Lethal Bumblers

by Bill Bonner

The World Bank must be some kind of elephant burial ground for most ambitious of the world improvers.After a career of ruinous destruction, they lumber over to the plush offices of the World Bank, lie down, and die.

We have been studying the life and times of Robert McNamara – for our new book, a sequel to “Financial Reckoning Day.”We are, of course, still waiting for our financial reckoning day to come along.But in the meantime, we might have a little fun with the former Secretary of Defense.What distinguished Mr. McNamara and his time in office was his insistence that the world would be a better place if people in Vietnam lived with the sort of government he approved of…rather than the sort of government they might end up with if left to their own devices.

As we now know, McNamara’s war in Vietnam turned into a sordid debacle, just as Charles de Gaulle had said it would be.But as late as March of 1965 – exactly 40 years ago this month – it still looked as though the United States might meddle in Southeast Asia successfully.Later, after 58,000 Americans – and 3 million Vietnamese – were dead, Mr. McNamara left the defense department for the World Bank.The world improver turned from meddling in military affairs to meddling in financial ones, with similarly disastrous, but much less deadly, results.

Now, our meddler du jour, Paul Wolfowitz, is following in McNamara’s well-trod tracks.“Wolfowitz was one of the few Republicans to support Bill Clinton’s interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo,” says an article in the International Herald Tribune.He seems to never have met an intervention he didn’t like.In Iraq, he expected the locals to throw flowers on the ground in front of U.S. invaders.Oil revenues would finance the whole thing, he told us.Naturally, and in keeping with the tradition of Robert McNamara, he was wrong.But wisely, he is getting out of Iraq while the getting is good…and moving on to the World Bank.We hope we have seen the last of him.

Postscript:Many years after the end of the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara looked back and saw that he had made a mistake.He had miscalculated.He had “missed opportunities” to settle the Vietnam question without bloodshed.But it was an honest error, he insisted.Given the information he had at the time, killing millions of people really did seem like it would make the world a better place, he says.

What happens to these guys, we ask ourselves?Does Hell have no corner mean enough for these well-intentioned, lethal bumblers?