Meet Richard Holbrooke's AfPak Successor: Marc Grossman

A little bit about the new special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan

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Later this week, Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her choice to replace Richard Holbrooke as the new special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan: Marc Grossman. Grossman's diplomatic career includes three years as the US Ambassador to Turkey, four years as the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and three years as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, bringing him to his current gig as Vice Chairman at The Cohen Group, a corporate leadership firm.

A quick look at Grossman's work in these previous roles and the stances he has taken on key issues may give us better insight into the man who would be Richard Holbrooke.

A Vision for the Middle East

In a 2008 op-ed for The German Marshall Fund, Grossman suggested applying the strategy used on the Warsaw Pact countries in the late 1990s to the Middle East. Grossman noted in the piece that the United Nations was able to convince the Soviet Union to adopt the UN's principles, including the universal declaration of human rights, by pointing out that the Soviet's own, unused, constitution included mentions of the same freedoms. "Official rhetoric in Iran and many Arab states refer to the protection of human rights and to the UN Charter," Grossman said, so "why not demand in a Middle East Final Act that they live up to their rhetoric by allowing insiders and outsiders to judge the distance between promises and policies just as Helsinki allowed the world to judge the former Soviet empire?" He then went on to outline a plan for a "Helsinki-like conference" dealing with the important issues of Iran, Palestine, human rights, environmental sustainability, and a coordinating organization for the Middle East.

Dedication to Turkey

As Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Grossman spoke at a Middle East Briefing on the country's importance to the United States and Europe. "The U.S. commitment to Turkey's success is part of a larger U.S. goal to work toward a U.S.-European partnership for the 21st century," he said. He also noted that he sees "Turkey as a model for the Muslim world. Turkey is a country that is simultaneously secular, democratic, and Islamic. How Turks deal with that balance is their business, but it certainly is in the interest of the United States and of Europe. Our objective in Turkey is to make it a success because it is important to the United States. We are interested in a democratic Turkey with a free market and respect for human rights." But he also acknowledged that "what is feasible in Turkey might not necessarily be feasible in other countries."

Involvement in the Valerie Plame-Scooter Libby Affair

Grossman, in his role as Under Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration, was instructed by I.Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr., Dick Cheney's chief of staff, to find out more about Valerie Plame Wilson after it became known that her husband, Joseph Wilson, was the ambassador who had gone to various parts of Africa and was unable to confirm government reports that Iraq was developing its nuclear arms program there. Grossman wrote a memo revealing that Plame Wilson was a CIA officer. After having seen the memo, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage mentioned Plame Wilson's CIA status to reporter Robert Novak who then exposed her, setting off the now-infamous scandal.

Time's Massimo Calabresi thinks that Grossman's actions in this situation are telling of the type of diplomat he is and perhaps why he was chosen to replace Holbrooke. "Grossman is an accomplished career diplomat who will do his job in a discreet and reliable way," he writes.

He is not a bone-crusher like Holbrooke, but that approach didn't get the US very far. Maybe a low-key backroom dealer like Grossman will have better luck...If Obama wanted someone who was going to be responsive to administration oversight, which Holbrooke decidedly was not, they are going to get it in Grossman. The best evidence for that comes from the Scooter Libby affair.

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