Commentary

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Commentator Dan Goure has been following the scandal involving World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz. Goure says he has a lot of respect for Wolfowitz. He's worked with him and he's known him for decades. But he says Wolfowitz is also a conservative, and should have known that would put him at odds with most of the people at the World Bank.

DAN GOURE: The latest Washington scandal, 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 gave 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 the Johns Hopkins 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 a conservative president of the liberal World Bank. Moreover, he wanted to shake up that musty old institution. So he needed to be pure 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 had to be brought down.

So, 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.

What I don't understand is why Paul did not see it coming and take appropriate action? 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 he thought others should too. I'm sure that Paul sees himself as an honorable and honest civil servant not simply for the U.S. government but for the world. Paul eschewed career choices that would have made him lots of money, choosing instead a 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. Paul's 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 precaution that someone with your history should have taken. You may not have gotten what you deserved, but you seemed to be about to get what is coming to you.

NORRIS: Dan Goure is a defense analyst and a fellow at the Lexington Institute — that's a conservative think tank in Virginia.

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