Critics of Paul Wolfowitz say the walls of the World Bank already tremble at his approach; the American left, and all of Europe’s teeth are on edge at what the big bad Wolfowitz will do with the world’s kitty. Those close to him say he is sensitive to suffering, a motivation for the job; and he showed that when he was one of the first high-ranking foreigners to visit tsunami-hit Asian regions.
It is a region he knows well, with three years as Ronald Reagan’s Indonesian ambassador, and at the state and defence departments covering, among others, the tricky transition in the Philippines from the Marcos dictatorship to a democracy. Add diplomacy with China and Korea and this 61 year old has been around.
The career that began in Washington in the 1970’s after a Cornell degree in Maths was immediately remarkable; this “hawk of hawks”, this “velociraptor” for some, was in the “A” team of what would prove to be the Republican party’s next-wave of thinkers.
Detente and balance, status quo were out; using power to change a situation of potential danger to America was in. This meant championing values like democracy by force if necessary, because they were the best long-term guarantors of US security. Post 9-11 and back in the Pentagon’s number two job with old boss Donald Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz spied an old enemy to strike; a job he had not been allowed to finish under George Bush senior. Iraq.
A new order in Iraq, a new order everywhere, on an American model. That has been the man’s credo over 30 years of public service, but only one public. Now he must prove his sensitivity to the demands of the world. These are multilateral needs, and may require more than unilateral instincts to deal with.