June 1, 2005
By Nile Gardiner, Ph.D. and Nile Gardiner Ph.D.
Few policy makers in recent American history have been as
controversial on the world stage as Paul Wolfowitz, the newly
elected President of the World Bank. For critics of Bush
Administration foreign policy, Wolfowitz is the embodiment of a new
American imperialism, supposedly driven by an elite cabal of
Washington neo-conservatives. A chief architect of the Iraq war and
the war on terror, Wolfowitz is portrayed by his opponents as the
arch warmonger, driven by a ruthless desire to project U.S. power
across the globe, as part of a unilateralist American attempt to
impose its values on the world.
The announcement that Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense
under Donald Rumsfeld, was heading to the World Bank, provoked
outrage in many quarters, in Europe and the United States.
Britain's former international development secretary, Clare Short,
was quick to describe the nomination as little more than President
Bush showing a symbolic "two fingers to the world." The Financial
Times described Wolfowitz as "a poor choice for the World Bank"
who "will be seen as just another U.S. proconsul... to put the
unilateralist architect of the Iraq war in charge of the world's
multilateral development agency is, many must think, to put a fox
in charge of the chicken coop." In the words of The
Economist, "his appointment tells the world that Mr. Bush wants
to capture the World Bank and make it an arm of American foreign
policy." In a classic case of understatement,
Germany's development minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul dryly
remarked that "we are not exactly seeing floods of enthusiasm
across old Europe."
The response from liberal elites in Washington and New York was
just as scathing. The New York Times called the
Wolfowitz nomination "a slap at the international community, which
widely deplored the invasion and the snubbing of the United Nations
that accompanied it." Robert Stiglitz, the American Nobel
laureate and former chief economist of the World Bank described it
as "either an act of provocation or an act so insensitive as to
look like provocation" that "could bring street protests and
violence across the developing world."
Wolfowitz's World View
Perhaps no figure has been more influential in shaping the
foreign policy outlook of President Bush than Paul Wolfowitz.
Wolfowitz is driven by a clear-cut black and white
single-mindedness, not dissimilar to that of some of the great
figures of modern times, such as Winston Churchill or Margaret
Thatcher. It is individuals that largely shape history, not social
movements, and Wolfowitz's role in shaping the future direction of
American strategic thinking has been pivotal.
The imprint of Wolfowitz's ideas was stamped indelibly on Bush's
inaugural speech marking the beginning of his second term of
office. It was one of the most important speeches given by an
American president since the Second World War, and probably the
most idealistic. The speech drew heavily from themes and ideas that
Wolfowitz had advanced for many years - principally the United
States must play an aggressive, proactive role in advancing freedom
and democracy on the world stage.
"There is only one force of history" stated President Bush,
"that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the
pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and
tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom… the
survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success
of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is
the expansion of freedom in all the world." The President's speech
was a powerful enunciation of a new, idealistic vision for a
muscular American foreign policy, whose ultimate goal is the defeat
of tyranny across the world:
America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are
now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that
every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and
matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven
and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative
of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no
one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission
that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our
fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security,
and the calling of our time. So it is the policy of the United
States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and
institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of
ending tyranny in our world.
The President's vision owes a significant debt to Paul
Wolfowitz. What Bush was describing was what Wolfowitz has called
America's "mantle of responsibility", the belief that America's
own freedom and destiny is intertwined with her ability to project
liberty and freedom on a world canvas. Bush's speech combined two
main themes that have dominated the thinking of his former Deputy
Secretary of Defense: the need to confront totalitarianism, and the
belief that democracy can flourish in the Middle East.
The holocaust, the evils of Nazism and Communism, and the perils
of appeasement all loom large in the background to Wolfowitz's
thinking. His own tragic family history is testament to the horrors
of totalitarianism in the 20th Century. Wolfowitz is the
son of a Polish immigrant, whose extended family was largely
exterminated in the Nazi death camps of the 1940s. In a speech at
the United Nations to mark the 60th anniversary of the
liberation of the Nazi camps, Wolfowitz reminded his audience that
"if there is one thing the world has learned, it is that peaceful
nations cannot close their eyes or sit idly by in the face of
For Wolfowitz, the U.S.-led war on terror is a continuation of
the epic battle between good and evil, democracy and
totalitarianism, the forces of freedom and the defenders of
barbarism. The liberation of Iraq was a powerful symbol of
America's determination to confront and defeat evil, bringing to an
end what Wolfowitz called an "era of systematic savagery".
Wolfowitz has compared the terrorists in Iraq, led by Al Qaeda
mastermind Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi to the Nazis. Referring to a letter
by Zarqawi to his associates in Afghanistan, Wolfowitz observed
that "in the contempt he displays in that long letter for whole
groups of human beings, including Muslim Kurds and Muslim Shia,
Zarqawi calls to mind the racism of the Nazis. And his
glorification of death and violence also calls to mind the
tyrannical movements of the last century. While he claims a mantle
of religion, his rhetoric recalls the death's head that Hitler's SS
proudly displayed on their uniforms."
This was a theme that President Bush was to build upon in his
2005 State of the Union address, where he spoke of the desire of
Zarqawi and his allies to "impose and expand an empire of
oppression, in which a tiny group of brutal, self-appointed rulers
control every aspect of every life."
The Broader Middle East Initiative, launched by the White House
in November 2003, owes much to the long-term strategic thinking of
Mr. Wolfowitz. The Middle East Initiative, which has become a
central plank of the Bush Administration's foreign policy, calls
for the United States to advance freedom and democracy across the
Arab world, a cause which Wolfowitz had championed long before it
Strongly influenced by his time as US ambassador to Indonesia
under Reagan, Wolfowitz has been a forceful advocate of the idea of
reaching out to moderate Muslims across the Middle East and Asia,
and sowing the seeds of democracy in the Islamic world. A speaker
of Arabic, Wolfowitz has met frequently with Arab intellectuals and
political leaders who share his vision of transforming the
political culture of Muslim countries. He has called on Muslims to
join the ideological war against terrorism, which "must be fought
most emphatically in the Muslim world itself, and by Muslims." The
United States, observes Wolfowitz, "must become more attentive to
the moderate voices in the Muslim world. For the better we are at
encouraging them, the more effective we can be."
Wolfowitz passionately rejects the notion that the West is
engaged in a clash of civilizations with Islam. "There is no war
between the West and Islam", Wolfowitz told students at the
Georgetown School of Foreign Service:
"It is a false distinction - whether we are talking about the
Koran, the Bible, or the Geneva Conventions, there is a common,
universal regard for human life. There are fundamental moral
protections for human rights and the innocent. These extremists
kill without reservation, corrupt the hopeless with false promises
that suicide and murder are the path to heaven, and they use holy
places, orphanages, and hospitals and military platforms. They are
only a small minority of the more than one billion Muslims in the
world. And they have not only declared war against Islam, but
against the civilized world."
By nature an optimist, and by conviction an idealist, Wolfowitz
is convinced that the war on terror will unite, rather than divide,
the Christian and Muslim worlds. His views on how the West and East
must work together to defeat terrorism are encapsulated in his
speech to the World Affairs Council in 2002, just eight months
after the events of September 11:
"To win the war against terrorism and, in so doing, help
share a more peaceful world, we must speak to the hundreds of
millions of moderate and tolerant people in the Muslim world,
regardless of where they live, who aspire to enjoy the blessings of
freedom and democracy and free enterprise. These are sometimes
described as "Western values", but, in fact, they are universal. We
need to recognize that the terrorists target not only us but their
fellow Muslims, upon whom they aim to impose a medieval, intolerant
and tyrannical way of life. Those hundreds of millions of Muslims
who aspire to the freedom and prosperity that Americans enjoy are,
in many cases, on the frontlines of the struggle against
"Freedom", wrote Paul Wolfowitz, "is the glue of the
world's strongest alliances, and it is also the solvent that has
dissolved tyrannical rule."It of course remains
to be seen whether Wolfowitz's grand vision of a Middle East
transformed, embracing western-style liberal democracy, will
ultimately become a reality. The early omens however are
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians turned out to vote to
elect a new president in January 2005, burying the legacy of
hopeless despair and violence which had been the hallmark of the
Yasser Arafat era. Elections for the Palestinian Legislative
Council will be held in July. Saudi Arabia, an absolutist monarchy,
held its first regional local government elections in 40 years this
February, in a small but symbolically significant step toward
democratization. Huge popular demonstrations in Lebanon forced the
resignation of the pro-Damascus government in Beirut, and compelled
the Syrians to withdraw their troops after a 29-year
The birth of democracy in Iraq however will surely be
Wolfowitz's lasing legacy. While terrorists continue to wage a
brutal but ultimately futile campaign against freedom in Iraq,
Saddam Hussein faces trial for his horrific crimes against the
Iraqi people. Gone are the torture rooms and the killing fields of
one of the most barbaric regimes of modern times.
Despite the continuing violence and sectarian tensions in Iraq,
we are witnessing the slow and bloody emergence of the Middle
East's first liberal democracy, with a constitutional commitment to
the rule of law, religious freedom, equality of opportunity, and
individual liberty. Even the most cynical critics of the
U.S./British decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power could not
fail to have been moved by television images of ordinary Iraqis
defying the will of the terrorists who had threatened to kill them,
turning out in huge numbers to vote in most cases for the first
time in their lives. In the face of huge intimidation, 8.5 million
Iraqis voted in the February 2005 election for the Iraqi
transitional parliament, representing 58% of the registered
The success of the Iraqi elections was a staggering testament to
the desire for freedom among the Iraqi people, and should be seen
as one of the greatest achievements of U.S. foreign policy in the
post Cold War-era. It was a powerful symbol of the winds of change
that are now blowing through the Middle East, a revolution which
owes no small part to Paul Wolfowitz.
Nile Gardiner Ph.D.
is Fellow in Anglo-American Security Policy at the Heritage
Foundation in Washington, D.C. He has written extensively on
American foreign policy and transatlantic relations, and served as
an aide to Lady Thatcher from 2000 to 2002.
First appeared in the German in Internationale Politik
Few policy makers in recent American history have been as controversial on the world stage as Paul Wolfowitz, the newly elected President of the World Bank. For critics of Bush Administration foreign policy, Wolfowitz is the embodiment of a new American imperialism, supposedly driven by an elite cabal of Washington neo-conservatives.
Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.
Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
Read More >>
Request an interview >>
Please complete the following form to request an interview with a Heritage expert.
Please note that all fields must be completed.
Nile Gardiner Ph.D.
Read More >>
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 450,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute,
with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in
February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free
enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national
defense. Read More
© 2014, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973