None of George Bush's appointments has aroused more outrage. None will do more good. As they recover the use of vocal cords paralysed by shock, the liberal/lefties who detest the thought of Paul Wolfowitz running the World Bank are claiming that he is primarily interested in America's security. They have a point. That is why he is such splendid news for the world's poor.
Paul Wolfowitz is an intellectual and an idealist. He is not a conservative in any European sense of the word. He does not believe in original sin. He thinks that most of the sin in the world arises from bad government. He also refuses to be sceptical about progress. If you want men to progress, he would say, you only have to make them free.
This puts him in absolute disagreement with many of those who have been running the world's foreign aid industry. Though neither side would be happy to acknowledge it, old European conservatives and the aid wallahs have far more in common with each other than either does with Paul Wolfowitz. The conservatives do not believe in progress. The aid commissars try to ensure that it never happens.
If one examines the statements of Christian Aid, Oxfam, Cafod and their EU equivalents, there is an inescapable conclusion. In the most benign, paternal and unconscious fashion, these people are racialists. Implicit in their views is the assumption that Arabs and Africans are merely children of a larger growth.
A couple of generations ago, when it was proposed to equip miners' homes with baths, there were those who protested that this was pointless. They would only use the bath to store coal. We now hear variants of the coal-in-the-bath disparagement over votes for Arabs and free-market economics for Africans. A lot of western liberals who would be horrified to be accused of patronising anyone from the Third World are in fact patronising everyone.
Mr Wolfowitz would never accept that anyone should be condemned by history - let alone by race or religion - to an inferior destiny. He believes that all mankind is entitled to the same opportunities as are now enjoyed by the inhabitants of the advanced West. He also believes that this is in America's interests. The US's security is bound up with the progress of the rest of the world.
The al-Qa'ida high command excepted, no one was less surprised by 11 September than Paul Wolfowitz. For a number of years, he had been devoting his intellectual powers to the dangers emanating from failed states. He urged successive presidents to remove Saddam Hussein, but he knew that the problem did not end there.
After the twin towers, when other members of the Bush administration were asking why so many people in the Middle East hated the US, Mr Wolfowitz had the answer. He told them that in the average Middle Eastern failed state, 60 per cent of the population was under 24. There are millions of young men with little hope of a decent life, subsisting on pitta bread and dates, in search of a cause to give meaning to their existence. They find it in fanaticism; in mullahs who tell them that if they are in misery, the blame lies with the Jews, the Christians, and above all with the Americans. Nurtured on dreams, hate and violence, their dreams turn into our nightmares.
After 11 September, as President Bush expanded his response from an instant riposte to terror and death to a geopolitical reassessment of the entire Middle East, Paul Wolfowitz was an important counsellor. He is one of the authors of the evolving Bush doctrine, which this column has summarised as "leave no state behind''.
Globalisation assists terrorists as well as traders. During the Renaissance, map-makers amused themselves by peopling the unknown centre of Africa with drawings of monsters. Today, the monsters can hijack a plane. A state left behind in failure is the carrion on which terrorism can feed; the swamp breeding the plagues which could infect us all.
In the West, we know what works: the rule of law, free markets, democracy. Yet we have spent decades pouring hundreds of billions of aid into countries without that basic infrastructure. As a result, we have been pouring water into leaky buckets - and Swiss bank accounts.
The late Peter Bauer often said that foreign aid was a subsidy from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. Throughout the advanced world, government aid departments have gone to great expense to prove him right.
This does not mean that all aid should be suspended until African countries reach western standards. It does mean that aid should be made conditional on improvement. That is now the World Bank's philosophy. The World Bank staffers whom I have met are bright, dedicated and realistic. Given that their politics are almost always left-of-centre, they make a surprising amount of sense, and they are not naive. They want to help poor countries to climb out of poverty. They also know that the best form of help is self-help. If an African country is willing to get on its bike, the West should be happy to buy it a new pair of tyres. African governments that try to prevent their people from pedalling should be named, shamed, shunned and sanctioned.
That is where Paul Wolfowitz will find a valuable ally in John Bolton. Until the Wolfowitz appointment was announced, Mr Bolton, the new US ambassador to the UN, was even more hated by the international bien-pensantry. That is not his sole claim to our respect. Over the past four years, he has shown himself to be a formidable advocate of neoconservative principles and US interests (almost a tautology). It is alleged that Mr Bolton is not a team player. If so, he is now in the perfect role. As long as the UN team games are hypocrisy, corruption and sycophancy towards tyrants, those are not sports that any American should wish to play. John Bolton will talk truth to the misusers of power. That should aid Paul Wolfowitz's efforts.
Mr Wolfowitz will need a good chief of staff. By temperament, he is thoughtful and academic: less Wolfowitz than pussycatowitz. The "wolf'' is more appropriate to his predecessor, Jim Wolfensohn, who practises rule by rampage. On a quiet day, Mr Wolfensohn is a wasp trapped in a jam jar. On most other days, he is a swarm of killer bees. They may not realise it yet, but the able and committed employees of the World Bank have nothing to fear from Paul Wolfowitz, and will find it much less stressful to work for him.
Some of Mr Wolfowitz's critics have commented on the appropriateness of George Bush sending one of the planners of the Iraq war to take charge of the World Bank. The attempt at sarcasm is pitiful. An architect of Operation Enduring Freedom moves to an organisation committed to enduring development in order to underpin freedom: nothing could be more appropriate.
This decision also refutes those who claimed, and hoped, that second-term George Bush would be a more limited, even chastened figure, and that the neocons would be sent back to the think-tanks from which they should never have escaped. Paul Wolfowitz is indeed a one-man think-tank. His thoughts will now be at the service of those who most need them: the people of the world's failed states. The Wolfowitz appointment is in the spirit of the Marshall Plan and all the other generous initiatives over the past 60 years by the US to help less favoured nations.Reuse content