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Dimensions of Corruption


Obviously, Paul Wolfowitz’s personal corruption is both bad in itself and undermines the anti-corruption principles he’s purportedly trying to bring to the World Bank. As John Cassidy’s recent profile informs us, however, there’s another major example of his rather selective application of anti-corruption principles. First, there’s his hiring of Bush administration cronies who weren’t involved in the formal search process to crucial positions. And although he’s cut off aid to several corrupt governments, his pet invasion project is for some reason exempt from such treatment:

In building up the World Bank’s presence in Iraq, Wolfowitz is hoping that it is not too late to improve the situation there. “The bank’s role, I am happy to talk about,” he said. “Actually, in a certain sense, it tells you that there is a lot to be worked with if security can be established. This is a country whose biggest problem is how to manage tens of millions of dollars of annual revenues. I wish most of our clients had that problem.” I asked him how he could simultaneously argue that the bank should stop lending to corrupt countries and become more involved in Iraq, which now trails only Haiti in some rankings of the most corrupt countries on earth. “It’s a problem to work on,” Wolfowitz said. “I get inaccurately characterized on this governance issue as saying the bank should disengage. To the contrary, the basic point of the anti-corruption strategy is that we have to find ways to engage in countries with problems. In Iraq, there are certainly a lot of people who want to improve the system, who actually look to the World Bank as an ally in doing so.”

So giving aid to corrupt governments is bad…unless they tell you they really want to get better! Somehow I suspect that the huge personal stake Wolfowitz had in justifying the disastrous war he had such a large responsibility for is the more important factor here.

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