Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Homage To A Diplomat

The death this week of Richard Holbrooke is a timely reminder that old-fashioned diplomacy still has an important role in this era of WikiLeaks, brinksmanship and global food fights.

That was easy to forget during the Bush interregnum, an era characterized by a bellicosity in foreign affairs that further diminished the role of Condoleezza Rice, a lightweight who parlayed her undistinguished tenure as a national security advisor who by her own admission was more concerned about Moscow than Al Qaeda in the run-up to 9/11 into four years as a nearly invisible secretary of state and toady for Vice President Cheney.

President Obama's foreign policy successes have been few, but it is not for a lack of trying, and credit for that goes first to Rice's successor, Hillary Clinton, and then to Holbrooke, whose iron fist- kid glove form of negotiating was legendary.

While it seems unlikely that the 69-year-old Holbrooke's current mission as Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan would bear significant fruit given the historic intractability of the political and social forces in that region, the Dayton Peace Accords brokered by him in 1995 are perhaps the signal diplomatic triumph of the last quarter century.

Photograph by Reuters

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