The wolf out the door

It’s looking more and more like Paul Wolfowitz is out as president of the World Bank. (I’m writing this around 6:00 a.m. EST.) And I have to say I’m a little disappointed.

I don’t know much about his tenure at the Bank, as I have no patience for bureaucratic institutions, but based solely on the criticisms that have driven him out, I think it’s too bad.

Wolfowitz’ critics, to me, fell into two camps: 1) the left who already hated him for his role in the Bush administration, and 2) the entrenched bureaucrats at the World Bank. Considering that the first group focused all their complaints on the Razi affair and his actions prior to going to the World Bank, I felt fairly comfortable about dismissing them. As for the second, they could easily be dismissed as trying to defend their corrupt little sinecures.

On the other hand, Wolfowitz counted among his supporters many leaders from nations for whose benefit the Bank is supposed to work. Several African nations praised his efforts at ending corruption and making sure that aid money actually went to aid people.

And the charges about nepotism were, at worst, arguable. Documents showed that Wolfowitz had made a good-faith effort to play by the rules, while his detractors waged a war of slanted leaks and circumvented the Bank’s own personnel rules to oust him.

Congratulations, folks. You slew your bete noire and Wolfowitz is leaving. But a lot of people will be watching to see who takes his place — and I will be gravely disappointed if those who cheer his ouster don’t insist on the same ethical standards on his successor — and the rest of the Bank.

But I won’t be surprised. The whole mess was not about the Bank, but about “punishing” Wolfowitz. If he’s succeeded by someone far more to the liking of the corrupt bureaucrats there, and business goes back to normal, it will largely go unnoted by those who howled about Wolfowitz’ “corruption.”

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