Richard C. Holbrooke, 1941-2010
Post-Holbrooke Question: ‘What Now?’
By MARK LANDLER, NEw York Times, December 14, 2010
WASHINGTON — When President Obama turned to Richard C. Holbrooke during a White House meeting on Afghanistan last year, Mr. Holbrooke spoke gravely of the historic challenge the two men faced, likening it to when Clark M. Clifford advised Lyndon B. Johnson about what to do in Vietnam.
“Richard,” an impatient Mr. Obama interrupted him, “do people really talk like that?”
That strained exchange helps explain why Mr. Holbrooke, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, was an awkward fit in the Obama administration. A man of high drama and an acute sense of his own role, he ruffled feathers in a White House that prides itself on team-playing and a lack of drama.
With Mr. Holbrooke’s death on Monday, the administration has lost one of its most resonant voices, just as it completes its latest review of its Afghan war strategy. His death confronts the White House and State Department with some difficult questions, starting with how to replace a larger-than-life statesman in a post that was created for him and which he built from scratch.
For now, Mr. Holbrooke’s deputy, Frank J. Ruggiero, will replace him on an acting basis, said the State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley. But Mr. Ruggiero, a well-regarded diplomat who was previously the senior civilian official in southern Afghanistan, is unlikely to be a permanent successor.
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