Wolfowitz vs. the World Bank: A Fight without Heroes

What does Paul Wolfowitz have to lose by leaving the World Bank? He seems to share a neoconservative world-view that requires a constant sense of a history-shaping mission.

To the casual observer, Paul Wolfowitz's continuing refusal to step down as President of the World Bank is puzzling. Without taking sides in his dispute with members of the World Bank Board regarding alleged violations of ethical rules in arranging a promotion and raise for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, it is quite clear that Mr. Wolfowitz has lost his ability to be an effective leader of that institution. A significant majority of the Board wants him to step down. The World Bank Staff Association wants him out. Many governments, particularly in Europe, that are major contributors to the World Bank and add credibility to its efforts to implement often controversial anti-corruption programs demand his departure. So, even assuming (which seems unlikely) that strong White House support and vigorous counterattacks from his neoconservative friends allow him to keep his job, what could he accomplish-for himself, for the world's poor, and for the United States, whose prestige is clearly on the line?

In recent weeks there have been spectacular resignations at two major corporations. Lord John Browne left BP just months before his scheduled retirement and may lose up to $30 million in compensation from his retirement package in the process. His transgression-lying to a court about the circumstances in which he met a man with whom he admitted to having a long-term affair-could be more serious than Mr. Wolfowitz's improprieties. Still, if he put up a fight, Browne could perhaps have negotiated an agreement to stay for the remaining part of his term and keep some or all of the money.

Chris Albrecht, the Chairman of HBO, stepped down after allegedly committing battery against his girlfriend in a Las Vegas hotel parking lot. He did not put up much of a fight when told by his Time Warner superiors that this was his time to go. (Note that Jeffrey Bewkes, President and Chief Operating Officer of Time Warner, is a member of The Nixon Center's Board.) . . .

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