Talking with Rachel Maddow about the Vital Richard Holbrooke

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According to the Washington Post‘s Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Richard Holbrooke’s last words were “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan.”
Above I speak to Rachel Maddow about Richard Holbrooke and why he mattered so significantly.

— Steve Clemons

Comments

23 comments on “Talking with Rachel Maddow about the Vital Richard Holbrooke

  1. elliot says:

    I am now a fan of the polite, articulate and diplomatic responses of “Josh M.” I wonder if this is TPM’s Josh.

    Reply

  2. Warren Metzler says:

    I have one more issue for sagesiah and Josh to consider. Holbrooke got a job with Lehman Brothers from 1981 to 1983, serving part of that time as managing director. And with Credit Swisse in the 1990’s. And was on the board of AIG, (remember that over 100 billion dollars?), when they were engaged in that CDS schemes. Why do you think non-banker types like him, David Stockman, and now Peter Orszag, are hired by these companies?
    What are investment banks? They are the places major corporations go to to find financing. Is it possible that investment banks hire high officials in government to provide insider information and contacts, when their corporate clients want to undertake major operations that would be majorly benefited by government actions?
    And now remember the bail out. If the government had financed all the sub-prime mortgages, instead of bailing out the banks, it would have cost a lot less money than bailing out the banks. Do you think the revolving chairs between investment banks and the government had anything to do with which option the government choose?
    Now remember Freddie Mae and Fannie Mac. How do they operate? They bought mortgages from banks, and mortgage bankers, and packaged them into securities? Why weren’t those banks legislated to provide mortgage monies directly to consumers who needed then. Next consider Sallie Mae, set up to provide student loans. Originally a government agency, it was privatized in the 1990’s, and gets paid for loans and gets paid by the Federal government for defaults, and owns collection agencies which get paid by the Federal government to collect bad loans. Why are all these government agencies set up in this manner? I pondered this for some time, and arrived at the following conclusion. Elected officials are so dependent on major contributors for their campaign funds, they don’t know how to establish legislation that doesn’t use their major contributors to administer most of the actions called for by the legislation they create. In essence, almost all government expenditures are a form of corporate welfare. It is very corrupt system, and no one who lasts in it, especially those who rise to the top, are ignorant of this cozy relationship. So it is irrational to talk about a senior government official and use integrity and honor in the same sentence.

    Reply

  3. Don Bacon says:

    Administration officials said Tuesday that Holbrooke’s final words, “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan,” were part of a jovial back-and-forth with the medical staff.
    “At one point, the medical team said, ‘You’ve got to relax,'” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters on Tuesday, relaying what he said he had heard from people who were in the room with Holbrooke at George Washington University Hospital. “And Richard said, ‘I can’t relax, I’m worrying about Afghanistan and Pakistan.’ After some additional exchanges … finally [Holbrooke’s surgeon] said, ‘Tell you what, we’ll try to fix this challenge while you’re in surgery.’
    “And [Holbrooke] said, ‘Yeah, see if you can take care of that,’ including ending the war.”

    Reply

  4. Don Bacon says:

    Administration officials said Tuesday that Holbrooke’s final words, “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan,” were part of a jovial back-and-forth with the medical staff.
    “At one point, the medical team said, ‘You’ve got to relax,'” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters on Tuesday, relaying what he said he had heard from people who were in the room with Holbrooke at George Washington University Hospital. “And Richard said, ‘I can’t relax, I’m worrying about Afghanistan and Pakistan.’ After some additional exchanges … finally [Holbrooke’s surgeon] said, ‘Tell you what, we’ll try to fix this challenge while you’re in surgery.’
    “And [Holbrooke] said, ‘Yeah, see if you can take care of that,’ including ending the war.”

    Reply

  5. Don Bacon says:

    WaPo news report:
    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.”
    news report, July 16, 2010:
    During Afghanistan

    Reply

  6. Warren Metzler says:

    Thank you POA for your prescient observations. But please allow Drew to hang himself.
    The VC were NEVER a threat to America, and were originally non-communist nationalists, until infiltrated and overtaken by the NVA, because all support for the VC was suppressed by a corrupt Vietnamese government controlled by US and its “brilliant” foreign policy experts.
    Milosevic was never a threat to Americans. And only achieved power because our brilliant foreign policy types allowed the Soviet Union to gain all the control it did (know anything about Yalta by any chance?). If we, as a result of suggestions by our brilliant foreign policy types, had never pushed for that arms embargo, the Bosnians themselves without our intervention would have eventually taken care of the problem. At the loss of far fewer people, and destruction of far less properties.
    The Taliban was never a threat to the US. And in the summer of 2001 had representatives in Houston, Texas, (obviously given visas by the US government), negotiating for a pipeline to be built in Afghanistan (by US companies).
    Bin Laden was created by our CIA, and it is quite obvious that all of his actions were taken as a response to the oppressive actions the US government has taken in the Middle East, actions predominately set up by our brilliant foreign policy types. One more example of how they create problems behind the scene, and then want to act as white knight rescuers once their actions turn into disasters.
    And I love this one, “It’s extremely tasteless to seize upon the death of a man’s friend as
    an occasion to recite cant of this sort.” In my first post, I stated that I deliberately held off on commenting in the post where Steve presented the severe condition of Holbrooke, and his eventual demise. This post of Steve is lauding Holbrooke’s achievements. And it is eminently reasonable to object to Steve’s claims that don’t bear merit. This is a blog about foreign policy actions. This is not Steve having a discussion with his close friends. Although, perhaps, some of the commentators on this blog are his close friends.
    Drew, to whatever degree you are in danger because of actions of non-American persons, it is often a direct result of an action taken by one or more American foreign policy experts, that was unconstitutional, immoral, quite oppressive, and totally opposite to how all Americans believe is reasonable civil behavior.
    Just one example. Do you know that our government, courtesy of Henry Kissinger (manifesting a foreign policy decision), sent 10 million dollars to Chile, so Pinochet and his generals could overthrow a duly elected government?
    I am very comfortable stating, that I would love to live in a world where the US government never made a single foreign policy that resulted in us taking a single action against another government.
    I am clear that each and every human is hardwired (is an intrinsic part of her personality), to move toward experiencing the universal rights that are partially described in the Declaration of Independence. And if governments just focused of providing the services they should to their citizens, and gave up interfering with other countries, trying to establish hegemony, the world would make much greater progress to a situation where all people lives a fruitful and fulfilling life, than the progress we are currently making. We are making progress, but far less than we could. And academic foreign policy types, although by no means the only people who get in the way, create policies which lead to actions, that almost always hinder that progress, and rarely create policies that facilitate this progress.

    Reply

  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Its amazing how many boogie men mankind can conjure up in their quest for war. Drew seems to be willing megaphone for this, even plagerizing the timeworn script to once again herald the insidious march of the communists, thereby justifying the costly debacle known as the “Vietnam War”.
    And you gotta love his invocation of the dreaded Bin Laden monster, who single handedly has provided the propagandized justifications for us to murder hundreds of thousands of non-combatants and be engaged militarily in four separate Muslim countries, as well as seriously erode the rule of law and our constitutional protections.
    And as if his on script balderdash about enemies past and present are not enough, he too pulls the “insensitivity” card out of his carpetbag.
    Perhaps he’ll stick around and give us an accounting of Holbrooke’s “successes” in regards to Afgh/Pak. Or maybe not.

    Reply

  8. drew says:

    Warren Metzler,
    Only an extremely foolish person — and one protected by others —
    would assert that combatting the VC or Milosevic or Taliban or Bin
    Laden is an immoral errand. Such arguments only buttress the
    logic of your opponents. I prefer to be protected from these
    monsters so I encourage you to continue. Only, perhaps, not now
    and not here.
    It’s extremely tasteless to seize upon the death of a man’s friend as
    an occasion to recite cant of this sort.

    Reply

  9. Warren Metzler says:

    Josh, I thank you. Each time you respond, you provide me with a par excellence example of the fundamental corruption in our foreign policy mind-set; which, I should add, is present, from my view, in almost every country in the world; most succinctly expressed by “read and follow in detail Machiavelli’s treatise on government”.
    I love your statement,”Peace is based on compromises, and it tends to
    leave everyone unhappy, and is only favored over
    war because of the horribleness of war. So, well,
    maybe the world just sucks and Dayton made a
    shitty place a bit more palatable.” And I suspect that Holbrooke, if he heard you say this, would have slapped you on the back and “exactly my young man, well put; I think we can find a place for you in our organization”.
    Peace is not now, never was, and never will be, the lesser of two evils. This is classical academic situational ethics; created and sustained by the repeated retrospective assessments of people, looking at their efforts which were initiated based on one or more the Machiavelli theory offspring that have arisen in the universities of the world in the past 500 years.
    Peace is a state where EVERYONE involved has a life that is great. This is possible. I have proven it is so myself with many interactions with others. And have seen it achieved numerous times in the world throughout history. Compromise, as you so excellently put, ALWAYS leaves everyone unhappy. Compromise is NEVER necessary, and only appears necessary to many, because they only consider possibilities dreamed up in the fantasies of academics who get paid to invent fantasies, and never ever have to substantiate their fantasies in the real lives of everyday people.
    Bangladesh is an excellent example. If the Indian sub-continent leaders hadn’t succumbed to Ali Jinnah’s, (a major egotist dictator), fantasy of “we need a Muslim state”, there wouldn’t have been a Pakistan. And if Ali Jinnah hadn’t been a egotistical despot, Bangladesh wouldn’t have needed to fight a bloody war for its freedom. And I am sure Kissinger / Holbrooke types were actively involved in stirring up trouble both in the formation of Pakistan and Bangladesh. I just can’t understand why you don’t realize it is Holbrooke and his types who create the situations you lament. They create the situations behind the scenes, as a result of actions based on the idea the US deserves to run the world. And then when the situations turn out, as they always do, to be horrible, they don their white knight armor and waltz in claiming to desire to create peace. Utterly despicable, and truly demented. And given the obvious intelligence and capacity for insight you possess, given your responses, fool even people like you.
    It is time we citizens of the world recognize that God designed the world to work, for everyone. And began to search for and implement approaches that allow the world to work for everyone. And stop these centuries old theories that only divide and destroy.

    Reply

  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “When’s the last time you visited Afghanistan or Pakistan to have your voice heard?”
    Never, because I’m one of the poor fuckin’ saps paying taxes to send my kids to third world quality public schools, colleges priced out of our reach, and all the while watching as our inbfrastructure, and our national character, (to say nothing about our security and our futures) get flushed down the crapper while “great men” like Holbrooke devote their lives, and OUR treasure, to molding the global community into a clone of our own failing structure.
    You’re right, Josh, talk IS cheap. When was the last time YOU stood behind the counter at a mission, handing a turkey dinner to a whellchair confined disabled veteran paying their dues to the “greatness” of men like Holbrooke or Kissinger???

    Reply

  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “….a person, who, at the very least, has never stopped being involved in tough and critical situations….”
    I could say the same thing about a serial killer or a career bank robber.
    “Talk is cheap. Respect the memory of
    a diplomat who gave his life for a worthwhile
    cause”
    Look, Josh, don’t pull the “insensitive oaf talking ill of the dead” shit on me. Talk about being non-responsive? I asked you, POINT BLANK, to illucidate on the effect that Holbrooke had on the Afgh/Pak clusterfuck. Has the situation there improved these last two years? Was it helpful for us to pull our attention and our efforts out of Afghanistan and into Iraq based on purposely concocted BULLSHIT about WMDs and a thinly vieled propaganda campaign hinting at a AlQ/Saddam linkage? Couldn’t it easily be said that Holbrooke was trying to clean up a mess that he was more than a little responsible for creating, or at least marketing?
    Josh, I grieve the passing of ANY human being, Holbrooke being no exception. But the exercise of power is not cause for adoration or celebration. Its how you USE that power that makes your legacy. And, to be frank, Holbrooke seems to be in the middle of EVERY misuse of military and diplomatic power that our nation has committed to in the last half a century.
    If you want to specifically respond to my request for an accounting of Holbrooke’s effect on the Afgh/Pak clusterfuck, great. But if all you can do is tsk tsk my alleged insensitivity at making such a request, engage someone else with your shallow admonitions.

    Reply

  12. Josh M. says:

    @ POA
    !!!! I love the passion behind the thousands of
    comments you’ve made on this site, but your
    tangents truly are often non-responsive.
    Look: I agree that Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan,
    Israel, and Palestine are five distinct locations
    that are collectively marred by a history of (in
    hindsight) inane, deadly, irresponsible,
    negligent, and extremely costly U.S. policies.
    That still doesn’t change what I’m writing about.
    I’m talking about a person, not a structure — a
    person, who, at the very least, has never stopped
    being involved in tough and critical situations.
    I’ve spent substantial time with Iraqi and
    Palestinian refugees, and I’ve definitely shed my
    share of tears. Still, we’re talking about someone
    with a record of ACTUAL peacemaking and a life-
    long history of trying.
    POA…seriously, Mr. Holbrooke just died in
    office, while trying to extricate the U.S. from a
    major conflict zone. When’s the last time you
    visited Afghanistan or Pakistan to have your voice
    heard?
    Frankly, POA: Talk is cheap. Respect the memory of
    a diplomat who gave his life for a worthwhile
    cause.
    @ Warren Metzler
    Your arguments presume that I’m not empathetic to
    the circumstances that bad U.S. foreign policy
    creates–my father is a Bangladeshi refugee of the
    1971 “East Pakistan” war, and I’ve spent more time
    than I care to discuss reflecting upon the
    destruction of horrible foreign policy strategy.
    (Read up on Kissinger’s influence in that war if
    you’re not familiar with my reference.)
    But that doesn’t make me incapable of respecting a
    career-serving diplomat.
    Your analysis of Bosnia is a counterfactual, and
    it’s kind of weird of rebut a functioning peace
    treaty–one of the few that have ever existed
    meaningfully–with a counterfactual.
    Peace is based on compromises, and it tends to
    leave everyone unhappy, and is only favored over
    war because of the horribleness of war. So, well,
    maybe the world just sucks and Dayton made a
    shitty place a bit more palatable.
    Whatever–you’re missing the point. Debate his
    outcomes however you like — I’m saying that the
    quality of his struggle deserves a special place
    in the mind of patriots, foreign policy
    practitioners, and whomever else believes that
    it’s worth admiring a person who gives his or her
    life in support of a more precious ideal.

    Reply

  13. Warren Metzler says:

    Thank you POA, very good points. I was going to go through Holbrooke’s listed career, and ask where is this fantastic diplomatic success Josh wants to credit to Holbrooke. But you’ve provided such good points I don’t need to do that. But I will say a few words about the Bosnia situation, because that is the place where Holbrooke entered my visual screen.
    First of all I was truly educated on the spineless character of the Europeans, the leaders on Bosnia; totally incapable of acting.
    Two was the utter absurdity of the arms embargo. Here the Bosnians Serbs were getting all the weapons they wanted from Serbia and the Bosnian Muslims were kept from ways to fight back. This was a classical US foreign policy approach: we’ll set up rules based on our academic views, totally disregarding the reality on the ground. When the Bosnian Serbs, and the Croatian Serbs finally found ways to bypass the weapons ban, and began to push the Serbs back to Serbia, then the Serbians were willing to negotiate to save their butts. Upon which Holbrooke acts is if he was the white knight who did it all, creating a meeting after which a “peace treat” was signed, that created a map on the ground and the government type that has since had numerous problems.
    If the Bosnian Muslims and Croatians had been allowed to take that situation to its natural conclusion, they would have probably pushed the Serbs back to the Serbian border, had a peace treaty that created a real Bosnian government, instead of the absurdity Holbrooke and his colleagues created. And Bosnia today would be much better off than its current condition.
    A honest appraisal of the US involvement in that situation, with Holbrooke due to his prominence being given much credit, can only be abject failure. It is another classical example of US foreign policy looking solely at “strategic issues”, which, as POA so beautifully expresses, leaves many many many people on the ground dead, severely injured, and or with significantly devastated lives.
    I really want Josh, or any other US foreign policy supporter, to tell me of a place where our involvement didn’t lead to massive damage to many.
    So Josh, please describe one or more of your claimed Holbrooke miraculous successes.
    I can only assume that Josh is a current or budding foreign policy career person, seeing his ability to look at his future efforts with pleasure rapidly disappearing under his feet with this exchange.
    Then I want to comment on this statement by sagesiah “It is ridiculous to assume
    the public positions of US diplomats is the exact
    same as their personal positions. And based on
    what I know about Mr. Holbrooke, he likely
    advocated disengaging from Afghanistan as much as
    possible – in private.”
    This is a classical example of the fantasies that are invented in the mind of academics. There is no such thing as a public position that differs from a private position. No human is able to have a single word emerge from his mouth, or appear in his mind, that doesn’t accurately describe what he experiences somewhere inside his being. It is out of Aristotle’s truly delusion view of thinking; which has infected humans for over 2,300 years now; we get this nonsense that humans are able to create words in their minds. If you express it, it is true of a part of you.
    Further, even if humans were capable of telling a position in their public job situation that was opposite to what they personally believed, that is the essential definition of hypocrisy. And never once in the history of the human race has hypocrisy lead to a successful outcome.
    I do not want to give the impression we should eliminate the State Department. I favor our government’s involvement in the world, and interaction with other countries. And if our government were able to ever stop being a tool of US multinational corporations and foreign policy types desires to run the world, it could do wonders throughout the world. I had many encounters with Peace Corp volunteers, and people who experienced Peace Corp projects in their country. And it appears the Peace Corp did wonders; both in the lives of the people they served, and in the lives of the recipients.
    Further, each policy the State Dept. establishes should be based on how the policy holders would respond if one of their neighbors acted as the country to which that policy will be oriented acts.
    When you base your work decisions on how you personally want your life to be, you make steady progress toward success and reward for all.
    I object to foreign policy created in academic environments, where theories that have no foundation in reality are the basis for all the foreign policies. That approach leads to one screw up after another.

    Reply

  14. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “According to the Washington Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Richard Holbrooke’s last words were “You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan.””
    Intriguing words from a man that was one of the most strident advocates for pulling our attention and resources OUT of Afghanistan, and into Iraq. How’d that work out for us?
    One of Holbrooke’s other “good friends” besides Steve, was Paul Wolfowitz.
    Carter supported Marcos on Holbrooke’s advice.
    When the UN, in 2000, was drafting a resolution decrying Israel’s excessive use of force against Palestinian protestors, it was Holbrooke that jumped front and center opposing such a resolution, thereby helping lay the groundwork that has enabled Israel’s treatment of peaceful protesters up to this day, including Israel’s targeting of AMERICAN CITIZENS engaged in PEACEFUL PROTEST.
    Again, I will ask Josh what positive results had been achieved as a result of Holbrooke’s involvement in the Pak/Afgh clusterfuck? Start at the beginning, when we diverted our attention from Afghanistan to Iraq, a policy that Holbrooke strongly marketed in full support of the lying pieces of shit neo-con criminals in the Bush Administration.

    Reply

  15. PissedOffAmerican says:

    In reading Warren and Josh’s exchange, I can’t help but note the manner in which Josh applies the time worn…
    “Its much too lofty and complicated for you, a mere serf, to understand”.
    Horseshit.
    How are things going in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Has the situation seen a marked improvement since Holbrooke was handed the Donnybrook?
    Josh speaks of “regretting his passing”.
    Well, do we regret the “passing” of the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS, if not over a million, (assuredly approaching over two million if we factor in the 1991 war and the subsequent sanctions, that killed over 500,000 Iraqi children), of innocent civilians we have slain with our ill-concieved military adventures these past twenty years that have been born of deception, ineptitude, carpetbagging, and governmental corruption? These epic and historical acts of inhumanity are shouldered by these so called “great statesmen and negotiators” such as Holbrooke, Kissinger, Baker, etc..
    Meanwhile, the common “serfs” that volunteer to repair the stubs of lost limbs, feed the orphaned children, or obediently stand on the front lines go ignored and forgotten while these “great statesman” determine the fate of thousands over a bottle of fine wine and a gourmet dinner. When Holbrooke is laid to rest with great fanfare, pomp, and glowing testimonials to his “greatness”, it will go unnoticed by our hundreds of thousands of veterans standing in soup lines, or the children our drones, bombs, cruise missiles, and foot soldiers have orphaned in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.
    I will celebrate the “great men” that eventually disengage us from this behaviour, if such men ever come along, not those that help sell the great lie that this is how we must behave to survive.

    Reply

  16. Josh M. says:

    @ Warren,
    Your response is well-taken, but not directly
    responsive. Even if its true (and I’m not
    necessarily conceding that it is) that the entire
    U.S. involvement in Afghanistan from the start was
    bogus and based on bad U.S. foreign policy
    principles, that still doesn’t explain or justify
    your harsh comments about Mr. Holbrooke.
    You’re talking about the complex structure of U.S.
    foreign policy. I’m talking about an amazing
    person that was occasionally able to bend that
    structure into doing miraculous things. The
    miraculous things he accomplished are a reason to
    celebrate his life and regret his passing.
    Hate the game, not the player (in this case at
    least).

    Reply

  17. Warren Metzler says:

    After posting in reference to Sagesiah, I read Josh M. And felt I had to write again, because of one of Josh’s lines: “can you imagine being hand
    picked by the President to help manage Afghanistan
    and Pakistan”.
    This is a classic line, and is wonderfully representative of the insanity of the academic foreign policy. They notice an area of the world that doesn’t fit their image of “doing what we want”. Then mess with it until it is thoroughly screwed up. At which point they say things like “we have to manage that problem”.
    There is no management possible of a problem that was created and progressively exacerbated by the US. If those academic types hadn’t invented the fantasy that the US had to control the world and mostly use military power to conduct that control, there wouldn’t be any problem to solve.
    And the basic assumption of academic foreign policy types that countries can be managed is false, and never was true. Each country is on a journey that will only be solved by its own people. It is reasonable for the US to decide to deal or not deal with other countries, based on the reasonableness or unreasonableness of those countries. But this idea that we can get involved in a country and positively influence it to become what we want is nonsense. It has never worked, will never work, and every time it is tried will lead to massive expenditure of money, much lost of lives and limbs (to US person’s and the people of the country involved). This idea only continues to exist as an accepted idea, become academic types are incredible facile at arriving at assessments that ignore most of the available facts: as in “don’t confuse me with the facts, I’ve made up my mind”.
    If we just left Afghanistan, and did nothing about that country, in about 30 years, just like Vietnam, it would be a country where most people were free to become what they wanted to be, part of the world economy, and a place where we all could visit (safely) and admire its many interesting features.
    Radical Islam cannot exist where it is left alone, because its contradictions are massive. It can only exist where it is actively oppressed, using the presence of the oppressor to get the majority of the local population to ignore its massive contradictions.
    No one can successfully control another. Let’s once and for all give up this nonsense, and learn to co-exist with one another.

    Reply

  18. Warren Metzler says:

    Sagesiah, I am not interested in tit for tat, but your post is in line with what I consider to be the perversity of “we Americans may make mistakes, but we are a force for good in the world”.
    I assume you have not visited ordinary people, or lived, in the countries of the world were we keep doing this “good”. But I have. I served in Vietnam, going there with the assumption that it was good to fight communism, and the domino theory was real. But soon after I was there, I learned the truth. We were supporting a corrupt military dictatorship who oppressed the local people. That the majority of the local people supported the Viet Cong, because the Viet Cong were just, not corrupt, and fair. That the US military didn’t care less about liberating the locals, they only cared about using the Vietnamese war for tactics development, because they knew the days of fixed armies was over after Korea.
    Subsequently I have traveled all over the world, often in countries that were “benefiting” from the love and munificence of the great US. And what was happening in almost every case? Corrupt governments where the rich grew rich and the poor got screwed.
    Your mention of Holbrooke and AIDS is classic. It is quite common for the rich to get engaged in charities; it helps them salve their guilt for all the pain and destruction they reek during their daily jobs. And the type of charities in which they participate almost always create more havoc then they solve; which should be expected when the charity was set up out of guilt rather than genuine love.
    Decades ago, I sat in a gazebo of a person who lived in Zambia, a man who was born and grew up in South Africa, but left out of his extreme distaste for apartheid. He was an adviser for the president of Zambia. He said that he was personally aware of 28 developmental projects began by foreign NGO’s in Zambia. And of those 28, only one was in existence more than 2 years after the NGO had left Zambia. In every case, because the NGO had never realized poor Zambians don’t live and think life well-educated Europeans and North Americans.
    I don’t know why you want me to read Neibuhr, a classical philosopher who develops his theories purely out of his own imagination, without any real personal experience applying what he recommends; most of what he suggests never ever being successful when a person attempts to apply those suggestions in real life situations.
    I am not suggesting not playing the game; whatever actions you are calling a game. I have spent much of my life developing skills that facilitate people learning how to live fulfilling and meaningful lives.
    I am crystal clear that the VAST MAJORITY, if not every smidgen, of American foreign policy for almost its entire history has been oriented to finding ways for large American businesses to rip off the local citizens of countries around the world.
    Our politicians give us grand schemes, just as building nations, establishing democracy, etc. While they full well know that facilitating American corporations is the real game plan.
    I suggest you read “The Ugly American”. And then “Aftermath”, just out by Nir Rosen, which tells you how well the average citizen of numerous Middle Eastern countries are doing as a result of our loving and munificent actions. And then write a post to The Washington note about how great of a diplomatic job Holbrooke and his cohorts are doing.

    Reply

  19. Josh M. says:

    @ Warren Metzler,
    I wish you had a better understanding of the
    nuances of government and a stronger appreciation
    for how important and daunting it truly is to
    cause it to function effectively.
    Implicit in your post is the notion that Mr.
    Holbrooke caused all of these crises that he
    helped manage (i.e. Vietnam, Lehman Brothers,
    Afghanistan, etc.); however, constantly being on
    the scene to put out fires doesn’t make you an
    arsonist.
    Ever heard the phrase “those that can’t do,
    teach”? It’s like that, except that Mr. Holbrooke
    “did” his entire life and in the most critical
    areas. Really though, can you imagine being hand
    picked by the President to help manage Afghanistan
    and Pakistan? I mean, get past the short-lived
    good feeling of being “hand-picked” and into the
    not-so-dreamy feeling of actually doing the work–
    you know, the waking-up-in-the-morning-knowing-
    that-you-can-save-lives-by-ending-a-war-but-most
    likely-won’t- feeling, because you were handed a
    massive and seemingly insurmountable problem.
    Mr. Metzler, I see where you’re coming from, and I
    greatly empathize with and admire your feelings;
    however, a little more research, empathy, and
    reflection would go a long way for you.
    The rules are a bit different and the layout
    changes drastically when you talk about giants
    like Richard Holbrooke, a verified peacemaker.
    “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” Warren.

    Reply

  20. sagesiah says:

    @ Warren
    The US is a status quo power that sees security
    gains by backing most democratic and nationalist
    movements in Eurasia because it ensures no one
    will dominate the landmass; this means the US
    “sticking its nose into others’ business” is not
    really the same thing as any other power (although
    in some cases I would agree, Mr. Holbrooke was not
    involved in any of these). Mr. Holbrooke was a
    tireless advocate on behalf of AIDS in Africa and
    was a pivotal figure in bringing some semblance of
    peace to the Balkans. His last words, according to
    his family, was “end this war in Afghanistan”. A
    US diplomat is required to back the policies of
    his or her government. It is ridiculous to assume
    the public positions of US diplomats is the exact
    same as their personal positions. And based on
    what I know about Mr. Holbrooke, he likely
    advocated disengaging from Afghanistan as much as
    possible – in private. He was a magnificent
    diplomat and a man that will not be easily
    replaced. If you think he was a scoundrel, you
    need to consult the writings of Niebuhr. Not
    playing the game isn’t some sublime victory. It’s
    forfeit.
    -I’m sorry for your loss, Steve. In addition,
    thank you for your note on civility in posts. I
    posted on this site for about three days a few
    months ago before leaving because of the rancor.

    Reply

  21. Warren Metzler says:

    I held off making a comment during the initial post about Holbrooke’s recent health problem, because I didn’t think it was appropriate to present any problems with Holbrooke on a post that Steve expressed his great sorrow at possibly losing a long term friend. And I offer Steve my condolences now that Holbrooke has died.
    To give that man credit is, from my view, to demonstrate an attraction to one of the major areas where the US government has repeatedly done huge damage to many people around the world: the area of the US sticking its nose into other people’s business, under the guise of “furthering democracy and peace”; but almost ALWAYS a surreptitious cover for the actual efforts, which are to make such country pliable for the current US administrative concerns. Which are NEVER to stimulate each such country to move toward representative democracy free enterprise types of government, but solely and only make each government willing to allow American multinational corporations to make a killing in those countries.
    Note Holbrooke’s bio. Shortly after getting into college, he in Vietnam, working as a field representative for AID on “rural pacification”, which was purely a civilian way of killing Vietcong. Soon he is an assistant to Ambassadors Maxwell Taylor and Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., two people who were deeply involved in our criminal destruction of Vietnam; all done under the fantasy domino theory.
    Then he’s off to the White House, to be part of a team run by R.W. Komer, who headed the Phoenix program in Vietnam. Which was basically an assassination program; an example, the Montagnards of the mountain regions were paid for every left (possible right) ear they brought in. Do you think a man who ran an assassination program is going to be entertaining approaches that stimulate peace and justice? If you do, I claim you are a naive fool.
    In time Holbrooke goes to work for an investment firm, in his case Lehman Brothers. Where like all such candidates (such as David Stockman, Rahm Emanuel, and the latest Peter Orszag), they are used to allow those firms have major influence in government, and given a multimillion retirement package at the same time.
    Perhaps his great travesty was Bosnia, where the US totally screwed up a country, eventually allowing a criminal, Milosevic, to be treated as a reasonable person, and arrive at a peace treaty which was the antithesis of a peace treaty; should have been called a recipe for disaster and continued slaughter of innocent people agreement.
    And finally Afghanistan, a par excellence example of the US going into a country under false pretenses, destroying that country, blaming that destruction on the local people who rebel against such mayhem, the Taliban. In regard to his reported last minute hope to quit Afghanistan, it is classical for US leaders in our destructive efforts to have death bed confessions. It reminds me of Admiral Rickover, who after being almost single-handedly responsible for the buildup on the navy nuclear submarine program, developing such power that he forced the navy to continue his service way past mandatory retirement age, and then spending a good amount of time in his retirement going around griping about the horrible dangers of nuclear power.
    I noticed that Steve admitted Holbrooke is a man who believed the results were important, paying attention to moral actions en route to the result was to be avoided; which is another way of expressing “the ends justify the means”. A man in the league of Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Who I propose were all evil men, who worked tirelessly for that grand delusion: the US should control the world, because after all it is the king of the hill. A policy that has caused much damage (death and maiming of people, and destruction of property), throughout the world, and here in the US. A policy that is directly responsible for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    I propose that only through moral actions can you achieve a successful outcome (a result that is excellent, and each participant really enjoys the process). If you pursue a goal and use immoral actions (the ends justify the means), you will always end up with a failed outcome that benefits no one, and causes significant pain and suffering for many.
    I’m sorry Steve, but the man was a scoundrel. I suspect, given you seem to have a kind heart and good intentions, that much of what he told you was sugar coated revisionist history manufacture of evil deeds he did and supported.

    Reply

  22. The Pessimist says:

    Steve,
    My condolences to you during your time of reflection and loss over your close friend Richard Holbrook. Losing a mentor is always a tough blow to absorb. No matter how much one prepares themselves for the inevitable departure of someone of such importance in their lives, when the moment comes you realize just how unprepared you really are or ever truly can be.
    The sense of loss for someone of great importance in one

    Reply

  23. Saadia Chaudhry says:

    Sincere condolences for the family, because I was assuming that it was a condition that would be easily treated. It looks like he spent many years in worthy international causes. May he rest in peace, Ameen.

    Reply

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