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Richard C.

Holbrooke, had his share of highlights during his 17-month stint as President
Bill Clinton's ambassador to the United Nations. He prodded Indonesia into ultimately
accepting East Timor's independence, kept Sudan off the Security Council, got HIV/AIDS
designated as an international security threat, and used his exceptional persuasive powers
to compel the United Nations to issue condoms to its peacekeepers.

His most notable accomplishment, however, was cajoling and bullying diplomats from 188
poorer countries into paying more for running the U.N. so the world's wealthiest superpower
could pay less.

Republicans in Congress had been threatening to hold U.S. payments to the U.N., unless
the global balance of payments was radically recalculated. Holbrooke's convincing them not
to do so might seem to pale in comparison to his struggles to end wars in the Balkans and in
Afghanistan, but the achievement was, in fact, no small feat.

It was a vital component of a two-pronged U.S. strategy to repair America's tattered relations
with the world, and to bring the U.N.'s most vociferous Republican critics to heel. A measure
of the challenge is that his two predecessors, Madeleine K. Albright, and Bill Richardson,
tried and failed to accomplish the same task.

That diplomatic campaign displayed Holbrooke's creativity as a strategist, his energy and his
sometimes ruthless negotiating style. It should serve as a case study for students of
multilateral diplomacy, or even for his successors, on how uncompromising rivals - in this
instance, the conservative wing of the Republic Party and anti-American wing of the U.N.
General Assembly -- can be lured and pushed to the negotiating table. Or, as Peter Beinart
noted, Holbrooke's muscular diplomatic style at the U.N. and elsewhere may simply
represent one of the last vestiges of an era when an American ambassador possessed the
power to force the world to bend to his will.
Holbrooke recognized the utility of American power in forging diplomatic compromise. But he
also understood the value of soft power, of persuasion and flattery. He lavished attention on
journalists, foreign envoys, and American politicians. During Holbrooke's tenure, an invitation
to the Waldorf Astoria, the U.N. ambassador's official residence, opened the door to a world
of glamour and celebrity that has never been recreated by his successors. Holbrooke hosted
star-studded dinners that gave reporters, top international ambassadors, including Russia's
then U.N. ambassador Sergei Lavrov, and third-world envoys, an opportunity to mingle with
American artists, high power military and civilian politicians, and television and movie stars
like Robert de Niro, Sam Waterston and Matt Dillon.

Holbrooke devoted particular attention to Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), the powerful
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations, inviting him to address the U.N. Security Council
-- an occasion Helms used to scold the foreign dignitaries for aspiring to establish what he
believe was a new international order with the U.N. on top -- and convinced him to convene
a session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on U.N. affairs in New York City. Over
time, the strategy softened Helms' resistance, setting the stage for the curmudgeonly North
Carolina politician to end his financial stranglehold on the U.N.

But the effort was anything but smooth. When Holbrooke encountered resistance from U.N.
ambassadors, unhappy that their own financial burden would increase, he went over their
heads, using his extensive Rolodex of foreign leaders or enlisting President Bill Clinton, and
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, to persuade their political leadership to get them
to back down. "I really learned a lesson," Holbrooke told reporters after the deal was
clinched. "We won this by taking it out of the U.N. village."

When a shortfall in funding nearly unraveled the deal, Holbrooke strayed outside official
channels, working with CNN founder and billionaire Ted Turner to arrange a $35 million
donation to pay a portion of U.S. dues to the U.N. until a final deal took effect. "He's rude,
he's arrogant, he shouts at people, his behavior is appalling," one Asian diplomat told me just
hours after the deal was closed. "But you've got to give the man his due. He actually got it
done. I don't think there is anyone else who could have done it."

Holbrooke generally considered himself a friend of the U.N., and he thrived in the company
of its foreign dignitaries and envoys, many whom he'd known from his previous foreign
assignments. More importantly, he viewed it as institution that could serve American
interests, particularly by shouldering the burden of managing conflicts in far-flung regions,
principally Africa, which fell outside America's traditional sphere of influence.

But he was perfectly willing to sideline the U.N., as he had during his negotiations on the
Bosnian war at Dayton, Ohio. Holbrooke could be downright nasty with those who got in his
way, conjuring up an appallingly obscene nickname for one top U.N. official he disliked. He
frequently derided the U.N.'s Department of Public Information for absorbing an excessive
share of scarce international funds while the U.N.'s peacekeeping department, which fielded
tens of thousands of blue helmets, went understaffed and starved of resources. But he also
rallied to the U.N.'s defense in times of crisis.

In December 2004, as then-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan faced mounting


Congressional criticism over his handling of the Oil for Food scandal, Holbrooke engineered
something of a palace coup from his Manhattan apartment. Together with other prominent
American friends of the U.N., Holbrooke forced Annan's loyal chief of staff, Iqbal Riza, to
step down. He had him replaced with a powerful ally, Mark Malloch Brown, whose
overpowering presence often seemed to diminish Annan. The intent of the meeting, a
participant told the New York Times, was "to save Kofi and rescue the U.N."
"The intention was to keep it confidential," Holbrooke said of the meeting at the time. "No
one wanted to give the impression of a group of outsiders, all of them Americans, dictating
what to do to a secretary general." But he also pointed out that "the U.N., without the U.S.
behind it, is a failed institution."

At the same time, Holbrooke was highly calculating about selecting causes that he would
champion, leaving the politically unsavory business of improving ties with Libyan leader
Moammar Gadaffi to foreign service officers in Washington. He delegated important
business that bore little prospect of success, most notably Iraq: During his tenure at the U.N.,
he scarcely addressed the international effort to contain Saddam Hussein, delegating
responsibility to his deputy Peter Burleigh.

Holbrooke surrounded himself with a team of bright young up-and comers and he treated
them as part of an extended family. Holbrooke loaned out the official U.S. residence at the
Waldorf -- which he used only for official functions -- to a 27-year-old aide. He would place
his former aides in positions of influence. Robert Orr, his former chief of staff, moved on to
serve as a senior policy advisor for two U.N. secretary generals. Last year, Holbrooke
persuaded Ban Ki-moon to hire another member of Holbrooke's inner circle, Peter
Galbraith, as the second highest-ranking U.N. official in Afghanistan, despite misgivings
from his top advisors. The relationship soured after Galbraith clashed with the U.N.'s
Norwegian envoy, Kai Eide, who had a rocky relationship with Holbrooke. He was
subsequently fired.

Orr told reporters at U.N. headquarters that Holbrooke's death would represent as much a
loss to the media, whom he courted assiduously, as it would to the international diplomatic
community."Ambassador Holbrooke understood probably better than any individual I ever
worked with the importance of the media," said Mr. Orr, who is the U.N. Assistant Secretary-
General for Strategic Planning and Policy Coordination, "So I think it's not just the United
States and the U.N. that has lost an important figure. I think the media has also lost someone
who not only gave them a lot of good quotes but someone who really understood the
importance of your profession as well."

Indeed, Holbrooke, who once aspired to be a New York Times reporter, and who went on to
edit Foreign Policy magazine, saw the press as an integral part of the diplomacy, a kind of
force multiplier that, if handled skillfully, could provide the story line that could galvanize
public opinion behind his latest political cause. He could be generous with access, inviting
me and an AP reporter, Nicole Winfield, to an exclusive reception at the Metropolitan Club
with African leaders, including the late Congolese President Laurent Kabila and Zimbabwean
leader Robert Mugabe, who he introduced me to three times at the same event. He could
also be overbearing. He once cornered me near the U.N. elevator banks and interrogated
me about why I, and more importantly my paper, the Washington Post, had neglected to
cover a visit he had arranged and heavily promoted for the former South African leader
Nelson Mandela. Concluding that I had been insufficiently persuasive in selling the story to
my editors, and reminding me of his extensive list of personal contacts at the paper, he said,
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
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