THE PLANK JANUARY 17, 2007
The United States helped found the World Bank in 1945. It was designed initially to aid in postwar reconstruction, but it has developed a focus on alleviating extreme poverty and encouraging development in the world's poorest countries. American officials did not conceive of the bank as a vehicle for carrying out a particular administration's foreign policy objectives. When Robert Macnamara left the Pentagon to become World Bank president in 1968, for instance, he did not use his tenure to advance the American war effort in Vietnam. But Paul Wolfowitz, who left the Pentagon in June 2005 to become World Bank president, may be turning the institution into an instrument of the Bush administration's foreign policy.
According to a report from Christopher Swann of Bloomberg News, half of the World Bank's directors have left since Wolfowitz arrived. Their replacements include conservative Republican operatives who were closely identified with the Bush administration's foreign policy. After serving as Senator Mitch McConnell's top foreign policy aide, Robin Cleveland became an associate director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, where she was instrumental in getting funding for the Iraq war. Kevin Kelleums was a former spokesman for Vice President Dick Cheney. But more important were the reasons why officials left. Christiaan Poortman, who was vice president for the Middle East, reportedly resigned in protest over Wolfowitz's plan to increase bank funding and staff in Iraq. Subsidizing the American war effort in Iraq would put the World Bank on the side of the Bush administration's invasion and occupation. It is exactly the kind of measure that Macnamara resisted.
--John B. Judis