So very sad…. 🙁
Via the Washington Post:
Longtime U.S. diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke, whose relentless prodding and deft maneuvering yielded the 1995 Dayton peace accords that ended the war in Bosnia – a success he hoped to repeat as President Obama’s chief envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan – died Monday in Washington of complications from surgery to repair a torn aorta. He was 69.
A foreign policy adviser to four Democratic presidents, Mr. Holbrooke was a towering, one-of-a-kind presence who helped define American national security strategy over 40 years and three wars by connecting Washington politicians with New York elites and influential figures in capitals worldwide. He seemed to live on airplanes and move with equal confidence through Upper East Side cocktail parties, the halls of the White House and the slums of Pakistan.
Obama praised him as “a true giant of American foreign policy who has made America stronger, safer and more respected. He was a truly unique figure who will be remembered for his tireless diplomacy, love of country, and pursuit of peace.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement that the United States “has lost one of its fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants.”
The death could have a profound impact on the administration’s efforts to implement aspects of its strategy for the war in Afghanistan, which relies not just on military gains but development assistance and diplomatic initiatives with the governments in Kabul and neighboring Pakistan that had been his principal focus.
Mr. Holbrooke’s expansive career began in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, where he served as a field officer, and included appointments as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and as one of the youngest assistant secretaries of state in U.S. history. When Republicans were in power, he was a banker, a journalist and a best-selling author.
His most prominent role was as a presidential wartime problem solver, to which Mr. Holbrooke applied an unwavering energy, a flair for diplomatic improvisation and a hard-charging style that could yield dramatic breakthroughs but also generate bitterness and enmity, even among his American teammates.
Although the consequences of his forceful personality were laid bare in his efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan, leading to tense disagreements with leaders of those nations and fellow U.S. officials, Mr. Holbrooke never stopped trying to address the insurgencies that threaten both countries.
Over the past year, he maintained a peripatetic existence, often subsisting on just a few hours of sleep at night, as he globe-trotted to shore up allied support for the war and a costly reconstruction program.
“As anyone who has ever worked with him knows – or had the clear disadvantage of negotiating across the table from him – Richard is relentless,” Obama said earlier Monday at a State Department holiday reception. “He never stops. He never quits. Because he’s always believed that if we stay focused, if we act on our mutual interests, that progress is possible. Wars can end. Peace can be forged.”
Why *I* personally respect him:
Mr. Holbrooke was sent to Vietnam in 1963, assigned to the lower Mekong Delta as a field officer for the U.S. Agency for International Development, a post that would later give him unique perspective on reconstruction efforts and provincial stabilization in Afghanistan.
His insights drew the attention of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, and he was soon moved there to serve as a staff assistant to two ambassadors, Maxwell D. Taylor and Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.
In 1966, he joined the Vietnam staff in the Johnson White House, where he had a front-row seat for what came to be considered an unwise escalation of U.S. military forces based on deceptive assessments.
“Our beloved nation sent into battle soldiers without a clear determination of what they could accomplish and they misjudged the stakes. And then we couldn’t get out,” he said this year at a State Department conference on the American experience in Southeast Asia. “. . . We fought bravely under very difficult conditions. But success was not achievable. Those who advocated more escalation or something called ‘staying the course’ were advocating something that would have led only to a greater and more costly disaster afterwards.”
He quickly developed a reputation for writing brash but influential memos, earning the nickname “the Bulldozer.” In November 1967, Mr. Holbrooke drafted one such document, a 17-page paper for President Lyndon B. Johnson in the name of Nicholas Katzenbach, then the undersecretary of state, that argued that North Vietnam was winning the battle for public opinion in the United States.
“Hanoi uses time the way the Russians used terrain before Napoleon’s advance on Moscow, always retreating, losing every battle, but eventually creating conditions in which the enemy can no longer function,” he wrote. “For Napoleon it was his long supply lines and the cold Russian winter; Hanoi hopes that for us it will be the mounting dissension, impatience, and frustration caused by a protracted war without fronts or other visible signs of success; a growing need to choose between guns and butter; and an increasing American repugnance at finding, for the first time, their own country cast as ‘the heavy.’ “
Mr. Holbrooke was a junior member of the U.S. delegation to the Paris peace talks aimed at ending the war, and he wrote a chapter of the Pentagon Papers, the government’s secret history of the conflict.
By 1970, he moved on – first to the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, where he was a fellow, and then to Morocco, where he served as Peace Corps country director – but the searing lessons of the war remained. “Leaving Vietnam behind did not mean getting it out of one’s system,” he said.
President Obama shows some class:
Statement by President Obama on death of Richard Holbrooke
Michelle and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Richard Holbrooke, a true giant of American foreign policy who has made America stronger, safer, and more respected. He was a truly unique figure who will be remembered for his tireless diplomacy, love of country, and pursuit of peace.
For nearly 50 years, Richard served the country he loved with honor and distinction. He worked as a young foreign service officer during the Vietnam War and then supported the Paris peace talks which ended that war. As a young Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, he helped normalize relations with China. As U.S. Ambassador to Germany, he helped Europe emerge from a long Cold War and encouraged NATO to welcome new members.
As Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs, he was the tireless….
…chief architect of the Dayton Accords that ended the war in Bosnia 15 years ago this week, saving countless lives. As Ambassador to the United Nations, Richard helped break a political impasse and strengthen our nation’s relationship with the UN and elevated the cause of AIDS and Africa on the international agenda. And throughout his life, as a child of refugees, he devoted himself to the plight of people displaced around the world.
When I became President, I was grateful that Richard agreed to serve as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The progress that we have made in Afghanistan and Pakistan is due in no small measure to Richard’s relentless focus on America’s national interest, and pursuit of peace and security. He understood, in his life and his work, that our interests encompassed the values that we hold so dear. And as usual, amidst his extraordinary duties, he also mentored young people who will serve our country for decades to come. One of his friends and admirers once said that, “If you’re not on the team and you’re in his way, God help you.” Like so many Presidents before me, I am grateful that Richard Holbrooke was on my team, as are the American people.
Earlier this evening at the State Department, I met with Richard’s wife Kati and their family, David, Anthony, Lizzie, Christopher and Sarah, and I spoke to Kati after Richard’s passing. I expressed to them the gratitude of the American people for his lifetime of service. They are in our thoughts and prayers tonight. Tonight, there are millions of people around the world whose lives have been saved and enriched by his work. As I said earlier this evening, the United States is safer and the world is more secure because of the half century of patriotic service of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.
As does Hillary Clinton:
Tonight America has lost one of its fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants. Richard Holbrooke served the country he loved for nearly half a century, representing the United States in far-flung war-zones and high-level peace talks, always with distinctive brilliance and unmatched determination. He was one of a kind — a true statesman — and that makes his passing all the more painful.
From his early days in Vietnam to his historic role bringing peace to the Balkans to his last mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard helped shape our history, manage our perilous present, and secure our future. He was the consummate diplomat, able to stare down dictators and stand up for America’s interests and values even under the most difficult circumstances. He served at every level of the Foreign Service and beyond, helping mentor generations of talented officers and future ambassadors. Few people have ever left a larger mark on the State Department or our country. From Southeast Asia to post-Cold War Europe and around the globe, people have a better chance of a peaceful future because of Richard’s lifetime of service.
I had the privilege to know Richard for many years and to call him a friend, colleague and confidante. As Secretary of State, I have counted on his advice and relied on his leadership. This is a sad day for me, for the State Department and for the United States of America.
True to form, Richard was a fighter to the end. His doctors marveled at his strength and his willpower, but to his friends, that was just Richard being Richard. I am grateful for the tireless efforts of all the medical staff, and to everyone who sat by his side or wished him well in these final days.
Tonight my thoughts and prayers are with Richard’s beloved wife Kati, his sons David and Anthony, his step-children Elizabeth and Chris Jennings, his daughter-in-law Sarah, and all of his countless friends and colleagues.
To be fair to Mr. Holbrooke; he was handed a giant bag of crap from the previous administration. The Neo-cons who were in power, basically ran the clock out on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Afghan war was basically the one, that was put on the back burner, while Bush and Co. went to topple Saddam. Which, in this writers opinion was the stupidest move ever made. Richard was brought in to straighten out that damned mess. He died trying to do that, as he did not want to see another Vietnam. For that thankless and patriot act of service to this Country, Mr. Holbrooke should be honored very highly by this Presidential Administration.
However, knowing this Administration like I do; I highly doubt that he will ever be honored like he should be — basically, because Mr. Holbrooke is the of the wrong ethnic background and skin color. That my friends, is a horrible and God-awful tragedy. Sorry, in this former-Democrat voting person’s eyes — a statement, is just not enough. However, I am glad to see Hillary and Obama showing a little bit of class and acknowledging the man for saving the President’s bacon and sorting out the mess.