The Los Angeles Times carries an insightful profile of Paul Wolfowitz by Lawrence WIlkerson, a former colleague who describes the man's brilliant mind and inept management skills. I've long been a fan of Wolfowitz's ideas, but knew nothing about his leadership abilities.
WHEN I WAS ASSIGNED to the U.S. Pacific Command in the mid-1980s, we military officers would often discuss the ambassadors in our theater of operations â€” a huge area embracing more than 30 countries and most of the Pacific and Indian oceans. One name came up constantly as one of the best of the best: then-U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Paul Wolfowitz. He understood the culture, the people and the special circumstances of the world's most populous Muslim country, and he did a superb job in dealing with that country within the context of U.S. national security interests.
Understand, then, my wonder over the last few years at Wolfowitz's fall. From my position, first at the Pentagon, then at the State Department, I watched the talented Wolfowitz self-destruct. How could such a successful, intelligent ambassador transmogrify into the petulant old man I watched fighting unsuccessfully to keep his job as president of the World Bank?
There were early signs. In 1990, when both of us were at the Pentagon â€” I worked for Colin Powell, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Wolfowitz for then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney â€” I discovered that Wolfowitz was geared entirely to conceptual thinking and not to practical action, planning and detail and the disciplined routine that government requires.
Of course, part of the problem with the government bureaucracy is that it is often all action with no vision. Taking the article as truth, there is an important place in the world for Paul Wolfowitz and others like him, but it's probably not at the head of a large organization. Nevertheless, the World Bank would do well to be guided by his vision, even if he wasn't capable of implementing it.
And apparently now that Wolfowitz is resigning the World Bank ethics board has announced that he did nothing wrong.