A Hawk Against Poverty

The Australian notes that Paul Wolfowitz is surprising many as the head of the World Bank:

The initial scepticism that greeted the arrival of a notorious neoconservative hawk at the head of a global development agency has given way to increasing optimism in London and elsewhere that Wolfowitz might surprise the world with his commitment to the fight on poverty.

“I think you’ve got someone with very much an inquiring mind, someone who likes to solve problems and who also has good contacts with the President of the United States,” one senior official said.

“Take the considerable intellectual energy he displayed at the Pentagon and direct it at the World Bank and it won’t be a bad thing, in my view.”

Sounding more like a liberal peacenik than a former Pentagon warlord, Wolfowitz said last week that the world had reached “an extraordinary moment in history” in terms of helping Africa. “Believing that Africa’s plight has no effect on the rest of the world is not only naive, it’s morally wrong,” he said.

Of course, to those who’ve studied Wolfowitz in any detail, that’s no surprise. Wolfowitz has always been tireless in his support of the Third World. He was one of the few in government to warn the United States against supporting Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. As ambassador to Indonesia he did his best to support pro-democracy elements without compromising US neutrality. He was the leading supporter of the humanitarian argument for removing the Hussein regime. He’s been one of the staunchest supporters of freedom for Iran.

Wolfowitz’s position in regards to relief for Africa is one that will undoubtedly help do more than just raise money for the continent. He will continue to be a tireless fighter for democracy and human rights in Africa. The problems of Africa aren’t merely economic, they’re political. Most of the political regimes in Africa are either dysfunctional at best or brutally totalitarian at worst. Even supposedly stable regimes like South Africa are clamping down on dissent and pro-democratic movements. South African President Thabo Mbeki is one of Robert Mugabe’s biggest supporters.

Wolfowitz is right, allowing Africa to continue to be mired in oppression is morally wrong. The recent $40 billion dollars in debt cancellation by G8 countries is an excellent first step, but Africa’s problems aren’t just financial. Aid must continue to be tied to democratization and the rest of the world should do whatever it can to help nuture and support native African pro-democracy movement such as Morgan Tsvangiri’s Movement for Democratic Change in Africa. Regimes such as that of Robert Mugabe must not be allowed to systematically oppress their people, and the world should push leaders like President Mbeki to end their support of tyranny on the African Continent.

Wolfowitz is the right person for the World Bank job, and he’s already done much to help the World Bank ameliorate the endemic poverty that smothers the African continet. There is much that needs to be done, but thankfully Mr. Wolfowitz’s skill with streamlining bureaucracies and organizing complex multilateral missions overseas will ensure that the World Bank becomes a much more effective organization.

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