Richard Holbrooke, top-ranking American diplomat, magazine editor, author, and professor died today at the age of sixty-nine. Holbrooke, in his most recent capacity as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan under the Obama Administration, was an ardent proponent of a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan, arguing that:
“A continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan is necessary because of 9/11. That is the core difference between Afghanistan and Vietnam. We’re not in Afghanistan to build a perfect democracy. We know these were not perfect elections. But we must go ahead, we must help the Afghans strengthen their own capabilities. We’re not there to take over the country, we’re there to help the Afghans build their own capacity so that their security forces can replace the international forces over an acceptable period of time.”
Yet, CiF’s America blogger, Michael Tomasky, wasted no time attempting to score political points over Holbrooke’s death. Tomasky noted a report of Holbrooke’s last words, uttered while under sedation prior to surgery. Holbrooke allegedly said:
“You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan.”
“If Holbrooke knew he might be dying and chose these as his last words, then they’re words the rest of us should take to heart. But it seems unlikely to end in a clean negotiated peace, the way Bosnia did, and that outcome is probably that much less likely with him gone. A very sad loss.”
Tomasky – the far left ideologue that he is – simply couldn’t avoid attempting to score political points as a result of Holbrooke’s untimely death – even if it meant attributing a quote to him (the significance of which we’ll never know) uttered at the very last moment he was conscious.
Though I didn’t know Holbrooke personally, I am familiar enough with his career that I’m certain, whatever his last words, he wouldn’t have advocated the cut and run strategy promoted by Tomasky and political fellow travelers at the Guardian.
Even the most cursory review of Holbrooke’s career shows a man without illusions, and someone whose foreign policy decisions weren’t based on juvenile platitudes about the dangers of American “imperialism” and “arrogance.”
Holbrooke’s career was a testament to a view which was idealistic – as someone who wanted desperately to end conflicts and promote democratic values – as well as quite realistic about the real, and quite imperfect, choices that the U.S. had to make. He knew that the perfect was indeed the enemy of the good.
Holbrooke was a seasoned, moderate, and sober voice in a quite ideological age. He will be sorely missed.