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For Washington Insider, Job Was an Uneasy Fit

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 18, 2007

As he prepared to assume the World Bank presidency in the spring of 2005, Paul D. Wolfowitz reached out to the bank's skeptical senior managers. In informal meetings, he took copious notes and asked respectful questions. He knew they had doubts about him, Wolfowitz said, not least because of his role in designing the Iraq war. But he told them that he was committed to the bank's goal of reducing world poverty, that he would learn from them and rely on their guidance.

According to several attendees, they were won over by his humility. "I went back and reported to my staff that I didn't see any horns," recalled one senior official. "He was personable, charming, intelligent, and said all the right things. None of which he lived up to."

Yesterday, two years later, Wolfowitz resigned from the World Bank, effective June 30. He has become a virtual pariah, forced out by the bank's executive board for ethics violations and reviled by much of the staff as an arrogant intellectual who cared more about his ideas and image than about the institution or its customers.

Some do not think he deserved this. The Wall Street Journal editorial page has said craven European governments opposed Wolfowitz's efforts to cleanse a corrupt and hidebound institution. Many in the Bush administration consider his ouster unfair payback-by-proxy for the Iraq war.

But others, including some friends and admirers, saw the seeds of Wolfowitz's demise in the arc of his 34-year Washington career -- a steady rise through the State Department and the Pentagon, interrupted only to become dean of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies during the Clinton years. Throughout, Wolfowitz built a reputation as a foreign policy iconoclast, a mild-mannered intellectual with a steely ideological core, and an inept manager.

Wolfowitz, they concluded, should never have been in charge of a multinational institution owned by more than 180 governments and with 10,000 employees.

"At the World Bank, you're not as well protected" as in government, said Fred Ikle, a veteran national security official who brought Wolfowitz to the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in 1973. "You don't have somebody above you who will endorse what you want to do."

Another former colleague who served with Wolfowitz in four administrations said that "the kinds of problems he got into were predictable for anybody who really knew Paul." Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the source voiced admiration for his intellect but said Wolfowitz "couldn't run a two-car funeral."

The immediate cause of Wolfowitz's resignation was a pay deal he ordered for Shaha Riza, a bank employee with whom he was romantically involved. But the public vitriol that poured from the bank once his fall began in late March with revelations about the deal underscored wider problems.

Far from respecting the bank, member governments and staffers charged, Wolfowitz surrounded himself with doctrinaire former White House and Republican officials and gave them wide authority. He altered long-standing policies and imposed new ones without consulting the staff or member governments. He risked the bank's credibility and the future of the poor countries it serves.

A turning point came last month when Wolfowitz's handpicked managing director, New Zealander Graeme Wheeler, told him he should resign for the good of the institution. In a signed letter to the Financial Times, more than three dozen former top bank officials described his signature anti-corruption initiative as "implemented with no consultation, and little transparency or apparent consistency." Employees wore blue ribbons supporting "good governance," a signal that they wanted Wolfowitz to go.

Proof of Wolfowitz's estrangement from the bank came when he hired a famously aggressive lawyer to fight for his job and warned that if he were fired, the bank's reputation would fall along with his own.

"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.

At Odds With the Bank

"Everyone who has been appointed president of the World Bank knew almost nothing about the bank, its business and its operations," said Moisés Naím, the former executive director of the bank who is editor of Foreign Policy magazine.

As member governments grumbled their displeasure at Wolfowitz's appointment by Bush, bureaucratic expectations were perhaps lower than usual. Wolfowitz's outreach was encouraging, but it came with signs that eventually became part of the indictment of his leadership.

Beyond the dispute over Riza, the negative stories about Wolfowitz now flowing from the bank focus on his travel and perceived self-promotion, his distance from the staff and his unilateral decision-making.

Everyone agreed with Wolfowitz's emphasis on stopping corruption in the governments that received World Bank loans. But when Wolfowitz unilaterally canceled loans in Cambodia, Congo Republic, India, Kenya and other countries on corruption grounds, the executive board ordered him to come up with a coherent policy -- and then rejected his proposals.

Wolfowitz's emphasis on increasing the World Bank footprint in Iraq was a contentious subject with staff members who argued that Iraq was dangerous and, because of its oil reserves, too rich for lending.

Although he indicated at the start that he planned to limit his travel, Wolfowitz spent much time on the road. One senior bank official expressed horror at Wolfowitz's suggestion, when logistics for an Africa trip seemed troublesome, that he would simply hop on a Defense Department plane.

"Several of us said: 'Uh, we don't think so. Actually, this is an international institution,' " the official recalled. "It was a kind of odd blindness that took people aback."

Many staffers expressed outrage at the media entourage that Wolfowitz brought along on his travels with the apparent purpose of raising his profile on the institutional Web site. Kevin Kellems, who joined Wolfowitz at the bank by way of Vice President Cheney's office, managed his public persona.

Kellems's unpopularity with bank staff and managers, however, paled beside that of Robin Cleveland, a former White House Office of Management and Budget national security official brought in by Wolfowitz as a "senior counselor." He delegated much of his managerial authority to her. It was Cleveland -- with no international development experience and a demeanor widely considered abrasive -- who often met with senior staffers on behalf of Wolfowitz.

In his statement to the bank board on the Riza deal earlier this month, Wolfowitz seemed to recognize that "what this is really about" was "my leadership and management style." He said that "there are some significant things that I need to change in order to regain the trust of the staff." He had "relied too long on advisers who came in with me from the outside."

Wolfowitz acknowledged the need for "more direct and frequent engagement with staff on substance," he said, adding: "I truly believe I can do much better."

Staff writers Rick Atkinson, Walter Pincus and Thomas E. Ricks and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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