Friday, May 18, 2007

Poor Wolfie

Only once have I seen a wolf in the wild, on Vargas Island off the west coast of Vancouver Island near Tofino. It was rainy, and I was standing on a rocky shore when I heard a horrific scream behind me across a little cove. There, no more than 30 meters away was a wolf grabbing a fawn which he had chased down to the shore. He dragged it back into the bushes, as the screaming slowly dimmed and then stopped.

Wolfie of the World Bank is the fawn in this case, and the wolf is the inexorable process of the indirect assault that took him from autocrat to heck-of-a-job status in short order. I feel a little for him, notwithstanding that he has been a shill for the dubya-ites and bears a terrible responsibility for the mess in Iraq. He is a man with ideas, he set out to undermine corruption which is a staggering economic problem worldwide, and he managed to git out of the dubya corral, and the morass with his name on it, while the gittin' was still good.

I had dinner with Wolfowitz once. He is a friend of a friend from their days in Indonesia and I was providing airport services to both of them on intersecting layovers. We went to the Flower Lounge in Millbrae, one freeway stop from the airport, and a great SFO layover eatery if you can get there. He asked me one question about Indonesia, and I guess I equivocated because he pretty much ignored me for the rest of the eating. This was in the pre-dubya days when Wolfowitz was one of any number of the expectant, hoping that a 'publican victory would give them the power to implement the ideas formulated during the short Clintonian exile.

That little dinner gave me pause when he came to power and began his career of shilling. I was, and am, opposed to the war. It was, and is, so obvious a massive strategic blunder that it was difficult to understand how a man of obvious intelligence and knowledge like Wolfowitz could not just support it but create it. I think it has to do with the flaw of allowing one's thinking to devolve to one simple central truth. In this case, that central truth is that the judicious application of targeted American force will have a cascading and decisive impact that will ineluctably lead to good results. It is curious that Clinton actually demonstrated how to do this in Kosovo notwithstanding the loud cackling of the reactionaries at the time.

This simple idea is a little like chiropractic ... adjust a joint and the whole body falls in line. Chiropractic may have its uses, but it is a poor guide to history and poorer still to policy. Wolfie and the neo-cons ignored the first rule of history to everyone's peril ... there is no such thing as a zero sum game. So if you adjust the wrong joint, you might just break a bone and everything conspires to get worse and worse. A simple truth is no guarantee of success, especially when you jigger the facts. Certainly that is what has occurred.

But Wolfie did not fall from his perch because of his errors on Iraq, or because of his management style. I do not really follow the World Bank very closely, but even a die-hard liberal has to be a little taken aback by the shrillness of the employees' jumping on the boss ... was he really that bad? Did he accomplish so much less than a predecessor? I have no way of judging just at the moment. But he did not fall for that; he fell because he had a girlfriend who was herself an accomplished person. Accomplished people in contiguous offices are no longer allowed to have sex with each other, so there had to be some fine sliding and moving to keep all happy. Again, I don't really see the crime ... why should she give up a career because he got a job. He appears to have been reasonably transparent about it, and she apparently did not want to make the move. People have to work, for crying out loud. Put yourself in her place.

So again and once again, some guy pays for his crimes not by being convicting for them but by getting caught jaywalking. The slender injustice of the vector from which he was hit should not obscure the miseries that his commitment to a simple but bad idea engendered. But it is unsettling.

The dubya-ites are a hellish cabal of three groupings who have opportunistically blinded themselves to their natural antagonism ... the kleptocrats, the religious fanatics, and the neo-cons. Dubya is not a neo-con ... notwithstanding its simple core idea, neo-conservatism is a complex thinking that requires knowledge and balancing and contradiction. But that simple kernel does allow a pea-brain like Bush to hop on board. I think he got snowed by them, and I think he is vaguely aware of that, but his immeasurable hubris and lack of computing power means that he has to keep on truckin down the road they laid out for him, even as they wander off into another self-satisfied exile of fevered ideology and red-faced recriminations.

For dubya, retirement will be the luxury of self-congratulation and good sleep. For Wolfie, it will be a long nightmare of what-ifs. I hope he ends up at some august institution ... I think Georgetown is his natural home ... lecturing the cloying and encouraging the budding bow-tied set, and privately rehearsing this mantra over and over again: no such thing as a zero sum game.

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