Tuesday, December 14, 2010

First Thoughts on Richard Holbrooke's Passing

Former Ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, passed away early Monday.

In one of the most inept sentences in Washington Post obituary history, Rajiv Chandrasekaran wrote Monday afternoon:
As Mr. Holbrooke was sedated for surgery, family members said, his final words were to his Pakistani surgeon: "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."

Holbrooke was a consummate apparatchik of American empire. One of the volumes that became known as The Pentagon Papers was authored by Holbrooke, then a very young State Department functionary.

Although he networked well from his beginnings, his rise was probably attenuated by his sense of self importance. A familiar theme at our State Department, even now.

90% of Holbrooke's tributes will gloss over how he shuttled conveniently from government to private sectors and back. Few will get into the ways he used his contacts within government while he was on the board of American International Group, from early 2001 until two months before the 2008 AIG crisis, which was so central to the final stages of thievery during the period known as the Bush presidency.

Possibly his paramount feature as a first squadron pilot of our current national endgame was his ability to bail out of plane after plane at just the right time.

One of the most fascinating unnoticed figures in turn-of-the-century American public affairs.

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