« We wuz right! - Afghanistan | Main | How about this man? »

16 December 2010


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

William R. Cumming

The elements were so mixed within him that all the world could stand up and say this was a man!

And like many talented humans a very complicated one. The full history of Ambassador Holbrooke and his impact on history has yet to be written.

John Waring

Mr. Sale,

Your post shows your superb qualities of heart and mind.

Thank you.


Iraq and Afghanistan are completely FUBAR (it's german). I'm sure he was an interesting guy to talk to - but he screwed the pooch big time on these files - anyone with any integrity would have quit (Colin - look in the mirror). Also, his Vietnam performance sucked.

Hagiographies to anyone involved in the Iraq disgrace are completely inappropriate


There are a lot who will not miss Holbrooke, for various and sundry reasons. I think Mr. Sale's favorable opinion of Holbrooke is in the minority.


Col. Lang:

Words fail me. Please thank Mr. Sale for his portrait of Richard Holbrooke.

Clifford Kiracofe

"Far from being Tony Blair's "good war", Nato's assault on Yugoslavia was in its own way as immoral as the assault on Iraq. But as the Iraq war has become discredited, so it is even more important for the supporters of "liberal interventionism" to promote the line that Kosovo was in some way a success. The Council of Europe's report on the KLA's crimes makes that position much harder to maintain. And if it plays its part in making people more sceptical about any future western "liberal interventions", it is to be warmly welcomed."


"Richard was made of ambition. He thirsted and burned for distinction. Many admirable men with excellent natural gifts had died without ever having been talked about, and he knew that few of their own accord would acknowledge another’s merits, and so his deepest motive was to obtain success, to inflict some faint scratch on the face of obscurity because only personal fame rescued you from the mass of the undiscerning and mediocre."

I wonder if this is what separates Holbrooke from Lang.

Sidney O. Smith III

“…it is like measuring Flannery O’Connor against Tolstoy. Such comparisons only inflict an unkindness. There simply is no contest.”

A bit off topic but…

I know of no one who consistently has compared the short stories of Flannery O Conner to the novels of Tolstoy. The authors are rightly renowned for their work in two separate genres that, in turn, require different talents. The short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is not Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”. For that matter, the short novel (Wise Blood) is not the same. Plus they both are engaged in utilizing different symbols defined by their historical context.

After Flannery O’ Conner died , Thomas Merton wrote “when I read Flannery O’Connor, I do not think of Hemingway, or Katherine Anne Porter, or Sartre, but rather of someone like Sophocles.”


One thing we do know, Flannery O’Connor was not pedantic. She cared not about rubbing shoulders with the Georgetown crowd.

Nor was her art established by name dropping -- I doubt seriously she would have cared about Warhol’s Factory scene. Instead it was insights gained through immense suffering from Lupus. It was this excruciating suffering that led to a particular type of “redemptive” wisdom that underlies her plotlines, often cast in the gothic.

Associating O’Conner with Tolstoy is a bit like associating the work of F.A. Hayek to the legacy of FDR and we have covered that incongruity before in one of Sale’s prior screeds. It is an inconsistency that remains unanswered to this day.


Of course I never encountered the private Holbrooke. The public one never impressed me very much. I'm sorry....he never did. What can I say?

Regarding "sanctimonious adulation", self serving for the survivors I might add, (professional survivors, of course, not family)

Here (below) is what we are gonna be treated to: Versailles, celebrating itself.



Mr. Sale,

A wonderfully written piece.


How did Clinton send in Seal Team Six to arrest Milosevic when he wasn't arrested until after the inauguration of George W. Bush?


Opinions differ:

Technically Holbrooke was indeed a superbly effective diplomat. There is a fuzzy sort of do-gooding diplomacy, especially prevalent around the UN, that thinks that as long as people are talking, all is well. Netanyahu and Milosevic are just outstanding examples of conjuror-style diplomacy in which, as long as you keep talking, no one notices what mayhem your hands commit.

Richard Holbrooke knew that. He was neither fuzzy, nor much in the way of a do-gooder. Nor was he one of those whose machinations would be exposed in WikiLeaks, since his deals were based on a firm handshake -- accompanied by a firmer grip around his opponent’s scrotum. He leaked to the press in a way that makes Julian Assange look like an bumbling amateur -- but was of course selective and self-glorifying in his selection of information.

Richard Holbrooke: A Statesman's Statesman -- if You Take Your Diplomacy Straight up Without Principles as a Chaser


I have trouble speaking well of a man, however dead he might be, who came up with the grotesque phrase "bombs for peace" in context of US interventions in the Balkans. I'm not really a pacifist, but I can't but question sanity of a person who'd think in such terms.



It's like I said earlier - "There are a lot who will not miss Holbrooke, for various and sundry reasons. I think Mr. Sale's favorable opinion of Holbrooke is in the minority.".

IMO Holbrooke should have been placed in a prison cell many years back. But again that's my opinion regarding him.


"For at least eight years it seemed reasonable to me to assume that sooner or later, no matter what we did in Vietnam, things would end badly for us. This feeling was not based on any desire to see us humiliated, or any feeling that the other side represented the forces of goodness and light; it just seemed that the only way to stave off an eventual Communist victory was with an open-ended, and therefore endless, application of American firepower in support of the South Vietnamese regime. No matter how much force we were willing to use, this would not end the war, only prevent Saigon's defeat. And the human suffering would be bottomless. The war would go on until the North Vietnamese achieved their objectives."

A far cry from the "bombs for peace" Holbrooke of latter years.

Is it the norm for seemingly dovish pacifist types to undergo some dramatic mid-life crisis & swing from one epistemological end of the pendulum to a hawkish neo-conesque stance? (Note that some in the neo-conservative camp were former peaceniks or leftists.)

A ruse(?) for him to rise above the fray of mediocrity & obscurity which the dustbin of History condemns the large majority of us, his every word to be recorded in the Annals of diplomatic tract? To secure his position in the pantheon of American notables for posterity to marvel as a Pericles of our times?

Are autobiographies even trustworthy accounts? One is reminded of those writings penned by a Roman statesman whose namesake would denote the word emperor.

Still, should we do as the Latinists say, speak no ill of those who have passed on?

It's a democracy after all, let the hoi polloi decide!


When he shall die,

Take him and cut him out in little stars,

And he will make the face of heaven so fine

That all the world will be in love with night,

And pay no worship to the garish sun.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad