Richard Holbrooke Represented the Worst of the Foreign Policy Establishment
Tuesday 14 December 2010
Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. (Photo
The many accolades coming out following the sudden death on Monday of veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke ignore his rather sordid history of supporting dictators, war criminals and military solutions to complex political problems.
Holbrooke got his start in the Foreign Service during the 1960s in the notorious pacification programs in the Mekong Delta of
In the late 1970s, Holbrooke served as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. In this position, he played a major role in formulating the Carter administration's support for
Later, in reference to his friend Paul Wolfowitz, then the
In a particularly notorious episode while heading the State Department's East Asia division, Holbrooke convinced Carter to release South Korean troops under
He also convinced President Jimmy Carter to continue its military and economic support for the Marcos dictatorship in the
In the late 1990s, as the
As special representative to Cyprus in 1997, Holbrooke unsuccessfully pushed the European Union to admit Turkey, despite its imprisonment of journalists, its ongoing use of the death penalty, its widespread killing of civilians in the course of its bloody counterinsurgency war in its Kurdish region, and other human rights abuses.
Holbrooke is perhaps best known for his leadership in putting together the 1995 Dayton Accords, which formally ended the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Though widely praised in some circles for his efforts, Holbrooke remains quite controversial for his role. For instance, the agreement allowed Bosnian Serbs to hold on to virtually all of the land they had seized and ethnically cleansed in the course of that bloody conflict. Indeed, rather than accept the secular concept of national citizenship that has held sway in Europe for generations, Holbrooke helped impose sectarian divisions that have made the country - unlike most of its gradually liberalizing Balkan neighbors - unstable, fractious and dominated by illiberal ultra-nationalists.
As with previous
Scott Ritter, the former chief UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) inspector, who correctly assessed the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and predicted a disastrous outcome for the US invasion, observed, "not only has he demonstrated a lack of comprehension when it comes to the complex reality of Afghanistan (not to mention Pakistan), Holbrooke has a history of choosing the military solution over the finesse of diplomacy." Noting how the
Ironically, back in 2002-2003, when the
It was unclear, then, why Obama chose someone like Holbrooke for such a sensitive post. Indeed, as the past two years have shown, Holbrooke's efforts in
Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern studies at the
. University of San Francisco
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs