Saturday, December 18, 2010

Today, A Richard Holbrooke Superfecta (RIP4)

Earlier this week, a regular reader of this blog (obviously retired, with a LOT of time on his hands) asked why this blog was silent on the news of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke's death following emergency heart surgery. To make amends, this blog offers 4-barreled meditation on Holbrooke. BTW, for the readers of this blog without access to Google Translate, the French headline below is rendered as "America has lost a legendary diplomat." Nothing more need be said. If this is (fair & balanced) melancholia, so be it.

[Vannevar Bush Hyperlink — Bracketed NumbersDirectory]
[1] "Done Too Soon" — Neil Diamond
[2] "Richard Holbrooke (1941-2010)" — John Sherffius
[3] “L’Amérique a perdu un diplomate de légende.” — Roger Cohen
[4] Richard Holbrooke's Last Words (Or Not) — History News Network

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"Done Too Soon" (1971)
By Neil Diamond

Jesus christ, fanny brice,
Wolfie mozart and humphrey bogart and
Genghis khan and
On to h. g. wells.

Ho chi minh, gunga din
Henry luce and john wilkes booth
And alexanders
King and graham bell.

Ramar krishna, mama whistler,
Patrice lumumba and russ colombo,
Karl and chico marx,
Albert camus.

E. a. poe, henri rousseau,
Sholom aleichem and caryl chessman,
Alan freed and
Buster keaton too

And each one there
Has one thing shared:
They have sweated beneath the same sun,
Looked up in wonder at the same moon,
And wept when it was all done

For bein? done too soon,
For bein? done too soon.
For bein? done. Ω

℗ © 1971 Neil Diamond
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[x Boulder Fishwrap]
Richard Holbrooke (1941-2010)
By John Sherffius

Click on image to enlarge. Ω

[John Sherffius began drawing editorial cartoons for the Daily Bruin, the campus newspaper at UCLA. After two years of working as a freelance artist, after graduation, he was hired by the Ventura County Star in Southern California as a graphic artist and gradually worked his way into editorial cartooning for the paper. In 1998, he was hired by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as the newspaper's editorial cartoonist, a job he held until 2003 when he quit the paper over editorial differences. Sherffius bridled at editorial insistence that he tone down cartoons attacking Republicans. Sherffius then went to work for the Boulder Daily Camera where his cartoons appear regularly and are syndicated nationally by the Copley News Service. Sherffius won the 2008 Herblock Prize for Editorial Cartooning.]

Copyright © 2010 John Sherffius/Boulder Daily Camera
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[x NY Fishwrap]
The Unquiet American
By Roger Cohen

Tag Cloud of the following article

created at

*Editors' Note Appended

It was the worst summer. The war seemed as unending as the excuses of Western leaders for their inaction. In a besieged Sarajevo, people raised hands to their necks in a gesture of self-strangulation as the flat fracturing boom of another shell reverberated in the valley.

Then Richard Holbrooke appeared in the snake pit.

Nobody could end the Bosnian war — nobody. Europe’s worst conflict since World War II had gone too far by 1995: the 100,000 dead, the three-way ethnic divisions traced in blood, the Srebrenica massacre of Muslims. Some things can’t be solved. This was one: until Holbrooke went for the Balkan jugular.

Three things distinguished him. The first was his passion. He’d been in Banja Luka in August 1992, where he witnessed “half-drunk Serb paramilitaries” on a raping rampage. Later he was given a wooden carving by a Muslim survivor of a Serbian concentration camp. He put the sculpture in his Washington office, a daily reminder of Western failure.

The second was his understanding of the place of force in diplomacy. He was comfortable with American power, Vietnam notwithstanding. The Balkan bullies, Slobodan Milosevic chief among them, shrank before U.S. military brass; Holbrooke, adept at theater, knew that. NATO soon embarked on its first serious bombing of the Serbs. When the bombardment paused and Milosevic pleaded, Holbrooke parried: “History would never forgive us if we stop now.”

Living in three time zones — past, present and future — he liked to invoke history, for it was prologue. Living in three identities — doer, observer and chronicler — his persuasive arsenal was intricate, part dagger, part whimsy. He knew how to close and how closing depended on a balance of forces.

The third was his determination. When an American diplomat, Robert Frasure, and two senior officials were killed in an accident near Sarajevo, Holbrooke’s relentlessness was redoubled. As another fine U.S. diplomat, Ron Nitesky, said, Holbrooke knew Frasure was “too good a man to die putting the best possible twist on a bad policy.”

Now Holbrooke, too, has gone out “with his boots on,” as his wife Kati Marton told me, trying to end another war in Afghanistan. Will somebody assume his mantle as Holbrooke took up Frasure’s, with that fire?

I’m not sure we breed his like any more in this age of narrow-gauge specialization. The pusillanimous paper-shufflers — the kind that denied him a deserved Nobel Peace Prize — busy “putting the best possible twist on bad policy” multiply; they complicated Holbrooke’s life in the Obama administration. American power in 2010 is not what it was in 1995.

Still, this untimely death is a clarion call to America to set aside smallness in the name of values that can still inspire. Holbrooke was a fierce believer in the U.S. capacity for good. Here stood the nexus of his multiple beings. It is what made him so consequential in so many places and saved so many lives.

Wilsonian idealist? Ruthless realpolitiker? He was both rolled into one dreamer-doer. As he once told me, “We cannot choose between the two; we have to blend the two.” How could Americans forsake their idealism if they had become Americans precisely in defiance of the hateful ideologies that drove Holbrooke’s Jewish parents from Europe and ooze from Waziristan caves today?

Archibald Macleish wrote that if we had not believed all humankind is endowed “with certain inalienable rights, we would never have become America, whatever else we might have become.” That was the America Holbrooke took out to the world, even post-Iraq, with “interventionism” a dirty word.

An Afghan student, Ziaullah, once a radical anti-American at Khost University, was transformed by meeting Holbrooke. He wrote of his “bad grief” and the “bad shock to the peace mission in the world.”

It was impossible to end the Bosnian war. Yet he ended it with the Dayton accords. It was impossible, in one life, to do so much for Chinese-American rapprochement; so much for transatlantic ties and the German-American bond; so much for AIDS and the American Academy in Berlin (his brainchild); and so much and so loyally for so many friends. Yet he did.

Dayton was imperfect and achieved in talks with a bloody killer, but immensely precious. That’s worth recalling in Afghanistan. The Afghan review upholding the start of withdrawal in July 2011 bears the mark of Holbrooke’s realism.

When I spoke to Marton, the president of Georgia had just called to say a street would be named for Holbrooke, and a former French minister to relay Le Monde’s headline: “L’Amérique a perdu un diplomate de légende.”

Holbrooke would have liked that. He took a lively interest in the press’s lively interest in him. “Calling from some hell hole, he’d always ask, ‘Was the piece above the fold?’ ” Marton recalled.

Yes, Richard, the obit was well above the fold, a reflection of a life of unrelenting and passionate engagement.

*Editors' Note: December 17, 2010 — An earlier version of this article was published in the International Herald Tribune on December 16, 2010. Ω

[Roger Cohen joined The New York Times in 1990. He was a foreign correspondent for more than a decade before becoming Foreign Editor in 2001. Since 2004 he has written a column for the Times-owned International Herald Tribune, first for the news pages and then, since 2007, for the Op-Ed page. He is the author of three books: Soldiers and Slaves; Hearts Grown Brutal: Sagas of Sarajevo; and (with Claudio Gatti) In the Eye of the Storm. Born in London, Cohen received an M.A. degree in History and French from Oxford University in 1977.]

Copyright © 2008 The New York Times Company
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[x HNN]
Holbrooke's Last Words: "You've Got To Stop this War In Afghanistan"
Source: CBS News (12-14-10)

In his final words before emergency heart surgery, Richard Holbrooke, the influential U.S. diplomat who died on Monday following complications from the surgery, apparently urged an end to America's nine-year old Afghanistan conflict.

"You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan," Holbrooke apparently told doctors before entering into surgery, according to family members' accounts originally reported by the Washington Post.

Later reports note that Holbrooke made the comments during "painful banter" leading up to his surgery — and that they were not necessarily "a serious exhortation about policy...." Ω

Copyright © 2010 History News Network

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