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Published: Wednesday, 12/15/2010

Holbrooke's stellar career

The death of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is a major loss to his family, friends, colleagues, and the nation.

Mr. Holbrooke, who died this week at 69 of a torn aorta, had played an important role in U.S. diplomacy since his early days in the State Department during the Vietnam war. He had served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nation and to Germany, and as assistant secretary of state for Europe and East Asia. He also had professional experience as an investment banker and author.

Mr. Holbrooke's signature achievement was having brokered a peace agreement that in 1995 ended the bloody, three-year war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. That was one of the hallmarks of the break-up of Yugoslavia and the end of the Soviet Union.

For several years, Europeans had wrestled unsuccessfully with the problem that bloodshed in Bosnia-Herzegovina brought to the world.

Mr. Holbrooke, representing President Bill Clinton, picked up the strands, assembled the three presidents representing the Serbs, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, and obtained an agreement.

Some say that if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been elected president, she would have chosen Mr. Holbrooke as her secretary of state. That was the job he coveted throughout his career.

When she became secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton asked Mr. Holbrooke to try to wrestle Afghanistan and Pakistan into some order that would allow the United States to walk away with respect from the conflict in Afghanistan.

It is probably fair to say that, consistent with his long career of service to his country, Mr. Holbrooke killed himself trying to deliver just that result. America will miss him.

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