Steven Weisman offers us an all-too-sympathetic Paul Wolfowitz retrospective:
Now, as friends and critics sort through the wreckage of Mr. Wolfowitz’s bank career, they wonder if it was doomed from the outset. Supporters say he arrived at the bank, a citadel of liberalism, from a four-year stint at the Pentagon, where he was an early champion of going to war with Iraq and left bearing its stigma. [...] But others say Mr. Wolfowitz repeated the mistakes he had made at the Pentagon: adopting a single-minded position on certain matters, refusing to entertain alternative views, marginalizing dissenters.
Look, I have no doubt Wolfowitz was doomed from the state. But to comprehend his doomed-ness and what to make of it, one needs to step back. Why was he given the job in the first place? He had no obviously qualifications for it. He's read some neoliberal political commentary about the need for international development strategies to focus more on good governance. I've read that stuff, too. As have a lot of people. It's convincing stuff. But, genuinely, folks who've read it are a dime a dozen in this town. Do I get to run the World Bank? No. Wolfowitz had no genuine expertise in Africa, in development policy, in economics, in governance, or in any of the relevant fields.
What he did have, that I lacked, was a track-record as a high-level political employee. It was a track-record marked by . . . spectacular failure. Failure so spectacular that George W. Bush decided Wolfowitz needed to be fired from his job because he was so incredibly bad at it. In order to fire him while minimizing feather-rumpling, he was dumped on the Bank, even though he had no relevant expertise and a long track-record of failure (think Team B) in his previous work. So, yes, he was doomed from the start. Boo-hoo.