Richard Holbrooke is of course a key player in both the books I wrote about last week. For Halberstam, Holbrooke was one of the few insiders within the Clinton White House proactive enough to deserve sympathy or success:
Of all the people who had joined the Clinton administration in 1993, Dick Holbrooke ended the eight years, by the consensus of his peers – or at least among those who still intended to serve in a future Democratic administration – as the most successful member of the foreign policy team. Madeleine Albright might be, in terms of celebrity star power, at least momentarily a larger figure because of the nature of her personal story; and because she was the first woman secretary of state, her memoirs would probably sell for a larger sum than those of anyone else who had worked in foreign policy. But it was Holbrooke who had truly impressed his peers, even many who had been dubious of him earlier on. [War In A Time of Peace, pg. 484]
This from a writer himself rather dubious of Clinton’s foreign policy aides, and from a book which includes the entry ‘ego of’ under Holbrooke’s name (there are six page references). Much of the media coverage today is rightly focusing on the hole he leaves at the centre of Obama’s AfPak team, and Bob Woodward quotes him as insisting that, “Our [US] presence [in Afghanistan] is the corrupting force” [Obama’s Wars, pg. 225]; the WaPo obituary suggests that his final last words were, “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan.” This sort of voice will be missed around a table of men and women often more gung-ho than all that. But, and FP Passport summarises Holbrooke’s frustrations under Obama pretty well, he will likely best be remembered for all that heavy lifting in the 1990s.