IMF plays a crucial role in the US crusade to spread "market
democracy" around the world. Countries get into financial
trouble and the boys from the IMF fly in and offer loans
in exchange for their following certain prescribed policies.
These policies cutting government services, privatization,
closing down insolvent banks and businesses, devaluing the
currency, reducing imports are prescribed by Washington.
Those who do not follow US diktats like Indonesia in 1998 soon
find themselves in even worse trouble than before. Through
the offices of the IMF the United States acquires client-states
all over the world. For some reason, however, the job of
IMF chief has traditionally gone to a European. Chancellor
Schroeder wanted a German. And the European Union went along
with his choice of Koch-Weser, a Deputy Finance Minister.
seemed to be going fine. Suddenly, the United States let
it be known that Koch-Weser was unacceptable. What’s wrong
with him? According
to White House spokesman Joe Lockhart, Koch-Weser lacked
the "the criteria for a strong candidate of maximum
stature who is able to command broad support from around
the world." This was gobbledygook but strange
gobbledygook. Koch-Weser had worked at the World Bank for
26 years and appeared to have built up a solid reputation.
As expected, official government outlets the US media,
in other words were soon parroting the Administration
line. According to the New York Times, Koch-Weser
was "genial" but "lacked the gravitas and
financial expertise to lead the IMF….The problem for fellow
Europeans, and later for Americans, was that Germany ignored
some early signs of unease…and started the nation’s most
aggressive diplomatic campaign in years." You can see
where this argument is going. No one will believe that a
man who had spent so many years at the World Bank lacks
"gravitas" or "financial expertise."
So out comes the old chestnut. It’s those beastly Germans
with their "aggressive" diplomacy! And just in
case you might have thought that the United States was throwing
its weight around, the Times assures us that the
Administration’s opposition came only after much agonized
debate. "Sensing a confrontation with Germany might
be inevitable, [National Security Adviser Samuel] Berger
and [National Economic Adviser Gene] Sperling began doing
their own research on Mr. Koch-Weser. If they were going
to risk German ire, they wanted to be certain that Treasury’s
opinion of Mr. Koch-Weser was right…Both Mr. Sperling and
Mr. Berger ended up agreeing with the Treasury view."
Well, that’s a relief.
week, a straw poll of the 24 IMF directors gave Koch-Weser
43 percent of the vote. His nearest rival, Stanley Fischer,
an American, got 12 percent and Eisuke Sakakibara, Japan’s
candidate got 9 percent. The United States abstained from
the voting. At the IMF the United States has 19 percent
of the votes; the European Union 37 percent. The vote was
a stalemate. As EU Commission President Romano Prodi put
it: "It’s clear that nobody can be named against the
wishes of the United States any more than he or she could
against that of the Europeans….We’re in a situation of reciprocal
before the vote, Bill Clinton declared that he was "completely
committed to having a European head of the IMF." Yet,
a few days earlier, the
Times had been putting out a very different story.
"Stanley Fischer, the No. 2 official at the fund,"
explained the paper of record, "has demonstrated the
skill to head the fund….But the Clinton Administration seems
likely to withhold support from him, at least initially,
fearing that Europe might cripple the fund rather than see
leadership pass to an American." Those infantile Europeans!
When will they stop with these tantrums? As the report went
on, the Times let the cat out of the bag: "Fischer…has
had a long and close relationship with Treasury Secretary
Lawrence H. Summers. Mr. Fischer once taught Mr. Summers
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Some Europeans
think that the United States secretly supports Mr. Fischer,
a view Clinton Administration officials dismiss as a conspiracy
theory with no grounding in reality."
conspiracy theories are very much grounded in reality. There
is no question the United States is anxious to get its man
in at the IMF. Even if in the end a European is appointed,
the Americans will have made their point. The next head
of the IMF has to follow Washington’s orders, not those
of Brussels or Berlin. The Europeans are amazingly slow
on the uptake. They still do not seem to understand that
the United States gets to decide most things in today’s
world. The United States was not going to delegate to the
Germans the task of finding a chief for the IMF. The Europeans
have only themselves to blame. Having failed to seize the
opportunity to dissolve NATO at the end of the Cold War,
they now find themselves at the mercy of America’s bullying.
Europeans did not want to bomb Yugoslavia. But they went
along with it. They did not want to expand NATO right up
to Russia’s doorstep. But they went along with it. The Europeans
lost their independence when they became intoxicated by
the moralistic imperialism brewed in Washington. Things
could have been different. In these days of USA uber
alles hubris, it is hard to recall how despondent America’s
elite was back in 1989. The United States had just won the
Cold War. Yet it had emerged empty-handed. Americans had
subsidized Western Europe’s "welfare state" and
now those wimpy "freeloaders" were creating a
protectionist European Community that would keep America’s
goods out. Eastern Europe and Russia would probably join
the Community. And the United States would be left with
Latin America. And who wants that?
had come to an end. The United States no longer had any
role to play in the world. And then a miracle happened.
War broke out in Yugoslavia. Americans seized on it with
joy. With utter cynicism, they exploited and exacerbated
the conflict so as to demonstrate that Europe could not
get by without America. They ceaselessly harangued Europeans
about their alleged failure to stop "genocide."
Bombing was needed and only NATO could do it. The Europeans
argued that force would simply make things worse. Eventually,
they were worn down by American relentlessness In 1995 the
United States got what it wanted: the chance to bomb Bosnia’s
Serbs. The Dayton Agreement followed. Such a deal could
have been achieved years earlier. Yet somehow the United
States managed to persuade everyone that, thanks to the
bombing, it had pulled off a spectacular coup
that moment on, the United States never looked back. It
was itching to bomb again. Last year there was Kosovo. This
year it will be something else. The United States had found
a role. It would lead a new NATO, one that was ready to
intervene everywhere. The Europeans may protest feebly.
But, having agreed to the principle of using NATO out of
area, they were not in a good position to raise objections.
a press conference in Brussels in December 1998, the
hideous harridan used typical dishonesty in ridiculing European
fears about the "new" NATO: "We are not trying
to get NATO to go global. That is not our interest."
So what are we doing? "What we want is for NATO to
be able to act in the area that it now acts in and also
to be able to have missions out of area that affect the
interests of NATO members." That’s clear enough. NATO
will not be global, except when it’s global. Albright was
her usual charming self when she addressed the North Atlantic
Council, the same month: "I know that there are those
who try to suggest that by assuming…new missions, or by
talking about common Euro-Atlantic interests beyond collective
defense, we are somehow tinkering with the original intent
of the North Atlantic Treaty. I’ve said it before; I will
repeat it again today: this is hogwash."
the Kosovo bombing just two weeks away the odious Strobe
Talbott mused on the "inescapable reality that
in this increasingly interdependent world of ours, we face
a more diverse and far-flung array of menaces to our safety
than we did 50 years ago." He hastened to reassure
his audience who might have been afraid of vast new and
dangerous commitments: "NATO’s missions and tasks must
be consistent with the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final
Act." Well, we know what happened to that noble intention.
the United States continues to be haunted by a nightmare.
What if 1989 returns? What if the Europeans realize that
they really do not need NATO, that they can get along very
well without constant US bullying and intervention? Every
day, American policymakers glance anxiously across the Atlantic
to check if the Europeans are not secretly plotting to dissolve
NATO. A little while ago, the Europeans started talking
of something called the European
Security and Defense Identity (ESDI). At the moment
it does not amount to much. But to America’s leaders it
looks like the Europeans are thinking about life without
the United States. The Clinton Administration's reaction
to this initiative has bordered on hysteria. "If ESDI
is misconceived, misunderstood or mishandled," spluttered
Talbott in one of his calmer moments, "it could create
the impression which could eventually lead to the
reality that a new, European-only alliance is being
born out of the old, trans-Atlantic one."
day, perhaps. In the meantime, the Europeans seem perfectly
happy to accept whatever indignity Washington metes out.
Any bets on whether the next IMF chief will be an American?