Famous Last Words

December 14, 2010

Famous Last Words

Commentators lined up to eulogize diplomat par excellence Richard Holbrooke, the president's special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan who died suddenly Monday evening in Washington at the age of 69.  Holbrooke had served all over the globe since the late 1960s, including high-profile stints in Asia, the Middle East and Europe, where he brokered the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995 that ended the war in Bosnia. In his most recent post as special envoy, Holbrooke was a major and forceful voice in the administration's soon-to-be-released Afghanistan strategy review, and there is much speculation as to how President Obama will go about filling the void.

While Holbrooke reportedly could be abrasive and, his longtime friend and admirer Nicholas Kristoff writes, rub some the wrong way, he was clearly admired for his intellect and, as David Ignatius puts it, his "force of personality."  The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg and Jim Fallows can't believe that he's gone, and Goldberg writes he will be missed "even—especially—by the people he drove mad." (They also promise personal reminiscences to come.)

Steve Clemons takes issue with one of Holbrooke's media nicknames, the Bulldozer, saying he was "a brilliant chameleon and could show restraint as much as aggressiveness." Robert Haddick proposes that he "may have been the most qualified man never to become Secretary of State."

Denis Boyles and Doug Mataconis note that Holbrooke died, coincidentally, on the same day Kosovo held its first elections since declaring independence from Serbia, with Boyles saying that the jury is still out as to whether his work in the region "will be as celebrated in the Balkans as it is already in Manhattan and Washington." Adam Weinstein praises his "independent spirit" and "practice of reasoned diplomacy that's so rare in hard-nosed careerist civil servants."

Meanwhile, many bloggers are seizing on what are reported to be his last words: "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan." And AllahPundit warns that the "vacuum" created by the loss of Holbrooke "will create failure on its own" if a replacement is not found soon.