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Wednesday, March 16, 2005


wolfowitz to the world bank

despite prior denials, the new york times is reporting that the bush administration has begun notifying foreign governments that paul wolfowitz will be nominated to head the world bank.

i have to believe this a victory of sorts for realists. coming on the heels of john bolton's appointment to the un (which left the left aghast) and douglas feith's recent departure, we can now see a pattern developing in bush's second term in which the neoconservatives are being distanced from the white house.

a housecleaning -- perhaps even that forbidden word, accountability, for the embarrassing fraud which the neocons perpetrated in lying the united states into war in iraq, or perhaps fear of wild-eyed neocon brinkmanship with iran.

even as the economist trumpeted the return of good times for the neocons (and neocons in the press sang wolfowitz's praises), the point was made that things are changing:

Look at the staffing of the second Bush administration, and it hardly seems as if the neo-conservatives will exercise unqualified influence. They are no doubt pleased to see the back of two of their leading critics, Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, and Richard Armitage, his deputy. But they are also losing two of their fiercest champions in Washington: Douglas Feith, the under-secretary of defence for policy, and John Bolton. However much they may crow about Mr Bolton's ability to foul the UN nest in Manhattan, they would much rather have had him in the heart of Washington, at the State Department or the Pentagon.

Neo-conservatives are also ambivalent about Condoleezza Rice, the new secretary of state. Her neo-con defenders point out that she is much closer to Mr Bush than Colin Powell ever was, and much keener on using American power abroad. They argue that neo-conservative ends can be achieved by realist means such as diplomacy. But others are not so sure. They note that Ms Rice is a protégé of Brent Scowcroft, one of the leading Republican critics of the war. And they see her filling the State Department with fellow realists, led by Robert Zoellick, her new deputy.

The limits of neo-conservative influence may well be shown by Iran. It is axiomatic in neo-con circles that Iran cannot be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons by a combination of diplomacy and bribery. But Mr Bush is at pains to point out that the White House is not preparing for war in Iran. And the Pentagon has made it clear that it is already overstretched by Iraq. The days when Richard Perle could sum up American foreign policy with the resonant phrase, "Who's next?" are long gone.
is it too much to hope that wolfowitz's departure means the end of global democratic revolution? perhaps -- and it is still far too soon to see what tack will be taken by the administration. but, while there is a negative point of view, these are good signs, i think, and should be greeted with cautious optimism.

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