In an excellent move, President Bush has appointed Robert Zoellick to head the World Bank. Zoellick, the former U.S. trade representative and deputly secretary of state, is widely respected. However, that’s not the reason why, in my judgment, he’s an excellent choice. The reason instead is that, as the Washington Post reports, selecting Zoellick has “dismayed” the Europeans and World Bank bureaucrats. Said one senior World Bank official:
People think Zoellick is highly intelligent and has a pragmatic mind-set. But he’s still from the same people who brought you the Iraq war, the same people who brought you Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld. There’s immediate jaundice about his country of origin. Any American appointed by this president would carry that stigma.
The Europeans wanted the White House to present the World Bank board with a list of candidates and permit the board to make the final selection. Although the selectee still would have been “tainted” by having been placed on the list by “this president,” the process would have satisfied the collective ego of the World Bank bureaucracy, and that’s always the important thing. Fortunately, the White House chose to impose Zoellick, its first choice and a member of the adminstration’s inner foreign policy circle. The only better outcome would have been to select John Bolton.
No wait, the best outcome would have been to withdraw from the World Bank.
UPDATE: Chris Cillizza notes that Zoellick has been serving as a policy adviser for the McCain campaign and is rumored (prematurely, perhaps) to be the leading candidate for Secretary of State should McCain be elected president.