Wrote the late Isaiah Berlin in his book "The Pursuit of the Ideal": "Utopias have their value -- nothing so wonderfully expands the imaginative horizons of human potentialities -- but as a guide to the future they can prove fatal." Such was Paul Wolfowitz's utopian view of Saddam Hussein's Iraq with its 25 million people desperately waiting to be liberated with a one-size-fits-all democracy.
Three months before the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Wolfowitz dismissed the need to preserve Saddam Hussein's army and his Baath Party. "If we go in," he said, "it will be like France in 1944." In other words, 25 million Iraqis will be waiting to greet their American liberators -- and U.S. troops could be home by Christmas.
As chief architect of Operation Iraqi Freedom under former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz's golden parachute stunned the global community of staid and stuffy central bankers, finance and foreign ministers. Two years ago, "Wolfie," as both friend and foe call him, landed the ultimate international plum: CEO of the World Bank. Salary: $400,000 tax-free, all expenses paid. Employees: 10,000, including Wolfie's lady friend Shaha Ali Riza. The bank's mission: to fight poverty throughout the less-developed world. Funds dispensed yearly: about $25 billion.
The global community took an instant and intense dislike to the new leader, who bore the onus of a war despised by almost all those he had to work with. Adding to the inbuilt friction was a yawning gap between a conservative president and a staff that is overwhelmingly liberal.
Anyone who has known Paul Wolfowitz for the last quarter-century has been struck by his superior intellect. But then there is the phenomenon of great brains with mediocre judgment. As president of the World Bank, Mr. Wolfowitz led a campaign against corrupt practices in less developed countries, with special emphasis on Africa. One Congolese minister told National Public Radio in French, "We were treated like animals being herded into a pen."
Despite the bank's many successes in the world's poorer countries, there are still roughly 1 billion people living on less than $1 a day, and 2.5 billion, or 40 percent of the world population, on less than $2 a day.
Meritorious though anti-corruption drives may be in the developing world, hardly a day goes by without headlines in The Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and New York Times about the latest financial scandals in the developed world's business capitals. …