Richard Holbrooke, a Singular Man

By Jeffrey Goldberg

I'm finding it mind-boggling (as is Jim Fallows) that Richard Holbrooke has died, 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. The last time I spoke to him, a couple of months ago, I asked him if he would replace George Mitchell as the Middle East envoy when Mitchell inevitably stepped down. It always struck me that Holbrooke, with his titanic ego, his magnetism and his brute intelligence -- and also his conniving, man-of-the-bazaar qualities so unusual in an American -- would be the only American who could birth a Palestinian state and bring peace to the Middle East (Could you just imagine Bill Clinton as good cop and Holbrooke as bad? I could).  Holbrooke laughed off the question, but not really. There were challenges he needed to master before he mastered that one. He was not having great luck in Afghanistan, and he might very well have ultimately failed, but you have to ask yourself -- who else? Who else could do what he did? Who else is there? Richard Holbrooke will be missed, even -- especially -- by the people he drove mad.

Later on, I'll recount for you our conversations about his strange relationship with his Judaism, but for now, I will just express my sadness and condolences.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/12/richard-holbrooke-a-singular-man/67968/