The Rules are that the other 183 members are supposed to go along with whomever the United States designates to run the World Bank. It's the perquisite for providing nearly 17 percent of the bank's money - more than twice that of No. 2 Japan.
So official grousing about President George W. Bush's nomination of Paul Wolfowitz is at a minimum, even though much of the world sees it as akin to sending Darth Vader to guard the Princess Leia. Our European allies count it a direct affront.
You don't like John Bolton at the U.N.?
Take Wolfowitz at the World Bank - an even bigger ideologue and one of the Iraq war's main architects. He'll shake up your poverty programs!
Yet Wolfowitz is no penny-ante conservative.
He's part of the Reagan class of 1980 who took the "best and brightest" mold from the Kennedy Democrats, and remade it to suit their ultra-Cold War views - that evil-doers, starting with the Soviet empire and continuing through to Saddam Hussein, were not to be trusted and had to be extirpated.
That's why Wolfowitz's coming transfer from the Pentagon to the World Bank looks a lot less like the latter-day attack of the neo-cons the Europeans suppose than the sleight-of-hand used in 1968 to transform Robert McNamara from Vietnam war hawk at Defense to development guru at the global lender.
Both men are smart, dedicated workaholics who believe in analysis, numbers, facts.
Both were breathtakingly nar- row when it came to real life, setting this nation on a war course based on lies, exaggerations, untruths and wishful thinking.
Both would hit the greener pastures of Third World ministra tions without admitting that their wars stemmed from lies. And the departure of both from the Pentagon would not signal an end to their wars.
Vietnam dragged on for another seven years and thousands of body bags after Pentagon chief McNamara hightailed it to the higher salary at the World Bank.
Could it be that behind Wolfowitz's nomination to the World Bank lies a Bush administration realist who understands the grave ill that the Iraq war has done to the U.S. military, to future oil-region stability and to the war on terror?
Don't count on it, even though democracy has not yet rooted in the parched soil of Iraq, no matter how fervently U.S. officials hope for it.
The country remains far more likely to fall prey to Islamists masquerading as jihadists, Iranian agents seeking Shia converts, and latter-day oil smugglers. What's more, the war has lengthened the odds of bringing al-Qaida to its knees by making our chief ally in the war on terror - Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf - dangerously unpopular with his own people.
McNamara, we learned later from his confessional autobiography - written 30 years too late - just couldn't stomach the lies any longer and wanted out. Yet he failed to summon the courage to challenge those lies publicly. He chose a murderously neutral silence.
Wolfowitz, dangerously, still believes.
"Al-Qaida is losing badly" in Iraq, Wolfowitz told the Senate this month.
"We may recall how long we waged the Cold War and how long it took to rebuild Western Europe, but in both cases we know how the story ended,"
It's the Cold Warrior's vision all over again - that billions in defense spending and other wars in remote places may be needed to make the dominos fall to the light of democracy.
Wolfowitz, the avowed numbers wonk and son of a talented Cornell math professor, couldn't get his figures right when they conflicted with his vision.
"On a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion dollars over the course of the next two or three years," Wolfowitz famously enthused to Congress soon after the Iraq war started in March 2003. "We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon."
Soon won't be this decade. America is footing the rebuilding bill, pushing total war-fighting costs over $200 billion.
How long will it take Wolfowitz to 'fess up to - or recognize - his lies?
That's a more pertinent question than how well he'll run his new World Bank sinecure for the cast-offs of wars gone bad.
Sullivan is The Plain Dealer's foreign-affairs columnist and an associate editor of the editorial pages.
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