The latest scandal in Washington, involving World Bank President and former deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, made me stop and think. I have known Paul Wolfowitz for more than thirty years; he got me my first job in Washington. I worked with him at the Pentagon during the first Bush Administration. He had an illustrious career as a high government official, ambassador and dean of prestigious Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies before becoming president of the World Bank. So how could such a bright man make such seemingly stupid decisions?
Don't misunderstand me. I do not believe that Wolfowitz did anything wrong at the World Bank. Indeed, if information now emerging about that institution's personnel policies is true, his behavior was benign compared to the actions of other Bank officials and board members. That is beside the point.
Wolfowitz's mistake was to believe that because he was no longer on the firing line at the Pentagon he did not have to watch his back. Having "dodged a bullet," so to speak, by leaving the Department of Defense before the November 2006 elections and Don Rumsfeld's firing, Paul apparently thought he was safe, He forgot that he was the conservative president of the liberal World Bank. He also campaigned to shake up that musty old institution. For these reasons, he needed to be purer than Caesar's wife.
As a neocon and a graduate of the University of Chicago school of power politics, Paul threatened the Euro-socialist power structure at the World Bank, its "get along by going along" philosophy of lending. For that he must be brought down.
And, like Caesar, Wolfowitz left himself open to the assassin's knife. He complains that he is the victim of smear tactics designed to undermine his anti-corruption campaign. He says he is being treated shabbily. He protests the fact that the Bank's Board of Directors have allowed him only 48 hours to respond to some 600 pages of evidence presented against him. All true. And also irrelevant. An entrenched power elite went gunning for Wolfowitz and appear to have mortally wounded him.
What I don't understand is why Paul did not see it coming and take appropriate actions? Why he would leave himself open to the kind of scandal mongering that is taking place today? My conclusion is that he held himself in such high regard that he simply assumed others should too. I am sure that Paul sees himself as an honest and honorable civil servant not simply for the U.S. Government but for the world. He eschewed career choices that would have made him lots of money, choosing instead as life of service. What he wanted to do at the World Bank was laudable. Even what he tried to do in Iraq, protecting America from the potential threat of terrorism and bringing democracy to the Iraqi people, was commendable: His mistake was thinking that good intentions count for anything. In his case, good intentions amounted to a capital crime.
So Paul, stop the whining and complaining. You brought this on yourself by thinking you were too good, too sincere, to ever be stabbed in the back. You failed to take the elementary precautions that someone with your history should have taken. You may not have gotten what you deserved, but you sure are about to get what is coming to you.
Dan Goure is a defense analyst and a fellow at the Lexington Institute — a conservative think tank in Virginia.