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Paul Dundes Wolfowitz

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Paul Dundes Wolfowitz is ther former President of the World Bank. The neo-conservative political appointee/academic was appointed by President George W. Bush to that position on June 1, 2005 after stepping down as Bush's Deputy Secretary of Defense. In his former position he was a major architect of the disastrous Republican War in Iraq. As World Bank President he has been a failure as well. While advocating an anti-corruption agenda for the Wolrd Bank in dealing with less developed countries, Wolfowitz used his influence to reward his mistress (the U.S. news media delicately described her as his "girlfriend" or "companion"), an employee at the World Bank, with a massive salary increase.

In being forced out by the World Bank Board of Directors, Wolfowitz fought to extract denials from the Board that he had done anything wrong. To get rid of him the Board issued a statement, which included the following language: "He assured us that he acted ethically and in good faith in what he believed were the best interests of the institution, and we accept that. We also accept that others involved acted ethically and in good faith. At the same time, it is clear from this material that a number of mistakes were made by a number of individuals in handling the matter under consideration, and that the Bank's systems did not prove robust to the strain under which they were placed." Supported by the neo-conservative network that operates from appointed positions throughout the upper reaches of the second Bush administration Wolfowitz demanded that language because, as a neo-conservative, he respects words and holds factual truth in contempt. The followers of Leo Strauss take that philosophic position because they deny the distinction between facts and values. Like the post-modernists, Straussians treat all of reality as interpretation. Saying it makes it so. Wolfowitz and his fellow neo-conservatives may not understand that he has done anything wrong because their philosophy prevents them from making moral judgments except as rhetorical ploys.


Paul Wolfowitz and the Neoconservative Movement

Over the last half century neoconservatism has grown to become a major foreign policy school of thought in the United States along side the Cold War liberalism of Kennedy, Johnson and Carter administrations and the amoral Realism of the Nixon-Kissinger and Ford-Kissinger administrations. Neo-conservatism emerged as an important school of thought during the Reagan administration and the again more powerfully in the second Bush admisnitration.

Neoconservatism has proven difficult to define as a political ideology in the normal sense. The problem is that it's elite adherents, perhaps practitioners is a more accurate description, are disinclined to share its core idea set with others, including the American public. Despite plentiful evidence of their compulsive secrecy and contempt for popular democracy, neoconservatives claim to believe in a foreign policy of moral clarity and idealistic goals such as promting transperancy and democracy. The reality is that neo-conservatives talk a highly moralistic political game but lack the moral certainties that they regularly deploy for political effect among the uninitiated. Theirs is an Orwellian world in which they form the inner party controlling an outer party of bovine Republican true believers.

Wolfowitz’s career and policy positions have rather neatly reflected the ups and downs of the neoconservative movement. Since he has become Deputy Secretary of Defense, he has been quite influential in advancing the neoconservative agenda, particularly in regards to Iraq. Undoubtedly he has provided a new sort of clarity to the Pentagon’s vision of the future; however, that clarity appears to be little more than an idealistic naiveté.

The intellectual origins of neoconservatism are somewhat obscure. James Atlas traces their origins to the philosophy of Leo Strauss which emphasized the "immutability of moral and social values," not to mention also denying the distinction between facts and values. Others such as Adam Wolfson argue that neoconservativism is simply the natural extension of the philosophy of Alexis de Tocqueville. In reality of course Tocqueville is merely an acceptably Early American disguise for an a decidedly un-American Late 20th Century middle European political ideology. That is roots are deemed "obscure" suggests something alien that needed hiding.

The consensus is that the first neoconservatives were intellectuals […] who migrated from the Trotskyist left during the Sixties when the demands for real political change by the white libertarian-left and African-American, Mexican-American, Puerto Rican and Native American radicals exposed the essential hollowness of their own petit bourgeois second generation white ethnic dreams of success. Welcomed into the corridors of establishment power as allies of the traditional conservatives, their response to Sixties radicalism was to become “unremitting Cold warriors and strong proponents of the Vietnam War.” Eventually, they dropped the rest of their liberal domestic agenda and moved firmly into the camp of the Republican Party. Throughout the Cold War, the foreign policies promoted by the neoconservatives stood in seemingly stark opposition to the realpolitik viewpoint of Henry Kissinger. They viewed the Soviet Union as evil ratherthan just another "revolutionary power" and “celebrated the use of American power as a force for moral good in the world.” In their simplistic view of world politics, containment and détente in the 1970s and 1980s were the moral equivalents of appeasement in the 1930s and 1940s.

Wolfowitz received his undergraduate degree in mathematics from Cornell University in 1965 and went on to obtain a doctorate in political science from the University of Chicago in 1972. In 1973, he took his first paid job in government (he had previously been an intern at the Bureau of the Budget) at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. During his tenure there, signs of his neoconservative views became readily apparent. He opposed détente and arms control because he felt that “untrustworthy Soviets would exploit any American softness.” This reflected the common neoconservative view of the Soviet Union as evil and a belief in the necessity of expanding American military power, not limiting it. Other elements of neoconservatism can be found in Wolfowitz’s early career. For example, Wolfowitz rejected the Kissengerian worldview that required allying the United States with dictators in order to maintain stability and a balance of power. His distrust of dictators could be seen in 1977, while he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Regional Programs his prediction, when he presciently predicted that “Iraq would invade Kuwait threaten Saudi Arabia,” which led to the creation of CENTCOM.

During the Reagan administration, neoconservatism underwent a resurgence and with it Paul Wolfowitz became more influential within government. The influence of the neoconservatives was apparent in President Reagan’s rhetoric which labeled the Soviet Union as the “evil empire” and President Reagan’s strong push for national missile defense, long a pet project of neoconservatives. Many prominent neoconservatives such as Richard Perle, Jeanne J. Kirkpatrick, Douglas Feith, William Kristol (the son of Irving Kristol), and Eliott Abrams found positions among the Reagan administration. Most notably, Abrams received notoriety for his key role in Iran-Contra, where his actions were in line with the neoconservative belief that all possible force and resources had to be actively used to defeat the communist menace. During the Reagan administration, Wolfowitz clawed his way up through the State Department bureaucracy: from 1981-82 he served as the head of State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, he then served for three and half years as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and then three years as ambassador to Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country. During this time, he continued to expand upon his neoconservative views. While State Department policy chief, he argued against the standard assumption that the US should seek friendly relations with China as a counterweight to the Soviet Union. Instead, he advocated staunchly supporting Taiwan and challenging China on its human rights record. Furthermore, his championing of democracy during the 1980s was rather admirable: he pushed for democracy in the Philippines, which contributed to the withdrawal of US support for and the eventual collapse of Marcos’ authoritarian regime. Similarly, “he lectured the dictator Suharto […] on the need for political openness” while he was ambassador to Indonesia. With their expanded but hardly dominant influence in the Reagan administration, the neoconservatives played a useful role as a usually ethical check (Iran-Contra being the exception) on the realist descendants of Kissinger who remained in the driver’s seat.

During the first Bush administration most of the neoconservatives were passed over in favor of the more traditional foreign policy neo-realists. Wolfowitz was one of the exceptions and would become one of the standard-bearers for neoconservatism in the administration as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. He helped convince President Bush to use force to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait despite Chairman Powell’s advice that economic sanctions be used first. However, the limits of his influence were apparent in his inability to convince the President to extend the war to the point of toppling Saddam Hussein. On this matter, the pragmatic Powell brought the President around to his point of view.

With the end of the Cold War, neoconservatism needed to redefine itself. The beginnings of the neoconservative adjustment to the post-Cold War world could be seen in a 1992 report that Wolfowitz prepared in 1992 shortly before he left the Pentagon. The report called for “the United States to perpetuate its military supremacy and prevent the emergence of any rival superpower.” Furthermore, “the United States represented a powerful force for good and had a duty to play an activist role in the world [even if unilaterally]” and the US should “approach regional conflicts with an eye toward encouraging the spread of democracy and capitalism.” Essentially, Wolfowitz called for the maintenance of US unipolarity and the use of US power to spread democracy, even if unilateral force was required. In a way, it seemed to echo the British imperialists of the late 19th century who saw the expansion of the British Empire as part of an obligation to spread “civilization.” The neoconservatives would have eight years to formulate this new vision in greater detail: the election of President Clinton meant that they no longer held posts in government due to their affiliation with the Republican Party. Neoconservatives retreated into academia in order to formulate a new policy vision. For instance, Wolfowitz became the Dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Many others joined existing think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute. William Kristol founded a magazine, The Weekly Standard, in order to advance the neoconservative agenda. Furthermore, neoconservatives along with some sympathetic traditional realist Republicans founded the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) in order to formulate a common Republican foreign policy. The resulting statement of principles, signed by Paul Wolfowitz and many other prominent Republicans, called for “military strength,” “moral clarity,” and the acceptance of “the United States’ global responsibilities.” Some neoconservative stances had carried over from the Cold War: a strong advocacy of missile defense, strong support for Israel, high defense spending, and a hostile stance towards China. However, certain new neoconservative priorities emerged during this near decade in exile from government. They became highly distrustful of multilateral institutions and treaties; they argued that the International Criminal Court and Kyoto Protocol threatened American military and economic hegemony. Unlike many Republicans, neoconservatives supported using force to protect the Kosovar population of Yugoslavia and criticized President Clinton for not acting fast enough and ruling out the use of ground troops. However, there was one issue that galvanized neoconservatives more than any other: Iraq. Throughout the nineties, neoconservatives consistently advocated the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the establishment of a democratic Iraq. Paul Wolfowitz played a key role in this: he coauthored a Weekly Standard article in 1997 entitled “Overthrow Him [Saddam Hussein]” and in 1998 he signed a letter to President Clinton from PNAC that urged the President to turn his attention “to implementing a strategy for removing Saddam’s regime from power.”

Paul Wolfowitz, along with other neoconservatives such as Douglas Feith and Richard Perle, returned to government with the inauguration of President George W. Bush. Throughout his tenure as Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz has pushed the neoconservative viewpoint enthusiastically. An early neoconservative success was the Bush Administration’s 2001 decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty in order to develop missile defense. In a speech the following year, Wolfowitz hailed this “an important step in bringing about a safer world.” Neoconservatives such as Wolfowitz eagerly pushed for regime change in Iraq before 9/11, as evidenced by Wolfowitz’s statement that Iraqi terrorism was a far greater threat than Al-Qaeda at a pre-9/11 counterterrorism meeting. However, it is difficult to tell whether they would have been able to convince the President to attack Iraq if 9/11 had not occurred.

The 9/11 attacks would give the neoconservatives a new rationale for attacking Iraq. As early as September 13, 2001, Wolfowitz argued for “ending states who sponsor terrorism,” which presumably included Iraq. Initially, Wolfowitz was clearly in the minority and the administration focused on Afghanistan and the destruction of Al-Qaeda. However, once the Taliban was toppled the issue of Iraq was pushed to the forefront. Neoconservative influence is apparent in what has since become known as the Bush Doctrine: that the US must use pre-emption rather than mere retaliation against “rogue states” in order to prevent them from aiding terrorists in another 9/11-like or WMD attack. If one removes the reference to terrorists, this appears awfully similar to the long-standing neoconservative view that the US must preemptively use force to topple tyrannical regimes and bring democracy to their people. The neoconservative good versus evil view of the world was quite evident in President Bush’s State of the Union when he labeled Iraq, Iran, and North Korea an “axis of evil.” By October 2002 the official Bush administration policy was regime change and Wolfowitz was warning that dire consequences would result if Saddam was not removed from power:

"President Bush has detailed Iraq's links to international terrorists, its training of al Qaeda members in bomb-making, poisons and deadly gasses. The President spoke about Iraq's growing fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles that could disburse its arsenal of biological and chemical weapons and about the ominous fact that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] for missions targeting the United States. And, of course, as the President said, and I quote, "Sophisticated delivery systems are not required for a chemical or biological attack. All that might be required are a small container and one terrorist or Iraqi intelligence operative to deliver it."

However, this “realist” justification of the war as necessary to preserve American security may have just been window dressing for Wolfowitz’s real intentions: using American power to spread democracy to the Middle East. Perhaps it is more useful to examine some of Paul Wolfowitz’s post-war statements to see his neoconservative rationale for the war. After all, his emphasis on Iraqi WMD before the war might have just been used as a reason in order to galvanize public support for the war, not as the primary reason for it. In a March 18, 2004 interview with Jim Lehrer, Wolfowitz was asked whether he had any regrets regarding the decision to go to war now that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq. Wolfowitz replied that he did not because “25 million of some of the most talented people […] have been liberated from one of the worst tyrannies of the last 100 years.” His frequent emphasis of this point throughout the interview leads one to think that bringing democracy to Iraq was his real reason for war all along. Therefore, it would appear that Wolfowitz’s consistent agitation for war against Iraq was consistent with his long held neoconservative beliefs. Undoubtedly, Wolfowitz and his fellow neoconservatives were not the only ones advocating for war in Iraq: Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld were seen as Iraq hawks as well and not considered neoconservatives. Yet Rumsfeld and Cheney had signed the PNAC Statement of Principles and were no doubt influenced to some extent by the neoconservative strain of thought. The assertion that Paul Wolfowitz and his fellow neoconservatives played a crucial role in leading the nation to war is seemingly beyond dispute.

While Wolfowitz’s role in bring about the war to attack Iraq is obvious, one is left to question whether his influence was beneficial. Wolfowitz appears to have been so singularly obsessed with Iraq and bringing democracy there that he appears to have been out of touch with reality. His actions can be criticized from three different angles: that his whole plan to attack Iraq was unwise, he was willing to use dishonesty to reach his ideological ends, and his blind adherence to neoconservative ideology led to insufficient planning for post-war Iraq.

While neoconservatives played a useful role as an ethical check upon the practitioners of realpolitik throughout the 1980s, it appears that they are quite dangerous while actually in charge. When neoconservatives dominate foreign policy decision-making, they are able to do more than simply call for a foreign policy that advocates the spread of democracy. They can actually use force to spread democracy. From the point of a foreign policy realist, Iraq was not a high priority. The Iraqi military had never recovered from its devastating defeat in 1991 and US and Saudi Arabia seemed quite capable of preventing Iraq from attacking its neighbors. Furthermore, it only seemed certain that Iraq had chemical weapons (although it actually did not) and there was considerable dispute over whether Iraq had substantial a biological weapons program. Additionally, it was considered even less likely to have a substantial nuclear weapons program. Chemical weapons, while illegal and horrendous weapons, have at most a tactical significance and would not significantly affect regional stability. Furthermore, weapons inspectors had been allowed back into Iraq and as long as they were there it seemed unlikely that Iraq could carry on with any sort of weapons program. From this point of view, Paul Wolfowitz and other hawks diverted crucial troops and resources from the war on terror to attack a country that could have easily been contained. If Wolfowitz and other neoconservatives follow their ideology further and promote regime change in other countries such as Iran, which has been mentioned as potential target by William Kristol, this drain on US resources could reach a more dire level.

The second charge is that Wolfowitz was never really concerned with WMD in Iraq and that his sole motivation all along was to use US military might to bring democracy to Iraq. This stems from the basic assertion made earlier that Wolfowitz used Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to make a case for war to the administration and the public but were not his true reasons for advocating the war. This assertion seems to have been proven by Wolfowitz himself. In a recent interview in Vanity Fair, Wolfowitz said that "for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on one issue that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction […].” If weapons of mass destruction were never the principal reason for invading Iraq, the ethics of Wolfowitz and the administration’s decision to mislead the American people as to the reasons for war are troubling.

Lastly, it appears that Wolfowitz’s unrelenting faith in neoconservative doctrine is partially responsible for the problems in post-war Iraq. Despite Wolfowitz’s recent claims that “we expected a very difficult fight,” it would appear that he grossly underestimated the difficulty of stabilizing post-Saddam Iraq. In fact during his congressional testimony in February 2003, Wolfowitz stated:

It's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would to take to conduct the war itself and secure the surrender of Saddam's security forces and his army. Hard to imagine.

It would appear that Wolfowitz was overly confident in his neoconservative ideology which predicted that American military might could spread the values of democracy. Therefore, he assumed that, in the words of fellow neoconservative William Kristol, “Americans and allied forces will be welcomed in Baghdad as liberators” and that US troops in Iraq could be quickly reduced following the defeat of Saddam’s regime. Wolfowitz dismissed Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki’s prediction that “several hundred thousand” troops would be required to stabilize post-war Iraq as “wildly off the mark.” Furthermore, he neglected to consult with James Dobbins who oversaw reconstruction in Bosnia and Kosovo. Dobbins calculated that “establishing a Kosovo-level occupation-force in Iraq (in terms of troops per capita) would require 526,000 troops through the year 2005. A Bosnia-level occupation would require 258,000 [troops].” Dobbins also stated that during “no successful postwar nation-building effort have U.S. troops stayed for less than five years.”

Unfortunately, Wolfowitz put his faith in his ideology instead of doing his homework. As a result, the security situation in Iraq has been compromised; just last week CENTCOM commander General Abizaid had to request an additional 20,000 troops to stabilize Iraq. Furthermore, the inability to comprehend the necessity of a long-term commitment to Iraq has resulted in a military that is stretched for manpower and recently had to increase its size by 30,000 in order to meet its worldwide commitments. If Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, one of the five members of the war’s planning group, had seriously looked into the required force needed for post-Saddam Iraq, he might have prevented the loss of many coalition and Iraqi lives as well as a host of political problems for the coalition. While others undoubtedly made the same mistake as Wolfowitz, much of the responsibility falls on his shoulders because he was one of the most prominent promoters of going to war in the first place. In addition, Wolfowitz has subverted facts to ideology on other issues such as national missile defense, which has extremely high monetary and political costs and may not even be scientifically feasible.

In conclusion, Paul Wolfowitz represents the danger in letting neoconservatives take the lead role in formulating US foreign policy. Throughout his career he has been a vital part of the neoconservative movement and has contributed much to the academic debates on foreign policy. However, his strong advocacy neoconservative views while Deputy Secretary of Defense has had negative consequences on US foreign policy and security. Neoconservatism is too doctrinal in its belief of spreading democracy; furthermore, it makes little room for prudence regarding the use of force. Paul Wolfowitz has been instrumental in giving US foreign policy a neoconservative slant; thereby, he shares responsibility for the negative consequences of that foreign policy especially as it relates to the political, economic, military, and human costs of the Second Gulf War.

Corruption and Infidelity at the World Bank

As President of the World Bank, Wolfowitz was personally involved in securing a promotion and a pay raise far in excess of the normal maximum for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza. (Source: Wolfowitz’s Apology: Don’t Hate Me Because I Helped Launch The Iraq War -, April 13, 2007).

Neo-conservatives always have another explanation, and when it comes to personal responsibility it is always someone else's fault or no one's fault. Wolfowitz first defended himself by claiming that he was merely following instructions of the bank's ethics committee when he arranged a job transfer and substantial pay raise for his mistress. He later claimed that the ethics dispute was actually amounts to a shared institutional breakdown at the World Bank. In a ten page letter to the World Bank Board Wolfy stated the following: "While I am prepared to acknowledge that we all acted in good faith at the time and there was perhaps some confusion and miscommunication among us, it is grossly unfair and wrong to suggest that I intended to mislead anyone, and I urge the committee to reject the allegation that I lack credibility. Rather than attempt to adjudicate between our conflicting interpretations of the events that occurred here, the board should recognize that this situation is the product of ambiguous bank rules and unclear governance mechanisms." Source: Peter S. Goodman. "Wolfowitz Blames the Bank." Washington Post. May 4, 2007. News Report




"Part of our problem is a lot of the press are afraid to travel very much, so they sit in Baghdad and they publish rumors." - June 22, 2004. Wolfowitz was forced to apologize two days later.


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This page was last modified 20:23, 18 May 2007 by dKosopedia user BartFraden. Based on work by dKosopedia user(s) Corncam, Patrick0Moran, Allamakee Democrat, CSTAR, Kagro X, Jbet777, Bcarlson33, Punishinglemur, JohnLocke, Jumbo and Lestatdelc. Content is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

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