Remembering Richard Holbrooke


U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke
died on Monday after suffering from a torn aorta two days earlier. The
Wall Street Journal calls
him “among the State Department’s most successful and high-profile
diplomats over the past four decades.” The most celebrated of Holbrooke’s
many diplomatic accomplishments is without question his brokering of the
1995 Dayton Peace Accords, ending the Bosnia war. Holbrooke also wrote
two chapters of the Pentagon Papers, and helped found Foreign Policy
Magazine in 1972.

As an adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008
president campaign, he was widely expected to become Secretary of State
should she win. After Barack Obama won and appointed Clinton to State,
Holbrooke took on a lead diplomatic role in the Afghanistan and Pakistan
conflict. The Washington Post reports that Holbrooke last words, spoken
as he underwent sedation to his Pakistani surgeon, were “You’ve got to
stop this war in Afghanistan.” Here are remembrances and, below that, a
handful of the seminal writings about Richard Holbrooke and by Richard
Holbrooke.

Mr. Holbrooke was virtually a literary creation–the sort of man who
seemed to read everything, know everybody and do everything. He counted
legions of people as ‘close friends,’ and all of them had ‘Holbrooke
stories’ about his excesses, his vanities, his jealousies and his
enormous capacity to keep their friendship and his own sense of humor.
… Mr. Holbrooke’s many assets–intellectual acuity, negotiating
skills, experience working on some of the toughest foreign policy
problems of his generation–were sometimes also counted as liabilities.
To some, his brilliance translated as arrogance, his experience
interpreted as know-it-all-ism.

  • ‘A Tremendous Force’  The Atlantic’s James Fallows calls him
    “a tremendous force, overall for the betterment of American interests
    and the world’s.” He write:, “Everyone who knows him will find tactful
    ways of saying that Dick Holbrooke could be an outrageous, scheming,
    quintuple-chess-game-playing, highly self-regarding figure. But he was
    also unquestionably talented enough, public spirited enough, dedicated
    enough, and passionate enough to have people willingly embrace the whole
    package of his room-filling self.”
  • Greatest of His Generation  Foreign Policy’s David Rothkopf writes that
    “some, no doubt, will remember him as the greatest American foreign
    policy practitioner of his generation. Some may not. But those who do
    not will be wrong. He was among the very brightest lights of a
    generation that was drawn to service by the call of John F. Kennedy and
    among the small elite group who learned their craft as aides to Henry
    Kissinger.” Rothkopf describes “an unmistakable sense of the loss of a
    great, wise man who will be sorely missed and who by departing with
    uncharacteristically bad timing has made the work of the world more than
    a little bit harder.”
  • Could He Have Solved Israel-Palestine?  “I’m finding it mind-boggling (as is Jim Fallows) that Richard
    Holbrooke has died,” The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg writes,
    “because he was not the sort of person who dies, or
    at least dies before he’s finished with what he needed to finish. There
    was too much will inside him to achieve, and he had not yet achieved
    what he needed to achieve.” He suggests Holbrooke, had he lived on,
    could have been “the only American who could birth a Palestinian state
    and bring peace to the Middle East.”

Selected Profiles of Richard Holbrooke:

Selected Articles by Richard Holbrooke:

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