Wolfowitz: old Europe's new cold war

Paul Wolfowitz’s forced resignation from the World Bank marks the open recognition — equivalent to Churchill’s 1946 “Iron Curtain” speech — of a new kind of Cold War, this time between America and Europe’s ruling elites.

The charges that Mr. Wolfowitz improperly advanced his girlfriend’s career were always risible. Mr. Wolfowitz acted with the full knowledge and approval of World Bank officialdom. But the facts never mattered; the goal was to rid the Bank of a president making too many waves with his anticorruption agenda, and who had brought with him too many American staffers and attitudes. An honest Bank board would have ended Thursday’s statement, which cleared Mr. Wolfowitz of ethical wrongdoing and announced his resignation, with a triumphant “Yankee Go Home” — except, of course, that the Bank is actually based in the U.S., which also provides the lion’s share of its budget.

European officials, who detest Mr. Wolfowitz as one of the “neocons” who supposedly launched the Iraq war, are naturally gleeful. Witness German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul’s early call for his resignation, and her statement that he would not be welcome at today’s World Bank meeting on African aid in Berlin. Upon hearing of Mr. Wolfowitz’s resignation, “Red Heidi,” as the development minister is known in Germany for the color of her hair that matches her political views, said the Continent’s unified action against Mr. Wolfowitz “has strengthened Europe’s position in the World Bank.” Or take the European Parliament, which called for Mr. Wolfowitz’s dismissal before he even had a chance to present his defense during an internal World Bank probe. The ad hoc committee of the Bank’s board, which investigated Mr. Wolfowitz’s behavior and ultimately became the leading force for his ouster, featured four European officials out of seven members.

What is remarkable about all of this is not that Europe’s elites detest Paul Wolfowitz, George W. Bush, and their policies. That much has been clear for many years. Rather, what is striking is that — acting upon this animus — the Europeans chose to move boldly and aggressively against an American nominee running a multilateral institution on the flimsiest of pretexts. The fact that the Bush Administration was caught by surprise, believing until the last minute that the process would be fair and therefore exonerate Mr. Wolfowitz, underscores how unprecedented was Europe’s conduct.

There are, however, a few developments that Europe’s rulers might like to consider while nursing their celebratory hangovers.

As British Prime Minister Tony Blair keeps trying to explain, there is in the U.S. a strong urge toward global disengagement. …

This trend should worry Europeans. For most of the last century, American foreign policy was focused on Europe. The U.S. defended the Continent because of shared common interests and values. The modern European model of social democracy was possible only because U.S. security guarantees allowed Europe’s great powers to effectively disarm. American interests, however, are changing. Europe is no longer as important, and America is no longer as European, as when the U.S. rescued their Allies in two world wars.

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