The end of empire: Wolfowitz on the ropes

Never mind the corruption "gotcha" -- Wolfowitz's troubles are the price paid for post-Cold War imperial arrogance.

Published May 16, 2007 7:34PM (EDT)

The endgame is here. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Paul Wolfowitz "is now negotiating over the conditions of his resignation." The Financial Times is reporting that "the U.S. asked the World Bank board to adjourn its deliberations on the fate of Paul Wolfowitz for several hours on Wednesday amid mounting indications that a divided Bush administration could be close to conceding that the bank president will have to stand down."

If true, the ouster will symbolize far more than just the gotcha of Wolfowitz's personal misdeeds as contrasted with his campaign to fight corruption in the developing world. There's far more at stake here: The presumably successful effort by Europe, Latin America and other regions to dislodge Wolfowitz represents a profound recalibration of global realpolitik.

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has reigned alone as the supreme superpower. The absence of any countervailing force enabled and encouraged the Bush administration to pursue its spectacularly self-destructive foreign policies. The very appointment of Paul Wolfowitz, key architect of the Iraq war, as president of the World Bank, reeked of imperial arrogance.

But for every action there is a counterreaction. The rest of the world is fed up. As economic power in the world becomes more diffused across the globe, the ability of any one nation to call all the shots will progressively weaken. Understanding that fact will be a key prerequisite to successfully negotiating future global challenges.

Which makes the following gem from a hot-off-the-presses Financial Times story on how divisions within the Bush administration on how to handle the Wolfowitz debacle have led to "complete internal dysfunction" at the White House all the more poignant.

The situation has been complicated by the fact that few people within the Bush administration understand what the World Bank does, says another official. This has meant that the administration's shifting calculations have been mostly guided by day-to-day political deliberations rather than by an assessment of what would be in the longer-term interest of the U.S.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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