"If Richard calls you and asks you for something, just say yes," former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said. "If you say no, you'll eventually get to yes, but the journey will be very painful."Whether you agreed with his politics or not he served America with distinction. Yes, he had a curious background for a Democrat, one that might have caused some unease at late night professorial political discussions over tea and weed in Hyde Park:
Holbrooke was the vice chairman of Perseus LLC, a leading private equity firm. From February 2001 until July 2008, Holbrooke was a member of the Board of Directors of the now almost bankrupt American International Group. During his time as a member of the board of directors of AIG the firm engaged in wildly speculative credit default insurance schemes that may cost the taxpayer hundreds of billions to prevent AIG from bringing down the entire financial system. He is a member of the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and formerly served on the Advisory Board of the National Security Network. He is also a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Citizens Committee for New York City, and the Economic Club of New York. Holbrooke was a member of the Trilateral Commission, and he is still listed on their membership roster as one of their "Former Members in Public Service"That sounds like a nightmare for Ron Paulians as well, but being a Democrat those affiliations will not be allowed to define him--as it should be. Because they are not evil affiliations. The fact he worked at Lehman or AIG during the run-up to the financial crisis will also not be given the Cheney-Halliburton treatment, nor will they make hay with his wealth amidst the current pitchfork populist demonization of Wall Streeters or anyone making over 250,000 per year. It's just a fact of life--Democrats get such a pass.
Then again, most Americans will not hear about this either:
In January 2001, Holbrooke said that "Iraq will be one of the major issues facing the incoming Bush administration at the United Nations." Further, "Saddam Hussein's activities continue to be unacceptable and, in my view, dangerous to the region and, indeed, to the world, not only because he possesses the potential for weapons of mass destruction but because of the very nature of his regime. His willingness to be cruel internally is not unique in the world, but the combination of that and his willingness to export his problems makes him a clear and present danger at all times."Guess that makes him a neocon as well. No, more like a realist--this same man brokered the Dayton Accord and generally tried to end wars. Ironically his sentiment was shared by boss Hillary Clinton, who told the press on 9/11 that the United States would eventually have to do something about Saddam (oddly, evidence of which now seems unavailable even to Julian Assange). Hillary never apologized for her vote because Hillary knew enough to know better.
Speaking of stolen cables, one has to wonder how Mr. Holbrooke was taking the revelations after putting in over a year of effort on America's behalf in the war zone. Evidently some referred to the press perception that the Taliban were being invited to share power in Afghanistan, to which he flatly denied. Surely he more than anyone else knew the value of maintaining secrecy in diplomacy.
His bulldogged determination to get things done in negotiations perhaps didn't leave him with a large fan club--even on the left (Biden was quoted as calling him an egotistical bastard in Woodward's book), but robust enemies are often a sign of robust effectiveness. Personally, I'll gladly take a Richard Holbrooke working on my behalf over a Julian Assange any day of the week.