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For Washington Insider, Job Was an Uneasy Fit
"All you need to know about how little he gets it is in that move," said one prominent Washingtonian with long experience in multinational institutions. "The bank is a black hole of indolence and bureaucracy. It moves slowly. But it has some of the best people in the world. . . . They have been thoroughly humiliated, disdained and insulted" under Wolfowitz, he said.
The board, in a report released late Monday, seemed to agree. The "central theme" of Wolfowitz's tenure, it said, was that he had "cast himself in opposition to the established rules of the institution."
Rise From Theory to Power
Wolfowitz built an early reputation in Washington as a skeptic of perceived national security wisdom. Recruited from the Yale faculty to the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during the Nixon administration, he criticized detente with the Soviet Union. In 1976, he was among a group of Ford administration officials who questioned whether the CIA was underestimating the Soviet threat. Under CIA Director George H.W. Bush, he played a leading role in what was known as a "Team B" analysis, judging that the Soviets were building their military under the cover of arms control.
"The B-team demonstrated that it was possible to construct a sharply different view of Soviet motivation from the consensus view of the analysts," Wolfowitz told author James Mann, whose book "Rise of the Vulcans" recounted the history of the current administration's national security team.
Early in the Carter administration, Wolfowitz took a mid-level job in the Pentagon, where he produced the first extended study of the need to defend the Persian Gulf. An attack threatening U.S. oil supplies, regional stability and Israel, he concluded, could come from the Soviets or from "the region" -- in particular, Iraq.
During the Reagan administration, Mann concluded, Wolfowitz "developed into the leading conservative foreign policy thinker of his generation." As head of policy planning in the State Department, he also recruited like-minded analysts -- including future George W. Bush administration colleagues I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and Zalmay Khalilzad -- and added China to the list of untrustworthy partners.
Wolfowitz crossed swords with Reagan's first secretary of state, Alexander Haig, who reportedly considered him too "theoretical" and planned to fire him. But George P. Shultz, Haig's successor, promoted Wolfowitz to assistant secretary, though he apparently shared some of Haig's concerns. "Paul, this is an administrative job," Shultz warned Wolfowitz, according to Mann. "It's not just thinking."
Later, Wolfowitz thrived as Defense Secretary Dick Cheney's chief policy strategist during the administration of President George H.W. Bush. The 1992 Defense Planning Guidance he wrote said that the United States must be prepared to "shape the future security environment" by anticipating threats and to protect its interests "with only limited additional help, or even alone, if necessary."
During the 1991 war against Iraq, Wolfowitz failed to persuade the White House to go beyond driving Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait. Concerned about the reaction of U.S. allies as well as the public and Congress, Bush rejected Wolfowitz's call to defend Shiite southern Iraq as an enclave where Hussein's overthrow could be planned.
At Johns Hopkins during the Clinton administration, Wolfowitz expounded his views on Iraq in articles, speeches and congressional testimony. "Professors felt he did a very good job at fundraising and enticing big names onto the faculty" as an administrator, according to one faculty member, but he was "remote and mostly gone." Wolfowitz concentrated on molding a new foreign policy paradigm for a future Republican White House.
In mid-1999, he joined the George W. Bush campaign team, for which he was one of two top foreign policy advisers, along with Condoleezza Rice. After Bush's election, Rice was tapped as the president's national security adviser. Wolfowitz wanted to return to the State Department, but Bush's secretary of state, Colin L. Powell, turned him down as his deputy. They weren't "ideologically in sync," Powell later said, and Wolfowitz was notoriously lacking in the required administrative skills.
Eventually, Wolfowitz returned to the Pentagon as deputy to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld planned to run the department with a strong hand, leaving Wolfowitz free to think. With the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as indirect justification, he built the strategic rationale for invading Iraq.