Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Decline By Choice
I haven't had much to say about the Wolfowitz debacle at the World Bank, mainly because when you make fighting corruption your top priority, it seems pretty obvious that getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar is a hanging offense. But reading this NY Times article about a closed door meeting between Wolfowitz and the Bank's senior directors, I was taken aback to see this:
Graeme Wheeler, the bank’s managing director, said at the meeting that the fight over whether Mr. Wolfowitz should stay on at the bank amounted to the “the biggest crisis in its history.”
Now I'm not enough of an expert on World Bank history to know whether this is hyperbole or not. But seeing it put that way immediately triggered the thought, Is there any multi-lateral institution left that the Bush administration hasn't already confronted with a crisis of historic and/or existential proportions? Maybe NATO, but that's assuming the War in Afghanistan won't come back to haunt what used to be a regionally-confined alliance.
In case you're thinking that I'm unfairly blaming the Bush administration for Wolfowitz's misdeeds, the gist of the article is that the WB was already in crisis before the nepotism controversy erupted, primarily as a result of Wolfowitz's heavy-handed imposition of Washington's political line on Bank policies. And when the World Bank is in open revolt against Washington imposing its political line on bank policies, you know that something has gone very, very wrong.
It's hard to find another example from modern history of a world power that has squandered both might and influence to such a degree as George W. Bush's America has done from September 11, 2001 to the present. The only thing that even comes close is the post-WWII collapse of the British and French colonial empires.
But the dismantling of the colonial system was brought about by transformative movements for racial equality and national determination that swept the planet in the aftermath of a world war against tyranny. While certain policy choices made by the British and French might have served to exacerbate and accelerate the process, they were not the fundamental cause.
On the other hand, every single factor that has contributed to breaking our military, bankrupting our treasury, and reducing our standing in the eyes of the world over the past six years is the result of policy decisions taken by the Bush administration.
What we have witnessed is nothing short of the elective dismantling of American hegemony, not out of any commitment to a multi-polar world order, but ironically in the name of pursuing American hegemony. Which is another way of saying incompetence.