Friday, April 27, 2007

How NOT to Win Friends

George Bush has worked hard these past six years to change the United States from "leader of the Free World," a self-sacrificing giant, into that bullying clod you try to avoid at parties by ducking down behind the onion dip. Two examples.

World Bank
Since forever...well, since 1945 when the World Bank was created, the United States President has appointed that institution's presidents. This is by tradition and it has served the World Bank well because, with two exceptions, American presidents have chosen highly successful business leaders, the CEO of Bank of America for example, for the post. The two exceptions are Ronald Reagan, who appointed a Republican Party hack named Barber Conable, and George Bush with his appointment of Paul Wolfowitz. (Aside: If the Republican Party is supposed to be the party of business, why is it that twice now they couldn't find a single qualified business executive to head the World Bank?)

Wolfowitz has no business experience unless he ran a lemonade stand as a child, he is not qualified to run a Burger King let alone a major international bank. A government careerist, he has cycled between the State Department and the Defense Department with a brief detour pretending to be an academic. His only qualification to be World Bank president is that his girlfriend works there and, so, might be able to help him. It's this girlfriend thing that has gotten him into trouble. It seems Wolfowitz made his first priority as president getting his snuggle-bunny a big, fat pay raise.

Now, the Financial Times Germany is reporting that the World Bank directors are considering ending the practice of letting the United States select the bank president. If Wolfowitz resigns (probable) and Bush selected another unqualified boob (likely) to replace him, the World Bank is still in the same fix. So, the directors may ignore the Bush and choose their president themselves. And the United States will have taken another step towards being inconsequential.

Italy was one of the few real commitments to the American invasion of Iraq. Italy's 3,200 troops ranks them third, behind Britain. When an Italian journalist was kidnapped in Iraq, American soldiers killed the Italian agent who gained her freedom. When another Italian journalist was captured by the Taliban in Afghanstan, the Afghan government organized a swap - trading the freedom of five imprisoned militants for the journalist (story via the Guardian). American officials, like Condi Rice, are livid and highly critical of Italy. It has been the diplomatic equivalent of walking up to a friend and spitting in his eye. This is how you treat a friend!?

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