Michael Hirsh: Holbrooke: An Appreciation





[Michael Hirsh is chief correspondent for National Journal.]

Right up until the end, he was the old Dick Holbrooke, touchy and vain about his reputation, acutely aware of what the media were saying about him. In an interview with me on December 3, shortly before he fell ill, Holbrooke insisted that his tense relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai had never really gone off the rails, although virtually every pundit in Washington was writing that it had. "I was not the problem," Holbrooke said. "I was carrying out American policy."

That was classic Holbrooke. He was a master of the eloquent and relentless self-defense, which he practiced with every journalist he knew well. But for all his foibles, Richard Holbrooke was also probably the greatest diplomat of his generation, a man passionately devoted to doing whatever he could to further American interests abroad, whether behind the scenes or in front of the camera. Certainly he was the best negotiator of complex, global issues that anyone had seen since Henry Kissinger or Jim Baker, though he never became, like them, secretary of state. It is perhaps the truest measure of just how intractable the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan remains that even Holbrooke - the fabled "bulldozer" of American diplomacy--had trouble making headway there....


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