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March 28, 2005

Zeal Does Not Counter But Amplifies Incompetence

Kevin Drum on Paul Wolfowitz:

The Washington Monthly: DECONSTRUCTING WOLFOWITZ.... As regular readers know, every few months I like to find an excuse to post a reminder of Paul Wolfowitz's testimony before Congress on February 28, 2003, three weeks before the Iraq war started. Here's a summary of the New York Times account:

Mr. Wolfowitz...opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, 'wildly off the mark.' Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops.

....He said there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq, as there was in Bosnia or Kosovo....He said Iraqi civilians would welcome an American-led liberation force....And he said that nations that oppose war with Iraq would likely sign up to help rebuild it....Mr. Wolfowitz spent much of the hearing knocking down published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding, saying the upper range of $95 billion was too high.

....Moreover, he said such estimates, and speculation that postwar reconstruction costs could climb even higher, ignored the fact that Iraq is a wealthy country, with annual oil exports worth $15 billion to $20 billion. 'To assume we're going to pay for it all is just wrong,' he said.

This is, I think, the prime reason to oppose Wolfowitz's nomination to head the World Bank. Lots of people favored the Iraq war, after all, but how many of them displayed such convincing evidence of their appallingly poor judgment on such a wide range of topics in such a public venue? Do we really want a guy like that running anything, let alone the World Bank?

And yet.... here I have to confess something: I'm not a Paul Wolfowitz hater.... Guys like Kristol and Cheney and Rumsfeld, for example, talk a lot about democracy but mostly use it as a thinly disguised excuse for installing friendly pro-American leaders in countries that just happen to have lots of oil. Wolfowitz, conversely, really seems to believe this stuff.... The fact that Wolfowitz was willing to criticize Suharto at all, or that he's willing to tell a pro-Israel audience that they should be more mindful of Palestinian suffering, says something about what he really believes.

Of course, there's still that appalling judgment (see Wolfowitz, Paul, Congressional Testimony of, op cit)...

But, Kevin, zeal and enthusiasm do not counteract the flaw of analytical incompetence: they magnify it.

Posted by DeLong at March 28, 2005 07:15 PM