by: Richard Packer
This highly recommends George Packer’s gripping autobiography of Richard Holbrooke. At first, I passed by the book several times having already read Bob Woodwards’ recent book on the same man. The author in this case had incredible access to all of Richard’s diaries and to the diaries of those with whom he worked over his forty year plus diplomatic career. Beginning with his first diplomatic job in Vietnam to his pivotal assignment, the Dayton accords, the reader is intimately drawn into the complexities and nuances of negotiating an end to war. The key difference here is that the reader learns from all of the many positions of war makers. The importance of listening to all sides no matter how heinous such as the war criminal Milosevic and how to bring all sides together to begin the healing process of reconciliation. Richard Holbrooke personified the postwar American impulse to pursue a leadership position on the global stage. The reader is given a non-fiction narrative that is both incredibly intimate and epic in its revelatory portrait of this deeply intellectual yet highly flawed man and the elite society and government he inhabited. After his penultimate success with the Dayton accords, he was appointed as the American Ambassador to the United Nations where he did much good. After Obama’s election, he was appointed on Hillary Clinton’s team at the State Department. He initiated the first diplomatic engagement with Iran. He was also assigned to Afghanistan and began the outreach to negotiating with the Taliban. While the book has his tragic death as its endpoint, the incredible insight one gains into the importance of Foreign Affairs and the importance of diplomacy is not to be missed.