Obama has bungled the World Bank succession, I argue in a new column for Bloomberg. The choice has had a better press than it deserves.
The prevailing view is that Kim is a smart solution to a tricky little problem: How to maintain a strong U.S. role in the bank while bowing to the growing economic might of developing nations such as China.
I don't think so.
First and foremost, the appointment of Kim, a U.S. citizen, would perpetuate the indefensible custom by which an American heads the World Bank and a European runs the International Monetary Fund. Until Kim's name was put forward, there was wide agreement that the job calls for a highly qualified non- American. The strength of sentiment against the traditional stitch-up is what made the nomination to succeed Robert Zoellick, who steps down from the bank this summer, more awkward for the White House than usual.
The unstated position of those who praise the choice seems to be that Kim isn't entirely American, that his Asian name makes him the next best thing to a foreigner. How clever: The White House gets to appoint both an American, thus preserving its feudal privilege, and a non-American, thus being an enlightened world citizen. The core of this reasoning is the dumbest kind of racism. So far as I know, the U.S. has just one class of citizenship. Kim is an American.
Let's remind ourselves, as we apparently need to, why the current arrangement is wrong...