Remembering Richard Holbrooke

The eulogies, his best writing, and the best writing about him

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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:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.