Obama and the Holbrooke Imperative

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Richard Holbrooke triggers incredible passion, some of it negative, among foreign policy professionals. He’s a Democrat, but many don’t understand why he’s not a Republican. Dems, some argue, are supposed to be about achieving moral goods in the world along purist pathways of good behavior and enlightened intentions. To some Holbrooke seems to be someone willing to deploy any tools that it takes to achieve his (and America’s) ends, and that puts him at odds with many in the so-called global justice community.
I’m going to frustrate a number of my friends — but the veneer and appearance of moral flexibility is why I very much like Richard Holbrooke. In a way, he’s a Kissinger applied to moral purposes.
I actually think that Holbrooke is highly moral, focused ferociously on principle, and at the same time highly flexible on how he actually achieves results that the nation and world need. As just one of many examples, I observed Holbrooke do a deal with Jesse Helms, the face of American pugnacious nationalism of the kind that John Bolton now represents. Holbrooke got Jesse Helms to visit “the lion’s den” as Helms referred to the UN Security Council and agree to pay up on dues the U.S. owed the United Nations in exchange for UN reforms that were needed anyway. Holbrooke — over the objections of some advising Obama at senior levels today (as well as the Russians and Chinese) — got the UN Security Council to consider AIDS on its security agenda. This was the first time in history that any health issue was considered by the UNSC in national security terms.
As another example, he has turned what was a small time HIV prevention gig that Kofi Annan asked him to lead into the powerhouse Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, a now huge global force in which 225 of the world’s largest corporations are engaged in stopping the spread of this community and continent debilitating virus.
Successful heads of state — inspirational and committed to international peace and progress or not — often have strategists and global arm-twisters at their side along the lines of a Holbrooke, a Brzezinski, or a Kissinger. They are masters of gray in a world of leaders and citizens who prefer black and white. They wrestle with the highly improbable and generate possibilities. Holbrooke did this in the Dayton Accords. They are ruthless, shrewd, and morally elastic in hitting their targets.
Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has asserted that his survival in obscurity for the last decade was based upon an arrangement with Holbrooke that brought the Bosnian War to an end. This so-called “deal” was not concocted as part of Dayton but actually at a time in July 1996 when Holbrooke was a private citizen. Karadzic is asserting that he stepped down from power in an arrangement brokered by Holbrooke in exchange for “not being pursued.” The fact is that NATO would not arrest Karadzic even though Holbrooke while still working for the Clinton administration had pushed for that.
The State Department and Holbrooke have both firmly denied Karadzic’s claim. In fact, Karadzic in nearly the same breath has referred to Holbrooke as his “liquidator” and suggests that Holbrooke must be frustrated that the International Criminal Court is prohibited from sentencing Karadzic to a death sentence. (Holbrooke’s account of his deal-making ran here in the Washington Post)
But on a theoretical level, conflicts and the challenge of ending them are filled with hard choices. Achieving a stand-down, establishing an equilibrium, stopping the killing, and hopefully achieving peace are not done through hugging platitudes. Karadzic deserves to be tried for crimes against humanity but had there been a theoretical deal that led to an end to that conflict and the deaths of many more thousands, I would have understood it. Holbrooke did not do a deal “not to pursue” Karadzik — though a Kissinger might have, and frankly I myself might have.
Karadzic, who Holbrooke said “would have made a good Nazi,” is trying to defame Holbrooke for terminating his grasp on power — but the fact is that in all of the deals and agreements that he forged at Dayton, Holbrooke pulled off a near miraculous result that has largely endured. That is genuine political and moral achievement. Regrettably, some of the global justice purists around Obama who have not achieved results have a hard time accepting a Holbrookian approach to problem solving.
Barack Obama needs someone in close proximity on his foreign policy team that the world knows is tenaciously committed to outcomes and that it fears just a bit. Obama needs to be about hope, about light — but he needs someone who can pursue and defend American interests against thugs in the dark.
In my view, Obama needs a Holbrooke-type player on his team. The world is a far more dangerous place today than it was eight years ago. The global equilibrium that used to exist was decimated when George W. Bush punctured the mystique of American power by invading Iraq and showing our now financial and military limits to allies and foes alike. Obama needs a Holbrooke — and since Holbrooke himself is available, he should strongly consider making him Secretary of State.
Beneath the hype and theater of global enthusiasm for Obama, there is real doubt about America’s seriousness and capacity to confront global problems. The world will want to know what America will do to achieve results. What will the US gamble? When will force be used in the future? What are America’s highest priorities when there are so many things that need attention? What is rhetoric and what is real?
To benchmark this new president, America’s allies will test, kick and provoke a potential Obama White House as much as foes and rivals will. The window for a proactive national security agenda is very narrow — and it’s highly likely that events generated abroad, designed crises if you will, will force Obama into a continuation of the kind of ad hoc, reactive policy making we have today.
Team Obama needs to do all it can to prevent this from happening.
Whether it is Holbrooke or not, Obama needs Holbrooke-like characters who can really deal with the worst edge of problem states and problem leaders.
Holbrooke is not on the list of Obama’s National Security Working Group — but without him it’s sort of like Eminem’s lyrics in “Without Me“. Holbrooke’s absence on the list reminds and highlights why his presence is even more essential.
I have to state two things before closing.
First, few of my close friends in national security circles — particularly those close to Senator Obama — agree with me. A few do, and they are right.
Secondly, I should acknowledge that Richard Holbrooke’s wife, Kati Marton, is a member of the Board of Directors of the New America Foundation where I work. But I’ve been at odds with board members before — and also have supported them and their causes depending on my own views. Holbrooke probably would not have want written what I have shared here — but I felt I should disclose this connection.
There are others who would also make incredible choices as Secretary of State — including Joe Biden, Chuck Hagel, and others.
But Holbrooke needs to be in the highest tier mix. He is genetically designed to be in that role — and will be at some point — even if for only a year or two before transitioning to a Secretary of State of the kinder, gentler sort.
But if elected, Obama needs a modern Machiavelli to help him, counsel him, and protect him in international affairs — and the best Holbrookian character to get is Holbrooke himself.
– Steve Clemons

Comments

26 comments on “Obama and the Holbrooke Imperative

  1. ns says:

    My impression of Richard Holbrooke is that he is just another neocon, only a Democratic one this time. I am a volunteer for Barack Obama, and if he chose Holbrooke, I would be deeply disappointed.

    Reply

  2. Mr.Murder says:

    I’d rather see him at NSA. He’s such a ballbuster and obama doesn’t want anyone to overshadow his presence. The same way John Kerry didn’t want a VP to upstage him and so he took Edwards. Their arrangement was based on a vote sharing deal to emerge him from the pack in Iowa…
    Obama still owes Dodd and Biden for their helping dilute possible support for Hillary. Guess what guys- look at the payback John Edwards got. It’s going to look on you guys too.

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  3. rich says:

    Ken,
    Obama has emphasized that his VP must be someone that’s on the same wavelength, a person he’s comfortable working with, who has good judgment rather than what passes for ‘experience’.
    And the country as well as Obama very much needs appointments, whether Sec of State or VP, who are more plugged into Obama than they are into the foreign policy establishment that brought us the current train wreck. Many folks have done a fine job, or weren’t on board with Bush on Iraq, but even in general the ship of state has been steered in a direction not in the national interest. That extends back many decades, and includes both means and ends.
    Have to agree with Joe M. on one point: returning to the same pool of candidates does not display the wisdom of going after a proven record, known quantity or even needed skill set; rather, it amounts to incest. That’s not to say Holbrooke wouldn’t be good, even brilliant. Just that other candidates may be more so, and not handicapped by the intrinsic limitations of he circles they run in. We need to draw from every resource and qualified American at our disposal; going back to the same well again, this time, will be a mistake at the outset.
    I agree wholeheartedly that Senator Obama possesses far more hard-nosed Machiavellian skills, and I mean that in a good way, than has ever been recognized. The labels others attach to him (soft, naive, inexperienced) does not fit the evidence we have at our disposal.
    More gets done in informal settings (‘office pool debates’) than formal meetings, and some care with this medium can rectify the caricature pitfall. Television broadcasting takes great pains to avoid nuance and default to labels and cartoon renditions of complex candidates. Trivialization (Gore: earth tones, etc.) and evasion has reached an art form. Take it from Mark Twain said, ‘I’m sorry to send such a long letter; I would’ve written a much shorter, but didn’t have the time.’ [para]

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  4. Ken Weisbrode says:

    These office pool debates are often difficult to have without resorting to caricature. Even so, we must remember that a good Secretary of State must be far more than a tough negotiator and a moral cynic. He or she also must be able to inspire trust among foreign allies and colleagues in the administration, and have a close and mutually respectful relationship with the president. Without all that, even the most versatile secretaries will fail.
    Whether Holbrooke fits the bill is beside the point here. Like JFK, Obama may very well want to be his own Secretary of State. And given his remarkable successes thus far, he probably has more than a few Machiavellian “skill sets” of his own, which make it all the more necessary to surround himself with a bodyguard of idealists.

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  5. rich says:

    I’d read Holbrooke was not on good terms with Anthony Lake, who’s in with Obama. Just some MSM reporting, I don’t know if it’s legit.
    I like Richard Holbrooke for all the reasons Steve lists. Effective, and not unnerved at the prospect of deviating from the moral path/high road to accomplish a higher politically just or moral objective. I don’t see that in James Baker or Warren Christopher or Henry oops Heinz Kissinger, or even in Madeleine Albright (tho I’m not ideological about it): they just don’t seem able to keep the larger national interests and moral-political objectives in sight.
    I DISagree when Steve says Democrats are, or “are supposed to be about achieving moral goods in the world along purist pathways of good behavior and enlightened intentions.”
    There’s a hard-nosed profit in political goals and national security to be reaped by hewing to the political insights that yielded the American Constitution and prompted the American Revolution.
    When hard-edged political methods yield greater returns by delivering the fruits of siding with sovereignty and liberty for other nations, and are used to generate lawful process and Constitutionally-grounded governance abroad, it’s a no-brainer. (Keep in mind that hasn’t always been the general practice.)
    Democrats should have no compunction about using every tool at their disposal—as long as they keep themselves grounded and the real objectives firmly in view.
    Steve again:
    “the veneer and appearance of moral flexibility is why I very much like Richard Holbrooke. In a way, he’s a Kissinger applied to moral purposes.
    I actually think that Holbrooke is highly moral, focused ferociously on principle, and at the same time highly flexible on how he actually achieves results. ..”
    I see him the same way, but don’t agree the Kissinger analogy holds up well, beyond as a throwaway reference point. The disjuncture is in means, end, and scale—and more important, we have to give Holbrooke credit for acting to secure objecties purely in the national interest objectives, as well, outside of moral motivations, right? Sometime’s that’s actually necessary, not that we’d find instances that could be verified by standard metrics.
    That said, your Holbrooke link is to CFR, and it’s plain the fine, fine upstanding cast of characters at:
    http://www.cfr.org/about/people/board_of_directors.html
    would do the nation an immeasurable public service, and do well for themselves to boot, by keeping their fingers out of the foreign policy pie for a few decades.
    Just sayin’. They’ve had their shot.

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  6. pondering says:

    Steve,
    What an interesting post.
    I suspect that Richard Holbrooke is going to be accused of
    putting you up to this. But you have taken Holbrooke on in the
    past as well. I remember this:
    http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/2004/08/democr
    ats_dont_1/
    My gut tells me you wrote this post to poke Obama’s team to let
    them know you can stir up trouble and that they better start
    listening to you on Cuba and Israel/Palestine issues. It makes
    me laugh in a way, but I think it’s a brilliant strategy.
    If Holbrooke is “Kissinger Applied to Moral Purposes”, then I
    think Clemons is a Kissinger using Holbrooke to achieve your
    own interesting ends.
    Thank you so much also for pointing out “The Nation” article to
    Obama. I signed it and I hope many others do so too.

    Reply

  7. Steve O says:

    Steve,
    This is a quite prolific and provocative post.
    The tightrope that Obama needs to walk on where to seek provent operators from past administrations is evident here. I think you are on the right track focusing on the results that people like Holbrooke have obtained. The strength of having a “vision and principle” based strategic vision put forth by the president while employing the talents of hard-nosed negotiators like Holbrooke is an important development.
    Hard edge pragmatism is a winning approach with a credibility that need not be arrogant.
    Steve O

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  8. Steve Clemons says:

    Johnny, I’m not trying to gussy up anything. I think in your note
    there was actually a compliment — so thanks. But on strategic
    sophistry, I get your point but disagree. I am very much focused on
    results-oriented, results-achieving strategies. What makes me
    more of a progressive realist than just a realist is that I think such
    strategies applied to important human rights issues is doable and
    important. So, when I pressure a candidate or his team, I’m not
    trying to suggest some sophist approach to a problem — but more
    to call for a disciplined game plan that makes priorities clear.
    Thanks for the push back though — but whether I am achieving
    what I want with you or not, I have no intention of offering
    sophistry instead of serious strategic thinking.

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  9. Steve Clemons says:

    Jeff — I don’t seem to be able to find the list on the Barack Obama
    website. Last time I checked with folks, Holbrooke was not part of
    the group but heard rumblings that an olive branch was being
    offered. Do you happen to have the URL for the list or know a
    reference that shows he’s in the group?
    Thanks, Steve Clemons

    Reply

  10. Jeff says:

    You might want to double check to see if Holbrooke still is not a part of the National Security Working Group.

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  11. Lurker says:

    David/Johnny, you are welcome to offer your own views here and show us how brilliant your ungussied strategic insights are. Go ahead. I had never thought of Richard Holbrooke in the way Steven Clemons just pitched him. I’m still thinking about it, but whether or not I end up agreeing with Steve’s suggestion that Holbrooke would be an indispensable member of the Obama administration, the fact remains that Steve’s insights have made me think beyond my own biases and he’s illustrated a void in Obama’s foreign policy team of a kind of type of person or skill. Kudos to Steve for yet again offering the provocative post and to those who want to take pot shots, our host is out there quite frequently and publicly offering his own views on things. Why don’t you try it? Even here on these comment pages and attach your own name. Oh wait, pot shots are easier I guess.

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  12. Kyle says:

    “David” said “…conventional wisdom gussied up as strategic insight…”
    “Johnny” said “…insincerity and sophistry gussied up as insight…”
    Either obsolete phrases and bad manners are staging a huge comeback, or some Steve-hater needs to get a life.

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  13. Johnny says:

    It’s this sort of insincerity and sophistry gussied up as insight that makes Steve’s “relevant” (feeding himself and his audience). I have always liked Steve’s dose of honesty and retreat into contorted American nationalist morality. I don’t expect anything more from him and he has again delivered.
    Looking at Holbrooke’s past one sees someone serving the corporate elite in a cold blooded way that leaves America as exposed and riddled with injustice as anything that the neo-conservatives have done.

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  14. Carroll says:

    I guess who he picks depends not on what jobs he needs done but on “how” he want to get the international clean up job done.
    I don’t want any Holbrookes, any old hands from the same old circles. I don’t want any of the pansey ass liberals or neo liberals or cumba ya can’t we all just get along progressives either.
    I want someone uniquely, firstly American with a fresh pair of eyes. Someone who has been around a bit but not too much, so he won’t pattern his approach on the same old deals and tactics of the past. Who is realistic but not too morally elastic.
    Hagel would be my choice.

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  15. Aiken blue says:

    Obama is a great leader and a visionary. he’s incredibly competitive and a politician like no other. I’m supporting Obama. Please visit WHYOBAMA08.org!!!

    Reply

  16. Mr.Murder says:

    As for Hagel,you’re putting in yet another Bush lite who didn’t stand up to the theft of office in 2000 or much of anything since in any material way.
    In fact, he aided it happening in major ways.
    This sudden item of casting him as not part of the problem is pretty, well, problematic at best.
    Back to topic.
    Fact of the matter is that Holbrooke matched the policy to our main advantage, air superiority, and used it to establish the kind of spacing needed to enforce clear rules of engagement.
    Then other items he’d probably support play contrapositive to current policy, policy that isn’t exactly harvesting result.
    Iraq hasn’t played nice on oil concessions, the only benchmark we give a sh!t about. Take the hint, look at our promise to Afghanistan once they ponied up the deals to companies that our current Secretary formerly was a board member for.
    If Iraq does agree in return for our continued presence, the problem will be that we don’t have enough troops to hold both fronts down to the levels the surge would be maintained and Afghanistan could be ramped up. Maybe Rep.Rangel’s effort to start the draft was prophetic.
    Holbrooke would balkanize Iraq in some form. Business might like this so the oil co. can force bid rights on the varied interests to get the best price, and we’ll be reactive instead of proactive and follow the result. That’s where Iraq is headed since they will not pony up on the oil concessions that our surge supposedly could secure.
    That will remain an item no matter who is in office.
    The Baker wing probably favors a Saudi centric view, one that would secure Sunni interests and oil access and still leave Iraq as a federated republic under purview of outsiders. The Brzezinski wing would simply maintain efforts to play ethnic rivalries across state lines(Kurds to Iran, items to Syria) thus giving non state actors larger roles and power whilst talking of accords and human rights plausibly. The Albright wing would most likely leverage points of all interests to a greater EU role, and essentially find a way to balkanize them materially without doing so in word because of political result.
    Helping Turkey emerge in the EU is a big item still. This is hard to do if the Kurds continue to channel oil money to armaments with our direction in hopes of perhaps destabilizing Iran’s influence. Major walk on eggshells mode.
    There’s actually some Republicans at State now in Senior and Deputy ranks who have done well lately who should be part of the changeover, they’d expedite matters w/North Korea and could also be of major help in the Mediterranean, Asia minor, to South Central Asia and Pakistan. Some of those recently left appointed post or have tendered resignation and are scaling back duties now.

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  17. Mr.Murder says:

    Karadzic would have made a good SA or Waffen SS.
    Ironically, he used vengeance of the briefly formed sub regiments to the Waffen SS as his own precedent to claim basis for such killings. The 21st der SS Skandeberg(albanische Nr 1) and 23rd der SS Krama(kroatische nr 2) Waffen Gebirgsdivsions that disbanded the years they formed in 1944; and the 13th Waffen SS der SS Handschar Gebirgsdivision formed in 1943 and disbanded as a Division in 1944, they were formed of Muslims; Albanians in the first instance and Yugoslavian Muslims in the latter two.
    Gebirgsdivisions were mounted cavalry, the 23rd was initially listed as a ‘Legion’ belonging to the SS or the Army.(Ballantine’s illustrated no.16, 345.01986.5.100))
    Choice of that moniker to address the man Karadzic is apt for his allowing civilians to be targeted and ethnically cleansed. Keep in mind a rather intense disinformation campaign accompanied the response to American foregin policy in the region, so rumors of back room agreements would fit. Many websites covering the various ethnic massacres use the exact same pictures of ethnic Muslim victims claiming them to be Serbian Christian/Orthodox civilians and vice versa.
    A cross reference of Schutzffstaffeln badges has a curved blade on indented shield for the Handschar, a two headed griffin for the Skandberg. Its corresponding badge for the 23rd is the Dutch Panzer Grenadier Regiment, the Yugoslavian Muslim cavalry was never fully formed and no patch is listed as the other 23rd section.
    It appears in at least one instance the waffen ranks attempted to attach long standing symbolism to their recruitment cause.

    Reply

  18. carsick says:

    Steve,
    As usual I think you’re spot on though the choice, I believe, will be Senator Hagel. He and Obama clearly feel comfortable with each other personally and in international policy. Symbolically, the choice re-enforces Obama’s message domestically. Internationally, it shows allies and otherwise that Obama is backing up his words with a player most know and already respect. Sen. Hagel is a first rate choice who comes with immediate credibility and knowledge and intellect.
    (I still wouldn’t want him near domestic policy though.)

    Reply

  19. Joe M. says:

    One big thing I will add (without inside information, like Steve Clemons has), is that people like Biden and Holbrooke are sooooooo arrogant that they might simply make their own foreign policy. They might feel more empowered to do so with someone like Obama, because he is not a Washington elite in the way they are. And I think that poses some serious problems for making foreign policy.
    Like, We already have Obama saying he would be open to talks with the Castros or with top Iranians. I suspect he would be willing to have secret negotiations with the likes of Hamas or other traditional “enemies”. Despite the fact that Biden and Holbrooke are “morally elastic”, I can’t see them dealing successfully with something like the Iranian nuclear issue through direct negotiations.
    Someone like Holbrooke would simply be like having negotiations with the Bush administration. While unlike Bush, they might be sitting face to face, that doesn’t mean much if he is just barking moralistic threats at them.

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  20. Joe M. says:

    The likes of Holbrooke (and Holbrooke himself) are a very violent breed. You obscure the fact that this man is essentially a neoconservative and pretty much advocates bombing everyone (including the civilians near the people he doesn’t like, since he doesn’t distinguish very much) he has the slightest problem with. It doesn’t take a “human rights purist” to be disgusted by this.
    Furthermore, I am very annoyed by the incest in Washington. And Holbrooke should be excluded from any more USG positions simply on this basis. There are so many people who have not been in high positions who can bring new life to the way government works, that we don’t need the likes of someone like Holbrooke.
    Lastly, even from your perspective, there are dozens of people who have been more effective than Holbrooke who could serve a position like Sec. of State. Though I think Biden is a typical arrogant, political wind-bag, he could potentially do a decent job. But someone like Governor Bill Richardson has a longer history of success in international negotiations than Holbrooke or wind-bag Biden. Further, and this may be a shocker, BUT MAYBE IT’S TIME TO PICK SOMEONE WHO IS NOT A ZIONIST. That would be the type of change I can believe in. Someone like Carter’s UN Ambassador, Andrew Young would be a welcome change (though, not specifically him).

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  21. Don Bacon says:

    The US has “ad hoc, reactive policy making” today? I don’t think so. The US has a consistent plan of world hegemony which it has implemented using its global military and economic reach, and its military to threaten, invade and occupy countries that don’t toe the mark. Would there be any change under Obama/Holbrooke? It’s hard to see any, except to make matters worse (think Pakistan).

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  22. Steve Clemons says:

    David — Of course, some others have suggested that Holbrooke could be appointed. That’s not my point. Mine really is more than that — that Obama’s team doesn’t have many of Holbrooke’s skill set among them and that there is enormous resistance among them to bringing Holbrooke in. I disagree with them and am making my case. If it were more of a done deal, then there would be less drama. But thanks for your note.
    To JohnH — I’m not calling for a whole foreign policy establishment comprised of these types. We need a balance…and frankly, Obama’s team as it stands is dominated by a very earnest group of folks committed to great progressive causes. I think that they are weak on implementation and on game plans to secure success, particularly in many of the 21st century type, newfangled challenges that have emerged. So, give me a couple of Holbrookes and I’d be happy. The rest can be made in the mold of Cyrus Vance.
    Greg — Great points and thanks for the thoughtful commentary. On Karadzic, I defer to your more informed understanding of the situation around the Dayton Peace Deal. My point essentially was that bringing a nasty war to a close — and generating a different equilibrium could involve the sort of deals that Karadzic said he got. I don’t care whether he is lying in this particular case or not — but the prospect of this kind of thing is what I was pondering. I think you think that it’s ultimately not a deal worth doing. I get that. I guess I think it depends on what one gets in terms of saved lives, stability, a chance to push reset that would determine my answer. If one could do a deal to achieve a new reality in the near term — and then let time and a different set of players fix accountability for monstrousness, I could accept that.
    I’m in total agreement with Gregory on Frank Wisner.
    best, Steve Clemons

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  23. jonst says:

    There are very few foreign policy types, and no high profile ones, from the Dem past that Obama should employ. I know he will. But he should not. It will end up biting him in the asses. They are Empire Lite. Better than the ‘full bodied’ Empire the nationalists propose, but not by much.
    The sooner we learn the ‘rules’ have changed the better.

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  24. JohnH says:

    Unfortunately, Obama probably does “someone who can pursue and defend American interests against thugs in the dark.” We do not–repeat, do not–need a whole foreign policy establishment comprised exclusively of these people. We have had enough of that for 7.5 years now. It’s time for people of integrity, who respect the dignity of their opposite numbers, to play a major role for a change.

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  25. David says:

    Steve, you are getting a little carried away with the conventional wisdom gussied up as strategic insight.
    Holbrooke has been the presumptive Democratic SecState for eight years! Just because he backed the wrong horse in the primary does not put him out of the running going forward. Didn’t he even suggest himself that he could be named SecState by either Clinton or Obama way back in May?
    Roger Cohen at the Times had a column on this stuff weeks ago… it wasn’t particularly fresh or insightful then, and it sure isn’t now.

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  26. Greg Djerejian says:

    This is a quite provocative post by Steve.
    A couple comments. First, I would take w/ a massive grain of salt Karadzic’s comments about a deal w/ Holbrooke (Radovan ‘go under, we wink wink don’t have him stand for war crimes charges and/or provide immunity).
    If true, however (and again, I don’t think it is) this would in no fashion whatsoever constitute: “exactly what all parties needed to happen at that time”, as Steve writes, but quite the contrary, such a move perhaps borne in the throes of Dayton-era expediency would have stunk to high heaven.
    Not only would this purported action have been deeply morally repugnant, but on realist grounds too (lest Steve admonish I’m but a “human rights purist”, which I don’t think I am!) this would have been imbecilic policy. Milosevic was the person who needed to deliver at Dayton, and awful character that he was, he was able to cut a deal under Holbrooke’s auspices with Franjo Tudjman and Izetbegovic/Siladzic.
    Karadzic wasn’t all that critical and ultimately had to kow-tow to Slobo, and Holbrooke I think is well smart enough to have wholly realized this dynamic well in advance(he is very good indeed at smelling out who has real power and who is grandstanding and bs’ing quite well, I suspect).
    Next, Holbrooke as SecState? I think here I probably concur with Steve (though sometimes think of Hagel in the slot). Frankly we need a sane, muscular, traditional-style internationalist devoted to diplomacy like Hagel, but with flashes of brilliance (think Zbig B), and then someone too as Steve writes that can be “ruthless, shrewd, and morally elastic” (yes, this last can be of utility at times for the national interest, as much as we may wish otherwise).
    Is Holbrooke a hybrid of all the above? I don’t know, but he may be the closest thing we currently have available on the national scene.
    As a P.S. too, I would like to see a close friend of Holbrooke’s like a Frank Wisner perhaps get the Deputy Secretary nod.
    Anyway, I look forward to thinking through the pros/cons of all this more in coming days, and I am grateful to Steve for putting these issues squarely on the cyber-table.

    Reply

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