A Diplomatic Tribute

Richard Holbrooke as Assistant Secretary of State in 1977 outside the Vietnamese Embassy in Paris

Holbrooke’s impeccable style is also evident. Yay for well dressed diplomats.

Holbrooke as diplomatic envoy to Af/Pak sits with a displaced man and his child in a refugee camp.

Read his body language here. I recall reading an article that talked about how Holbrooke was at ease walking into a refugee camp wrought with devastation and would often invite himself to sit down with displaced refugees in their tents to ask them about their lives in order to figure out in what capacity the United States could help them. I like this picture… it shows Holbrooke’s genuine interest and desire to help people. He doesn’t look like he’s the kind of guy who attempted to wield American superiority over others. He merely wanted to listen and do what he could to help others.

Well Dear Readers, this blog would not live up to its name if we did not cover the recent passing of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. He was a true American statesman, and his influence on foreign affairs in this country and his impact on the world stage should be noted by just how much his accomplishments have been talked about following his recent passing. I was watching Charlie Rose last night on TV, which is an excellent talk show by the way, in the style of the way television used to be done without all the ridiculous partisan crap that characterizes American media nowadays – anyway – there was a roundtable discussion about Holbrooke’s achievements, and I am very interested in reading the book Holbrooke published about his efforts to mediate the crisis in the Balkans which ended with his role in brokering the Daytona Peace Accords. Now, I haven’t studied the civil war in the Balkans in depth, but from what I do know, Holbrooke played a significant role in preventing the continued persecution and massacres of Bosnian Muslims during the conflict. It’s fair to say that because of his actions further death and destruction were avoided. Holbrooke represented, to the American foreign policy tradition, an idealization of the principles our foreign policy should be founded upon. He truly believed that America should be a force for good in the world, and that America has a duty and an obligation to fight for those individuals around the world who are at a disadvantage or are in need of help. His vision wasn’t messianic, as George Bush’s was. It was a pragmatic approach to international affairs that saw America as having the ability to improve the quality of relationships around the world. I really want to emphasize how realistic this man’s view of the world was. He didn’t attempt to idealize the world or say that the American system was right for everyone. He had no qualms about dealing with people who committed immoral acts. He was committed to restoring the art of diplomacy to its rightful place in America’s arsenal of tools. A point was made on Charlie Rose that Holbrooke was always talking about the militarization of American foreign policy, and given his initial placement with U.S. AID during the Vietnam War, this is not entirely surprising. He was probably more aware how seriously U.S. foreign policy had been coveted and dominated by the military than most people. I’ll leave it here for now and add some select quotes from some of the articles I’ve stumbled across. Apparently, his last words were to the effect of… “We’ve got to end this war in Afghanistan.” Yes, yes we do.

The New Yorker: The Envoy

If the Supreme Court had allowed the votes to be counted in 2000, then the Envoy, almost certainly, would have become the Secretary of State, and the next decade would have unfolded very differently. As it is, Holbrooke has left a stronger, more positive, more creative mark on history than all but a few of those who have held that post. He certainly did not die of a broken heart—Kati Marton saw to that—but it was surely the ghastly, impossible demands of his last, impossible assignment that brought on the rending of his aorta. He died for his country as surely as any soldier. And his deathbed words may turn out to be the most important he ever spoke.

The New Republic: Richard

The legend of his career, and the flamboyance of his person, has obscured a proper recognition of his commitments. Holbrooke was not only a student of power; he was also a creature of beliefs. What he believed in most of all, I think, was in the ability, and the duty, of the United States, by a variety of means, to better the world. He was, in his cast of mind, a realist, but his cast of mind was not his philosophy: this realist—the Democrats’ most accomplished Machiavellian—was always returning to first principles, to moral considerations, to the alleviation of human suffering and the spread of political liberty as goals of American statecraft.

Even in his most virulent criticism of what he regarded as America’s military mistakes abroad, there was not a trace of the temptation to surrender a high sense of America’s role in history. Isolationism disgusted him. He had a natural understanding, it was almost an attribute of his character, of the relationship between diplomacy and force. He had no illusions about the harshness of the world, and therefore about the toughness that is required for the creation of a world less harsh.

American interventionism, for him, was not just a policy; it was a way of existing responsibly in the world, the measure of a national (and personal) ideal, the real greatness of a great power.

I’ll save the best for last… here’s a 5 page article in The Washington Post that offers a glimpse into Holbrooke’s life. Worth reading.
The Washington Post: Richard Holbrooke Dies: Veteran U.S. Diplomat Brokered Daytona Peace Accords

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