque with Paul Wolfowitz, the president of the World Bank, and a half dozen of his aides and colleagues. Two years have passed since President Bush nominated Wolfowitz, the former Deputy Secretary of Defense and one of the architects of the war in Iraq, to head the sprawling multinational lending institution that has as its official goal “a world without poverty.”
The World Bank employs thirteen thousand people in more than a hundred countries, and lends about twenty-five billion dollars a year to poor and middle-income nations. When Wolfowitz inspects bank programs, he often visits religious sites and other monuments. At the Selimiye Mosque, a stern-looking young man with a black beard who identified himself as the imam met us at the entrance and invited us inside. After putting on slippers, Wolfowitz entered the mosque and listened as the imam, demonstrating its acoustics, raised the call to Allah.
Wolfowitz has an abiding interest in the Islamic world. His father, Jacob, an eminent mathematician who taught at Columbia and Cornell, was a fervent Zionist, and Wolfowitz’s elder sister, Laura, lives in Israel. Wolfowitz’s critics sometimes portray him as an unquestioning defender of the Israeli government, and yet he has publicly expressed sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians, and some Arab reformers regard him as a friend. Since separating from his wife of more than thirty years, Clare Selgin Wolfowitz, in 2001, he has dated a secular Muslim woman in her fifties, Shaha Ali Riza. A British national from a Libyan family who grew up in Saudi Arabia, Riza is a longtime advocate of democracy in Arab countries.
On a wall of the mosque was some ornate writing in Arabic. “Is that the Fatiha?” Wolfowitz asked, referring to a passage in the Koran. No, the imam replied, explaining that the writing was from another passage. Wolfowitz taught himself Arabic in the nineteen-eighties, when he was working at the State Department. (He also speaks French, German, Hebrew, and Indonesian.) Last year, during a visit to a mosque in eastern China, he recited a prayer from the Koran in Arabic. This time, as he was leaving the mosque, he encountered a dozen or so news photographers who had gathered to document his visit. Bending down to change back into his shoes, Wolfowitz removed a slipper, revealing a large hole in the toe of one gray wool sock. Then he removed the other slipper, exposing another hole. Shigeo Katsu, the World Bank’s vice-president for Europe and Central Asia, tried to step between Wolfowitz and the photographers, but it was too late. The camera shutters clicked.
If Wolfowitz was perturbed, he didn’t show it. He went next door to a covered market, where he examined the religious and cultural icons for sale. One of the venders urged him to buy some jewelry, but Wolfowitz didn’t have enough cash. His spokesman and senior adviser, Kevin Kellems, gave him what he had, about seventeen dollars in Turkish lira. “I’m going to need more than that,” Wolfowitz whispered. A member of the bank’s Turkish staff handed him a hundred lira (about seventy dollars), and Wolfowitz bought two silver bracelets, for his daughters.
Wolfowitz, who is sixty-three, has jug ears, hazel eyes, a furrowed brow, and thinning gray hair that he combs to the right. He is a rumpled but unflappable traveller, seemingly oblivious of bad weather, uncomfortable transportation, and lack of sleep, as well as of the antiwar protesters who tend to appear wherever he goes. Since joining the World Bank, Wolfowitz has visited more than fifty countries, including remote parts of Africa and Asia. He is often depicted in the media as a neoconservative zealot, but on the road he is unfailingly polite, demonstrating a scholarly interest in local culture.
In Istanbul that morning, Wolfowitz had visited a homeless shelter run by the Turkish government with financial assistance from the World Bank. The shelter was in a nineteenth-century neighborhood, in a brick building on a cobbled street. After greeting the shelter’s director, Wolfowitz and an interpreter entered a small room, containing four narrow beds and some metal chairs. Wolfowitz sat down next to a slight middle-aged man in a fraying denim jacket and a black wool cap, who said that his name was Bedir Yasa and that until recently he had been living on the streets.
Wolfowitz spoke softly to Yasa, who evidently had no idea who he was but responded with a puckish smile. Yasa said that he came from Van, near Iran, and that he wanted to work but had no skills. When Wolfowitz asked if he had any family, he said that his wife had been killed in the earthquake that struck western Turkey in 1999 and that her parents were bringing up his only child, a son, whom he rarely saw. Wolfowitz, who has two daughters and a son, fell silent. “I’m sorry you have had such a tough life,” he said finally. “I hope you can do better soon.”
The World Bank was established in 1944, at a conference on postwar reconstruction in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, where representatives of more than forty nations agreed to create two new institutions: the International Monetary Fund, which was charged with guaranteeing stability in global currency markets, and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which was charged with raising money for the rebuilding of Europe. In December of 1945, twenty-nine countries signed the articles of agreement that formally incorporated the I.M.F. and the World Bank (as the I.B.R.D. came to be called) in Washington. A year and a half later, the World Bank made its first loan, to France. The United States government quickly became the main financer of European reconstruction, and the bank shifted its focus to developing countries. In 1948, it lent money to Chile. Two years later, it lent to Ethiopia. Before long, it was financing the construction of roads and dams throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
From its inception, the World Bank, which occupies an imposing thirteen-story building off Pennsylvania Avenue, a few blocks west of the White House, has represented a peculiar blend of idealism and Realpolitik. Harry White, a U.S. Treasury official who helped create the bank, said of its early borrowers, “There is nothing that will serve to drive these countries into some kind of ism—Communism or something else—faster than having inadequate capital.” During the nineteen-sixties and seventies, the World Bank lent heavily to such countries as Indonesia and Zaire, which were considered bulwarks against Soviet encroachment. In the eighties and nineties, it pressed developing countries to lower import tariffs and encourage foreign investment, leading to accusations that it was acting in the interest of Western corporations.
The U.S. government, as the World Bank’s biggest shareholder, has always asserted the right to appoint its president, and for twenty years it chose mostly financial executives. In the fall of 1967, President Lyndon Johnson broke with this tradition by nominating Robert McNamara, his Secretary of Defense and the chief strategist of the war in Vietnam. McNamara spent thirteen years at the bank, during which he increased its lending thirteen-fold, expanded its research department, and welcomed China as a member. “McNamara created the World Bank as it is known today,” Ernest Stern, an American financier who was the bank’s managing director from 1991 to 1995, told me. “He took over what was a fairly sleepy institution, focussed on infrastructure development, and he had a lot of ideas about new areas it should expand into: poverty, education, health care, family planning. None of these things had been on the bank’s agenda before.”
When President Bush nominated Wolfowitz to be the World Bank’s president, in March, 2005, some perceived a historical analogy. Wolfowitz “may be . . . a latter-day Robert McNamara—a war-weary Pentagon master seeking refuge to wring the blood from his hands,” the political columnist Fred Kaplan wrote in Slate. Most political analysts were critical of the nomination: Njoki Njoroge Njehu, who was then the director of a coalition of development pressure groups called the Fifty Years Is Enough Network, called Wolfowitz a “global symbol of U.S. imperialism”; even the conservative Financial Times argued that “the world would view a bank directed by Mr. Wolfowitz as no more than an instrument of U.S. power and U.S. priorities.”
To many people, Wolfowitz is indelibly associated with the decision to invade Iraq and the doctrine of preëmptive war. In an Administration dominated by businessmen and Western conservatives, he was a prominent intellectual—a throwback to foreign-policy mandarins like Dean Acheson, McGeorge Bundy, and Walt Rostow, who provided the ideological rationale for the war in Vietnam. Wolfowitz called for deposing Saddam Hussein in 1997, when he was dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins. In an article published in The Weekly Standard, Wolfowitz and Zalmay Khalilzad, who is the outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, proposed diplomatic measures, support of Iraqi opposition groups, and “military force” as “part of an overall political strategy that sets as its goal not merely the containment of Saddam but the liberation of Iraq from his tyranny.” After September 11th, Wolfowitz argued that Iraq’s Baathist government had weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda, and that overthrowing Saddam would establish a model of peace and democracy in the Middle East. In February, 2003, three weeks before the invasion, Wolfowitz told Congress, “I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators.”
The World Bank is staffed by a well-paid, highly educated secretariat, the vast majority of whom are non-Americans. According to a survey conducted in April, 2005, nearly ninety per cent of the staff opposed Wolfowitz’s nomination. A day after the bank’s directors confirmed his appointment, Bank Swirled, a satirical magazine produced by bank employees, reported that a moving crew had delivered some personal items to his new office, “including a 1768 map of Iraq (with hundreds of red Xs denoting ‘WMDs,’ hundreds of black Xs denoting ‘Oil Well$,’ and one blue X denoting ‘decent sushi restaurant’) . . . a fully armed AH-64A/D Apache helicopter,” and “a ‘red phone’ with a direct line to Karl Rove.” Many people at the World Bank remain suspicious of Wolfowitz. He has suspended loans to developing countries that he regards as corrupt—among them Chad, Kenya, and Bangladesh—while expanding the bank’s activities in places where the United States and its allies have intervened militarily, including Lebanon and Iraq. “Karl Rove would be proud: the man whom the world associates with the war in Iraq has recast himself as the crusader for good governance and development,” Manish Bapna, the executive director of the Bank Information Center, a not-for-profit organization in Washington that monitors the bank’s activities, said. “But inside the bank there is still a perception on the part of some staffers that his real agenda remains hidden, and that it reflects priorities from the Bush Administration.”
Some negative reaction was to be expected; the World Bank, like many large bureaucracies, is resistant to change. Early in Wolfowitz’s presidency, he announced that his priorities would include not just reducing poverty, especially in Africa (a focus of bank activity for decades), but also fighting corruption among governments that received bank aid (a project introduced by Wolfowitz’s predecessor, James Wolfensohn). In July, 2005, a month after arriving at the bank, Wolfowitz attended the annual G8 summit, which took place at the Gleneagles Hotel, the Scottish golf resort. There, world leaders pledged to double aid to Africa by 2010, and to write off about forty billion dollars in debt that eighteen impoverished countries, mostly African, owed the World Bank, the I.M.F., and the African Development Bank. The G8 finance ministers had previously agreed on these measures, and Wolfowitz enthusiastically endorsed them. He also attended a “Live 8” concert that Bono and Bob Geldof, the Irish pop singers and antipoverty activists, organized at a local rugby stadium. “There’s a lot of things we can disagree on, and we disagree on Iraq,” Jamie Drummond, the director of DATA (Debt, AIDS, and Trade in Africa), a nonprofit organization that he co-founded with Bono and others, told me. “But what can we agree on? Getting kids to school in Africa, fighting AIDS in Africa, fighting corruption in Africa. We came to Paul right from the start saying that he should be on the record supporting our push on debt, AIDS, and trade, and he was very passionately on message on all of that.”
On Wolfowitz’s way to Turkey in January, he spent a day and a half in Davos, Switzerland, at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, where, in panel discussions and in private meetings with politicians, development experts, and business leaders, he repeatedly invoked the Gleneagles agreement and called for Western governments to provide more aid to Africa. At a lunch meeting with African leaders, he said, “I like globalization; I want to say it works, but it is hard to say that when six hundred million people are slipping backwards.”
That afternoon, he took part in a panel on foreign aid with Bill Gates, whose philanthropic foundation has an endowment of $30.6 billion; William Easterly, an economist at New York University who is a well-known skeptic of development policy; and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a former bank official who is the President of Liberia. The discussion was held in a large auditorium, and every seat was taken. Gates and Easterly quickly got into an argument about the efficacy of aid programs. Easterly pointed out that research had failed to demonstrate any link between aid and economic growth. In the past forty-two years, he said, Africans have received five hundred and sixty-eight billion dollars in aid, yet there has been no appreciable improvement in their living standards.
Gates, whose foundation has invested billions of dollars in programs and initiatives in Africa, many of which relate to public health, reacted angrily. He disputed Easterly’s statistics and declared, “When we put people on AIDS drugs, we don’t say to them, ‘Hey, unless you raise the G.D.P.’ ”—gross domestic product—“ ‘we have wasted our money.’ . . . I think life has value. . . . What happened with smallpox—that was aid work.”
Many conservative Republicans agree with Easterly that aid has done little good, an argument that Wolfowitz has resisted. After listening to the sharp exchange between Gates and Easterly, Wolfowitz conceded that much aid money has been misused—he cited Mobutu Sese Seko, the former ruler of Zaire, who reportedly pocketed five billion dollars from aid agencies, including the World Bank. But Wolfowitz also defended the idea of giving more cash to well-run countries. “Good policies, good governance is essential,” he said. “But when you have those, resources are essential. You can’t do it without investment. And I think that’s where development assistance really plays its role.”
After the session ended, Wolfowitz met privately with Gates and his wife, Melinda. The World Bank and the Gates Foundation already work together in many parts of Africa, and Wolfowitz is eager to extend this coöperation to other parts of the world. Some people in the development community regard the increasing influence of private foundations as a threat to the bank’s position, but Wolfowitz believes that private capital can complement the efforts of aid agencies. “It’s wonderful that so many people want to contribute to fighting AIDS or malaria,” he told me. “But, if somebody isn’t paying attention to the over-all health system in the country, a whole lot of money can be wasted.”
Wolfowitz objects to being called a neoconservative; he considers himself a pragmatist. Like many neocons, though, he comes from a Jewish intellectual family and in his youth he supported liberal causes. In 1963, when he was nineteen, he and his mother attended the civil-rights march on Washington organized by Martin Luther King, Jr., and other leaders. Wolfowitz majored in mathematics and chemistry at Cornell. There his interest in politics was fostered by Allan Bloom, the political theorist who later wrote “The Closing of the American Mind.” Bloom was a fellow at Telluride House, a residence for gifted students, where Wolfowitz lived. Although his father wanted him to stick with the hard sciences, Wolfowitz went on to the University of Chicago, to study for a Ph.D. in political science. “I told my father I had to try political science for a year,” Wolfowitz said recently. “He thought I was throwing my life away.”
Wolfowitz began to move to the right in Chicago, where he attended Leo Strauss’s lectures on Plato and Montesquieu. Much has been made of Strauss’s influence on Wolfowitz—in particular, Strauss’s rejection of moral relativism and his denunciation of totalitarian regimes. A more significant influence, Wolfowitz says, was Albert Wohlstetter, an ardent anti-Communist and an expert on nuclear-weapons strategy who was his dissertation adviser. With Wohlstetter’s encouragement, Wolfowitz went to Washington in the summer of 1969 to work for the Committee to Maintain a Prudent Defense Policy, a nonprofit group that lobbied Congress to support the construction of an anti-ballistic weapons system. (At the committee, Wolfowitz met Richard Perle, who became a colleague in the Reagan Administration.)
In 1973, Wolfowitz, who had been teaching at Yale, joined the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, where he was among a group of hawks who reacted skeptically to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks agreement, which Henry Kissinger had negotiated with the Soviet Union. Three years later, Wolfowitz became a member of Team B, a group of independent experts who had been invited by the then C.I.A. director, George H. W. Bush, to challenge what some conservatives believed were naïve assessments of Soviet military intentions. “He did his work competently, he attended all of the meetings, but he didn’t say much,” Richard Pipes, the Harvard historian who oversaw the project, recalled. “He was probably the quietest member of the group.” Team B concluded—erroneously, according to other analysts—that the Kremlin believed the Soviets could win a nuclear war.
During the Carter Administration, Wolfowitz worked at the Pentagon. In late 1980, after Carter lost his bid for reëlection to Ronald Reagan, Fred Iklé, Wolfowitz’s former boss at the arms-control agency, who was an adviser to Reagan, called him. “I said, ‘It’s about time you got out of the Carter Administration and joined us,’ ” Iklé remembered. “He was regarded as an expert. He was on the hard-line, or conservative, side.” In the Reagan Administration, Wolfowitz worked in the State Department, first as director of the policyplanning office, and then as the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
More than some other prominent neoconservatives, such as Jeane Kirkpatrick, he stressed the promotion of democratic values abroad. In his office at the World Bank, there is a photograph from 1986 that shows him in the White House situation room with other senior members of the Reagan Administration, as they discussed whether to abandon Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippine dictator and longtime American ally. Wolfowitz urged his colleagues to support Marcos’s rival, Corazon Aquino, who had overwhelming popular support. “There were quite a few prominent and self-identified neoconservatives who thought we were leaning too hard on nice Mr. Marcos, who was America’s best friend,” Wolfowitz recalled recently. “I take that as an example of where I don’t think there was any ideology telling me what to do.”
Until the end of the nineteen-seventies, Wolfowitz was a registered Democrat, and some of his friends still consider him a progressive. “Paul is a bit of a softie,” Karl Jackson, a political scientist at the Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Affairs, at Johns Hopkins, whom Wolfowitz hired as a part-time consultant to the bank, told me. “He really believes in helping people who are economically deprived or who just have nasty or corrupt governments. Some people would classify that as conservative, but it doesn’t fit the bill in my book.” Christopher Hitchens, the Vanity Fair columnist, who has entertained the bank president at his home on several occasions, told me that “the most surprising thing about Wolfowitz is that he’s a bleeding heart. His instincts are those of a liberal democrat, apart from on national security.”
In the nineteen-nineties, Wolfowitz backed NATO’s interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, and he insists that he supports a multilateral foreign policy. “I wish somebody would go and read the essay I wrote for the Trilateral Commission,” he said to me one day. “It was basically about the idea that the shifts in the global balance of power mean that the U.S. is increasingly going to have to work with other countries. But the great thing that the U.S. has going for it is that the ideals it stands for and represents are in the self-interest of most countries.” The essay was published in 1997, under the title “Managing Our Way to a Peaceful Century.” It argued that the universal appeal of democratic values was “one of our most powerful tools for shaping the emerging world,” but added, “This doesn’t mean that we can dictate the course of political development in other countries. Our ability to influence may often be quite modest. If we are not careful, our influence may even be negative.”
Why did Wolfowitz ignore this caution six years later, in making the case for the invasion of Iraq? “I think Paul thought that Iraq, as the most secular of the Middle Eastern countries, had the best chance of establishing a democracy,” Fred Iklé said.
Wolfowitz refused to talk about Iraq specifically, but he told me that he still believes in the vision of a moderate, democratic Middle East. “I think, in the longer view of things, there is a very powerful pull in the direction of participatory government,” he said. “People discover that it’s the path to prosperity. And, yes, there are some violent forces that don’t want to see it happen, but it is what appeals to the great bulk of people, and it is a system that, in peace, produces great success.” Even in the long term, Wolfowitz’s optimism depends on the assumption that there will be enough moderates in the Middle East to prevail over the political and religious zealots. “I have always believed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are mainstream, relatively tolerant people,” he said. The events of the past decade have given Wolfowitz pause, he conceded. “But I still fundamentally believe that tolerance is the dominant stream and should ultimately win out.”
Under the World Bank’s articles of agreement, it is prohibited from interfering in politics. For many years, this stricture was taken to mean that the bank shouldn’t discuss the bribery and graft that afflicted many of the biggest beneficiaries of its aid. In 1996, James Wolfensohn, Wolfowitz’s predecessor, violated this taboo by publicly referring to the “cancer of corruption” in developing countries. Two years later, the bank’s research department published an influential paper, “Assessing Aid,” which argued that aid is effective only when it is given to countries with honest governments and efficient economic policies.
Wolfowitz was determined to follow Wolfensohn’s lead. In one of his first board meetings, he asked, “Why are we lending to Cambodia? It’s such a corrupt country.” Previous bank presidents, including Wolfensohn, had been reluctant to cut off lending, for fear of harming the people whom the bank’s projects were intended to help. Wolfowitz wasn’t persuaded by this argument—according to some estimates, up to twenty per cent of economic aid is misused or stolen—and a few months after he arrived at the bank he appointed Suzanne Rich Folsom as head of the Department of Institutional Integrity, the bank’s internal-investigations unit, which follows up allegations of fraud in bank projects.
Folsom is a Washington ethics lawyer with strong ties to the Republican Party. (Her husband, George Folsom, a foreign-policy specialist, worked for the Administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.) Before Wolfowitz’s arrival, the bank had enlisted the help of an executive-search firm, which, out of a large pool of candidates, identified nine finalists. After reviewing these names, Wolfowitz rejected them all and selected Folsom, whom Wolfensohn had hired to help him deal with the Treasury Department and the Republican-controlled Congress, and who had been acting as the department’s interim head. According to one of Wolfowitz’s aides, he regarded Folsom as eminently qualfied for the job, and he was also impressed by her performance at the investigations department. Others at the bank saw things differently. “Paul turned around to the world and said that she was appointed following an international search,” one senior official who has now left the bank said to me. “That was technically true. There was an international search. But she was not part of that search. He shredded the list and then brought in a loyalist from the Republican Party.”
Under Folsom, the budget for the Department of Institutional Integrity nearly doubled. In the department’s 2006 annual report, it acknowledged a “considerable” jump in allegations against bank staffers. However, it added, there had been no increase in the number of allegations leading to disciplinary action. “Anybody can call in a complaint,” a former World Bank manager told me, “and the investigators keep hanging over the person’s shoulder. To people who have never been accused of corruption in their lives, it’s extraordinarily demoralizing.”
Before long, Wolfowitz became personally involved in the anti-corruption campaign. In September of 2005, he told a reporter for the Financial Times, “I think I feel even more strongly than before that you can’t talk intelligently about development if you exclude anything that sounds political.” That May, the government of Uzbekistan had violently suppressed an uprising in the city of Andijan, in which as many as seven hundred people, including women and children, were killed. In July, Islam A. Karimov, Uzbekistan’s dictatorial ruler, ordered the United States to remove its troops and aircraft from the Uzbek base it had been using to support the military campaign in Afghanistan. Around the same time, the Uzbek government expelled a number of Western nongovernmental organizations. Since joining the World Bank, in 1992, Uzbekistan had received more than five hundred million dollars in loans, mostly for rural water and health projects. In September, 2005, Wolfowitz withdrew an assistance package for Uzbekistan that was about to be presented to the bank’s board for approval. “It came out of the blue,” Dennis de Tray, who was country director for central Asia at the time, told me. “I got a call while I was on vacation and was told that he just did it. He didn’t even talk to the regional vice-president. We were all pretty shell-shocked.” Wolfowitz told me that his action had nothing to do with military bases or the U.S. government. “Nobody was instructing me to get out of Uzbekistan,” he said. “My one concern, pure and simple, was that, given the human-rights violations, we couldn’t have any confidence in what was happening to our money.”
The following October, the government of Chad, the former French colony in equatorial Africa, announced that it would amend a law controlling the spending of revenue from an oil pipeline that the bank had helped finance. According to the law, eighty per cent of proceeds from the pipeline were reserved for anti-poverty projects, such as schools and health centers. That month, Forbes reported that thirty million dollars of the revenue had been used to purchase arms. Wolfowitz called Chad’s President, Idriss Déby, and warned him not to change the law. Déby said that he needed to spend more money on his armed forces because of a refugee crisis on Chad’s border with Sudan, near Darfur, and in December the Chadian National Assembly passed amendments to the law, reducing the amount of oil revenue reserved for antipoverty projects. In January, 2006, Wolfowitz halted all bank lending to Chad.
On February 12, 2006, the London Sunday Times reported that Denis Sassou-Nguesso, the President of Congo-Brazzaville, another former French colony in central Africa, had spent more than three hundred thousand dollars on hotel rooms during a visit to New York for a U.N. General Assembly session. Shortly before the article appeared, the bank’s Africa department had reached a provisional agreement with Congo-Brazzaville about writing off some of the country’s debt. Wolfowitz demanded a number of changes to the deal. “He was feeling incensed by the fact that anyone would spend almost half a million dollars on hotel bills,” a bank official said to me.
As president of the World Bank, Wolfowitz supervises virtually all of its daily operations. However, the bank’s board of twenty-four executive directors is ultimately responsible for its lending and policy activities. Votes on the board are distributed according to how much money each country has contributed to the bank’s capital. The United States controls about sixteen per cent of the votes, but the four next-biggest shareholders—Japan, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom—can outvote it. This governing structure puts a premium on the bank president’s ability to forge a consensus, but Wolfowitz has often seemed determined simply to ignore the board. “They always give us ninety-eight per cent of what we want, so why should we bother about them?” he said to a senior colleague shortly after arriving at the bank. The colleague explained that the board usually obliged the president because the president usually cultivated its members.
Unlike McNamara, who was president of the Ford Motor Company before he joined the Pentagon, Wolfowitz had little experience running a large bureaucracy. In his work at both the State Department and the Department of Defense, he was known as a strategist. In 1982, when the job of Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs became available and Wolfowitz asked for it, his boss, George Shultz, hesitated before granting the request. “I said to him, ‘Well, Paul, this is not just thinking about things; you’ve got to do things,’” Shultz recalled. “He was put in there, and he did an excellent job.” Still, doubts about Wolfowitz’s administrative abilities persisted. Bob Woodward, in his most recent book about the Iraq war, “State of Denial,” reports that Wolfowitz was passed over for the job of Presidential envoy to Iraq in favor of L. Paul Bremer III. “The president knew that Wolfowitz did not have a strong reputation as a manager,” Woodward writes. “The deputy secretary of defense was a thinker, but he could barely run his own office.”
At the World Bank, Wolfowitz soon made it clear that he would leave many of his administrative duties to others. At internal meetings, he indicated the policy areas that were important to him, but he seldom got involved in the details of implementing them. Rather than appointing bank staffers as his principal aides, as previous presidents had done, Wolfowitz hired two American political operatives who were closely associated with the war in Iraq: Robin Cleveland, who had been the associate director for National Security Programs at the White House Office of Management and Budget; and Kevin Kellems, who had been with Wolfowitz at the Pentagon. Perhaps inevitably, Cleveland and Kellems antagonized many on the bank’s staff. “Their attitude was: We are brighter than other people, we know more than other people,” a bank veteran who recently left told me. “They were unaccountable because they had no direct-line authority. Officially, they were just advisers to the president, but in fact they were calling the shots.”
Cleveland, in particular, incited hostility. On Capitol Hill, where she had worked for Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, she was known as “the dragon lady,” because of her aggressive approach to negotiations. In 2002, she moved to the Office of Management and Budget, where she helped to provide financing for the Iraq war, and for President Bush’s AIDS initiative. More than half a dozen current and former bank staff members gave me critical assessments of Cleveland. “She is vindictive to the core,” one said. Cleveland, who often acts as a trouble-shooter for Wolfowitz, conceded that she can be demanding. “I am impatient, and I apologize for that, but it’s impatience in trying to get things done,” she said. “We are only here for a short time, and there are incredibly important things to do.” Kellems, a low-key Midwesterner, provoked less controversy at the bank, though some called him “the keeper of the comb”—a reference to the film “Fahrenheit 9/11,” in which Wolfowitz is shown preparing for a television appearance by spitting on his comb before applying it to his hair.
Since Wolfowitz’s arrival, about a dozen senior officials at the World Bank have quit, including the managing director, the general counsel, the chief financial officer, and six vice-presidents. Shengman Zhang, a Chinese national who was a managing director for almost ten years, left in December, 2005. “Shengman was bypassed, provoked, and humiliated by Wolfowitz’s aides,” one of his former colleagues told me. “They would say, ‘Don’t tell Shengman you are doing that; I’m telling you to do it.’” (Shengman, who now works for Citigroup, declined to speak with me.)
The incident that prompted the most comment internally involved Shaha Ali Riza. When Wolfowitz was nominated to the bank presidency, he disclosed his relationship with Riza, who was working in the bank’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) department. Under the bank’s regulations, spouses or partners are prohibited from supervising one another or from working in the same cone of authority. As president, Wolfowitz oversees a cone of authority encompassing nearly all the bank’s employees, including those in MENA. The board of directors’ ethics committee took the view that Riza should be transferred to a position outside his supervision. Wolfowitz asked that she be allowed to maintain her job at MENA and to work with him as necessary, offering to recuse himself from any decisions concerning her pay and work conditions. “It really gave a bad impression, especially for somebody who was making a big issue of good governance,” a former senior official at the bank said. “The president is supposed to set an example to everybody, and yet here he wanted to have his girlfriend working with him, which is flatly prohibited under bank rules.”