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A New Trifecta On The War of Ideas
President Bush focuses on an important front in the war on terror.


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There are common threads running in the recent nominations of Paul Wolfowitz, Karen Hughes, and John Bolton. Of course, the three are all well-connected, well-experienced, politically savvy public servants. And, as we know, they enjoy the confidence of the president of the United States.

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But look closely at the nature of the three’s upcoming gigs at the World Bank, the public-diplomacy shop at the State Department, and the United Nations. The fact that Bush has entrusted these posts to such valued subordinates is as a dramatic a demonstration as one could want of the importance he accords to the economic and multilateral dimensions, as well as the war of ideas, that characterize the present, global conflict. It is evidence of a new–and much needed–presidential commitment to wage the war on these fronts.

No less noteworthy is the implicit recognition that it will take individuals of extraordinary ability to make a difference, given the current state of all three organizations.

As the Wall Street Journal trenchantly observed last week: “The World Bank is a dysfunctional bureaucracy that requires deep reform if it is to recover the trust of American taxpayers and survive as a relevant institution in the 21st century.” The editorial goes on to cite a harshly critical report issued in 2000 by a bipartisan group (which included Jeffrey Sachs, who has expressed strong opposition to the Wolfowitz nomination).

Among its findings:
”Seventy percent of the World Bank’s ‘non-aid’ funds go to 11 countries that already have easy access to capital markets, such as China, Mexico, Brazil and Thailand”;
”beneficiary countries that do not have access to markets mostly ‘remain poor because their political system is unstable, private property rights are very limited, the judicial system is weak or subservient, or the government is corrupt’”;
”assistance to such countries ‘at best provides relief [and] at worst…supports corruption or programs that waste scarce local and external resources.’”

The World Bank is, in short, an organization in urgent need of the kind of tough love that President Bush clearly has in mind for the no-less-dysfunctional U.N. as well as the hapless State Department bureaucracy that has to date been, to put it charitably, AWOL in presenting the administration’s case for its conduct of the war on terror and, in many cases, has actually subverted that case.

There is a certain irony that prominent critics, particularly those against the Wolfowitz nomination, also seem to have certain things in common. Many of them are avowed champions of so-called “soft power.” This term is applied to other-than-military instruments for influencing nations and events. These include: diplomatic initiatives, financial and economic incentives and/or sanctions, surrogate broadcasting and other information-dissemination techniques, educational efforts (on both the retail and wholesale levels) and development assistance.

In addition, Wolfowitz’s critics generally seem to subscribe to the notion that poverty is a cause of terror. There is, of course, ample evidence that Osama bin Laden, the 14 Islamists who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and many other terrorists are people of means, not impecunious. Even so, one would at least think that the conviction that using soft-power tools to reduce poverty can contribute to defeating terror would lead its adherents to appreciate the importance of marshalling these means for that purpose in a strategically coherent and sustained way. And that is just the sort of thing at which Wolfowitz excels.

In the final analysis, the question of whether we are prepared to do what is needed to prevail over those who wish to destroy us comes down to this: The worldwide struggle against Islamist and other totalitarian ideologies that enslave and impoverish their people and threaten ours requires that we utilize every resource that can usefully be brought to bear.

It is a great credit to President Bush that he is thinking creatively about how that can be accomplished. It also speaks volumes about three of the most accomplished and capable members of his administration that they are prepared to help him realize his vision in these new, probably thankless and certainly very challenging capacities. For the American people, it is like winning the trifecta to have the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, Karen Hughes, and John Bolton strapping on these jobs at such a critical time.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is an NRO contributor and president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington.



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