US diplomat Richard Holbrooke dies

AP
Richard Holbrooke, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has died. He was 69.

AP Richard Holbrooke, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has died. He was 69. Photo by The Associated Press.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Richard Holbrooke, a brilliant and feisty U.S. diplomat who wrote part of the Pentagon Papers, was the architect of the 1995 Bosnia peace plan and served as President Barack Obama’s special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, died Monday, an administration official said. He was 69.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the family had yet to make a formal announcement of Holbrooke’s death.

Holbrooke, whose forceful style earned him nicknames such as “The Bulldozer” or “Raging Bull,” was admitted to the hospital on Friday after becoming ill at the State Department. The former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. had surgery Saturday to repair a tear in his aorta.

Earlier Monday, Obama praised Holbrooke for making America safer.

“He is simply one of the giants of American foreign policy,” Obama said during a holiday reception at the State Department. Obama met briefly with Holbrooke’s family before his remarks.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also hailed Holbrooke’s long service earlier in the day.

“He has given nearly 50 years of his life to serving the United States,” Clinton said during a meeting in Canada.

Holbrooke served under every Democratic president from John F. Kennedy to Obama in a lengthy career that began with a foreign service posting in Vietnam in 1962 after graduating from Brown University, and included time as a member of the U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Talks on Vietnam.

His sizable ego, tenacity and willingness to push hard for diplomatic results won him both admiration and animosity.

“If Richard calls you and asks you for something, just say yes,” former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said. “If you say no, you’ll eventually get to yes, but the journey will be very painful.”

He learned to become extremely informed about whatever country he was in, push for an exit strategy and look for ways to get those who live in a country to take increasing responsibility for their own security.

“He’s a bulldog for the globe,” Tim Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation, once said.

The bearish Holbrooke said he has no qualms about “negotiating with people who do immoral things.”

“If you can prevent the deaths of people still alive, you’re not doing a disservice to those already killed by trying to do so,” he said in 1999.

Born in New York City on April 24, 1941, Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke had an interest in public service from his early years. He was good friends in high school with a son of Dean Rusk and he grew close to the family of the man who would become a secretary of state for presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

One of his signature achievements was brokering the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia. He detailed the experience of negotiating the deal at an Air Force base near the Ohio city in his 1998 memoir, “To End a War.”

Reflecting on his role as Obama’s special envoy, Holbrooke wrote in The Washington Post in March 2008 that “the conflict in Afghanistan will be far more costly and much, much longer than Americans realize. This war, already in its seventh year, will eventually become the longest in American history, surpassing even Vietnam.”

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