Governing the World: The History of an IdeaBy Mark Mazower (Penguin Press, 475 pp., $29.95) WE HAVE PASSED, Mark Mazower writes, “from an era that had faith in the idea of international institutions to one that has lost it.” Mazower, a prolific professor of history at Columbia, has written a challenging and thought-provoking history of that arc of disillusion. We certainly have reason to be disillusioned.
The uproar among conservatives yesterday over alarmingly pro-health care statements by Mitt Romney and his chief spokeswoman was not the only split that emerged on the right. There was also quite a stir among conservative foreign policy mavens over the announcement that Bob Zoellick, recently retired from leading the World Bank, would be overseeing the transition for national security should Romney win in November. This set off giant alarm bells within the neo-conservative camp, which regards Zoellick as a weak-kneed "realist," not least for his conciliatory stance toward China.
Outsiders must be a little mystified as to why the Obama administration’s nomination of Jim Young Kim to lead the World Bank has kicked up so much dust in the development community. I suspect the casual observer thinks: “Such a nice man, a doctor devoted to HIV/AIDS and to the poorest in the poorest places. Why the fuss?” But picking a new World Bank head is a little like picking a new Pope. The process isn’t just about the individual candidates for the position, but about the overall direction of the faith. And so, the controversy over Kim’s nomination is not really about Kim himself.
After reading this Rolling Stone piece about Dartmouth (via Felix Salmon), I now see why the school's president, Jim Yong Kim, who Obama just tapped to head the World Bank, made such a good impression on Tim Geithner: They have very similar views on cultural humility--by which I mean how much you can impose your own values on a foreign culture.
Over at The Washington Post, Jonathan Bernstein argues that the Jim Yong Kim nomination for World Bank president is (for liberals at least) a pleasant byproduct of having a Democratic president: It’s very difficult for me to imagine John McCain, had he won the presidency — or a President Mitt Romney, for that matter — reaching out beyond the usual bankers and recycled government officials to choose someone like Kim. But it’s not at all hard to picture Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden or Chris Dodd picking him. Presidents don’t make these types of picks on their own.
Lots of people can (and will) tell you about the views of Jim Yong Kim, the administration's nominee to be World Bank president, on fighting poverty and improving global health over the next few days. But the Wall Street Journal has unearthed what's sure to be the most compelling character testimonial you're going to find (fast forward till about two minutes in to get to the good stuff): A bit painful to watch, I know, but it convinced me the guy is going to be pretty terrific in this job. I love him already.
In his new book, The Escape Artists, my TNR colleague Noam Scheiber makes the interesting argument that one problem with President Obama's economic team was that, in struggling to pull the U.S. economy out of recession, the Rubinites (i.e., Tim Geithner and Larry Summers) were fighting the last war. What the financial crises of the late 1990s taught Geithner, Summers, and other members of Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin's economic team, Scheiber argues, was to embrace the Powell doctrine. Just as Colin Powell had argued that the U.S.
Sovereign Equality and Moral Disagreement By Brad R. Roth (Oxford University Press, 320 pp., $70) Sovereignty is back. Our debates about the global economic crisis keep returning to the problem of sovereign debt and the need for sovereign guarantees to reassure the markets. We keep hoping that somewhere, sometime, in the downward spiral of de-leveraging and disillusion there will be an authority—a sovereign—to take charge and put an end to our anxiety. This longing for an authority, after years of market follies, runs very deep. We want to know that someone is in control.