According to the Financial Times, Paul Wolfowitz isn’t sending in the World Banks tank divisions to conquer Third World countries after all, as many feared, and in fact, he’s become quite the feminist:
An important part of this agenda is a focus on what the bank can do to help empower women in developing countries. Education and healthcare will remain priorities for the bank, but Wolfowitz is likely to focus its efforts on girls and women. “The role of women is something that has hit me very hard pretty much since my time in Indonesia, where you have a reasonably liberated female population in a predominantly Muslim country. And you can see that the country as a whole is the better off for it… It seems to me that it is an almost arithmetic equation that if half of the population is held back, then your development is going to be held back.”
Bank insiders say his thinking on this issue may have been influenced by Shaha Riza, a bank employee, Middle East expert and specialist on gender issues, with whom the divorced Wolfowitz has had a relationship for the past couple of years. “I have sympathy for someone who says that the Swedish model or the American model of relatively far-advanced feminism is not necessarily something that even women of other countries want,” he says. “But there is a point at which it is more than just a cultural thing and that is a fundamental violation of human rights and a fundamental denial of equality of opportunity, and when you do deny equal opportunity you are trying to run a race with one leg tied, sort of. And often your best leg.”
Maybe he could start by having a word with Pakistani president Perez Musharraf.
Interestingly, the FT story claims that Wolfowitz could have had the position of UN Ambassador if he had wanted it. Oddly enough, I can’t think of two people more different in temperament than Wolfowitz and the guy who eventually got the job, John Bolton. At the very least, the former actually believes that international institutions can be useful; the latter, for all intents and purposes, does not. But that just lends credence to the theory that Bolton got kicked over to the UN not because the Bush administration wanted someone to tear down the institution, but just because Condoleeza Rice wanted him out of the State Department. At any rate, Bolton seems to be behaving himself at the UN…