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Lessons of Diplomacy: An Event in Memory of Richard C. Holbrooke

Speakers: Christopher R. Hill, Dean, University of Denver, Vali R. Nasr, Professor, Tufts University, and Frank G. Wisner, International Affairs Adviser, Patton Boggs
Presider: Leslie H. Gelb, Board Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
Introductory Speakers: Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations, and Kati Marton, Wife of Richard Holbrooke
January 17, 2012
Council on Foreign Relations


RICHARD HAASS: Well, good evening, and thank you all for coming to the Council on Foreign Relations this evening for this special event in memory of Richard Holbrooke.

Let me just take a minute to describe how tonight came about. It was just over a year ago, when we were beginning the conversation, both in-house and as well as between Kati and myself, about how we could best honor Richard's contributions and his memory, and this -- and there were, as all of you know, several powerful and moving memorials. And what -- we thought we could do something that was somewhat different but also consistent with Richard's association with the council and with the council's own mission, which is to focus on some of the issues and some of the lessons that could be derived from his -- from his extraordinary career. And that is essentially what we will be doing tonight.

The whole idea is to pay some attention to one of the most vexing problems that policymakers often confront, which is relations with individuals and countries that fall into the general category of friends.

The tool kit for dealing with adversaries is actually quite well- articulated and quite familiar, whether it's sanctions or negotiations, uses of forces and so forth -- the entire, if you will, coercive tool kit.

But dealing with friends, with partners or with individuals and countries that are purported to be friends and partners can be extraordinarily difficult, because in many ways you have none of those tools to bring to bear, plus the domestic politics here and there tend to be particularly complex.

And when you think of Richard's career -- Vietnam; the Balkans, dealing with, you know, not just the former Yugoslavia but with NATO and the rest; Afghanistan and Pakistan -- there's a thread here, and in every one of these situations, one was dealing as -- I mean, often, much of the time, again, with friends and partners, with all the complications that that -- that that entailed.

Richard was a council member -- and Kati and I were just talking about this -- not just for most of his adult life but for most of his life. He became a member at the ripe age of 29. He was, as a result, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations for no less than four decades. During that time he also served on our Board of Directors for approximately 13 years and spoke at I don't know how many meetings over those years and decades.

The turnout tonight is extraordinary by any measure, and it's a real testament, I think, to how you, the membership, feels and felt about Richard. There are a few people tonight who I'd like to single out. It's always a dangerous thing to do in an organization like this, but so it goes.

Two of my predecessors are here, Les Gelb and Peter Tarnoff, and two of the former chairmen of the institution are here, David Rockefeller and Pete Peterson -- and all of them had the opportunity not just to know but to work with Richard -- tonight, so I and we are especially that they are with us.

We also have tonight the great pleasure of having several members of Richard's family here with us, and again, we're really pleased that you could be here and that we could do this with you.

And now there's no person I'm happier to hand things over to than Kati Marton. (Applause.)

KATI MARTON: Good evening, dear friends of Richard's. Richard Haass, thank you for organizing this wonderful tribute to Richard Holbrooke.

It's -- it's quite overwhelming for me to see so many of our dear, dear friends and companions gathered again in Richard's memory. And of course Richard Haass summoned the most distinguished and the most -- and the closest-to-Richard panel imaginable, Les and Frank and Vali and Chris Hill -- Hi, Chris -- peering down from cyberspace at us. It's -- I couldn't think of a better tribute except not having one.

It's absolutely fitting that, as Richard Haass mentioned, that this should be the final memorial after a year of astonishing tributes -- from the Asia Society, from the United Nations, from the American Academy in Berlin. It's fitting that this should be the final one because this is, as Richard mentioned, where Richard Holbrooke really got his start in life. This is where he honed his diplomatic skills. This is where he formed his lifelong friendships. And this is the organization that he poured heart and soul into to making it the dynamic platform that it was under Peter and Les and now under Richard Haass. And though I've not been a member for 40 years, I've been a member long enough to have tremendously benefited from that membership.

Most importantly, this is where Richard and I met. (Chuckles.) You didn't know that, Richard. We did not court within these hallowed halls -- (laughter) -- let me assure you. I found Richard Holbrooke to be way too scary in those meetings to do anything like court. But we courted under much more relaxed circumstances amid the cafes and great cathedrals of Europe. And by the way, Richard knew as much about cafes and great cathedrals as he did about nuclear throw weights and the fine points of getting very bad people to do good things across the negotiating table.

But you could not share 17 years of Richard's life and not be passionately engaged in the biggest issues of the day, from the Balkans, to paying U.S. back dues to the U.N., to NATO enlargement, to AIDS, to, finally, attempting to rein in the Taliban. Those were our bread-and-butter subjects. Once in a while when Richard forgot to ask me what kind of a day I was having, I'd have to chide him and say, hey, this isn't Wisner or Gelb you're talking to, this is Kati, your wife. (Laughter.)

Many years ago, Richard Bernstein, the distinguished New York Times correspondent, said to me that he'd only ever personally known one great man -- Richard Holbrooke. Why, I asked. Why is that? It's not that I didn't think Richard was great; it's just that when you live with a person, particularly a person who'd just as soon wear the same necktie for five days in a row, you don't think of them as a great man.

Well, Richard Bernstein had a very good answer. He said that Richard Holbrooke -- there are too many Richards around here -- that Richard Holbrooke was the only one who was actually changing the world. In the past year since Richard's death, I have come to fully appreciate that. Richard did leave the world a different place. He ended the nastiest European war since the Second World War. He changed the way the world deals with HIV/AIDS. He built what I think is the most dynamic American European cultural platform, the American Academy in Berlin.

But in this past year, I've discovered that Richard's most meaningful legacy is as mentor. I have heard from hundreds of young diplomats, FBI agents, CIA agents, journalists and humanitarian workers -- my daughter Lizzie (sp), who is here with us from Haiti, one of them -- who Richard touched and transformed in some way.

If he saw a spark in a young person, Richard had all the time in the world for them. I think it in part because he was young himself -- obviously, not in years, but in spirit. He did not have a cynical bone in his body. There is always something that can be done. That was Richard's mantra. He was the youngest middle-aged person I have ever met. (Laughter.)

So I've come to agree with Richard Bernstein; he was a great man. Thank you for being here, and thank you for honoring him.

GELB: Kati -- thank you, Kati. Thank you, Richard.

Just a minute to say a word about some of the people sitting here in the front row because you may not know their special connection to Holbrooke.

Peter Tarnoff was not only my predecessor as president of the council, but Peter and Frank who were -- are really Dick's oldest friends, back from the Vietnam days. And Peter was a terrific successor to have as president of this place.

And I would also mention Pete Peterson and Joan Cooney because they were really surrogate parents and friends to Dick Holbrooke and friends in need. They played a special role in his life, and I thank you for it.

It's very sad and glad for me to talk about Dick. It's glad because I love talking about him. (Laughter.) There's no end to Dick Holbrooke's stories. And it is sad because all of the time I think about him.

We have three people tonight who worked with him very closely at key moments in his career. I'm not going to introduce them in detail, save to say that Frank was there, knew him first in Vietnam, and Frank subsequently was ambassador everywhere. (Laughter.) Chris Hill, on the screen here, worked with Dick on Bosnia, and he was ambassador everywhere else. (Laughter.) And then, finally, Vali Nasr who became a guru to Dick with Af-Pak -- Vali likes to say he was a mentee of Dick's, and he was. Just to be around Dick, you're forced into the mentee role -- (laughter) -- but he was also the guru.

So we have three very special people to talk about key moments of his life. I'm going to save my comments till the end. Each of the panelists will speak for seven minutes in their own fashion, and we'll do it chronologically, starting with Frank Wisner in Vietnam, then Chris Hill in Bosnia, and finally Vali with Af-Pak.


FRANK WISNER: Les, thank you.

Kati, I almost don't know where to begin. Your eloquence and the moving words you gave us tonight -- (inaudible) -- the stage for our memories of Richard. I am -- I'm very honored to be here. I miss him hugely, Les.

I -- like all of you, I first met Dick Holbrooke, as you know, as Les has pointed out, in Vietnam. I wasn't there at the beginning when Dick first arrived and was part of a secondment to the AID mission and assigned to a province in the southern part of the Mekong Delta. I really caught up with Dick after his first tour. He came to visit from Washington where he had returned to the Washington staff in the Department of State, eventually in the White House, that dealt with Vietnam and the support of the Vietnam mission. I lived through three phases of Richard Holbrooke's association with Vietnam.

The first phase was an intense -- as everything was in his life -- view that we as a nation were committed to Vietnam, and we had to see our way through it, that we had made a promise to ourselves and the world to stand by the Republic of Vietnam.

And he was determined, whether he was in the delta working with a local Vietnamese administration or working with the American mission in Saigon, to make certain we did our best. And he put energy into this that was unparalleled with any officer in his time.

The second feature of him that came out besides his energy -- and that was his absolute knack for how to get things done, how to find the people who made the decisions, to impress upon them that he knew what he was talking about. And in Vietnam, let me tell you, the leadership that we had deployed in the country was as lost, in a real sense of the application of the mission, as you can imagine. And Richard was determined to make a difference.

He helped, and I was associated with him, as we put together the pacification program -- not he and I, obviously; it was a governmentwide effort, and -- but from Washington, bringing foreign service officers to serve in the field, to staff our missions, to give advice, to bolster the government of Vietnam, to make sure the resources of the United States were available to those involved in the war.

This time in Vietnam also gave Richard another opening, and that was an experience in dealing with the American media. And he made deep, enduring, important friendships. He became -- he loved it -- he became the man you went to in Saigon if you wanted an articulate view of what was going on. And his energy, his outreach meant that he could speak at firsthand about officers in the field, officers at headquarters, civilians, military, the enemy.

GELB: Frank, give us -- excuse me -- give us a sense of Dick's beliefs and the evolution of his beliefs about Vietnam in the few minutes you have left.

WISNER: Well, in the few minutes I have left, I will end quite right getting carried away. In the -- Richard in Washington, after the Honolulu conference, after attempts to make the pacification mission work and to see MACV transformed into an operation that could win a war on the ground, gradually saw that there was no way forward and that the way -- only way forward was to head towards a negotiation and secure peace.

I was able to be with Richard in Paris when he was part of the delegation, when he was David Bruce and Cabot Lodge, at their side, an enormously influential member of that mission. But it was very clear to me then that he had given up any sense of confidence the war could be won in anything approaching a conventional sense.

The third phase of Richard came even a bit later than that, and that was a conviction that we'd made the wrong decisions about Vietnam. He took, in that sense, a U-turn in his life. And as he left government, left the foreign service, went into the press, himself began writing, thinking, the lessons of Vietnam marked him forever after that this great nation of ours could make mistakes and that we could not afford to make them again. And I believe very deeply that that experience marked him for the balance of his days.

The energy, the commitment, the outreach to other people, the capacity and knowledge that shaping opinion is to shape policy, therefore dealing with press, the ability to understand and zero-base your thinking and come around at the end to recognize the mistakes we'd made -- it was that determination, that drive and that flexibility that remains in my mind.

GELB: Thank you so much, Frank.

Chris, you won't be able to hear me clicking when your seven minutes are up, but if I start coughing, that's what that means.

CHRISTOPHER HILL: OK, (I'll be on it ?).

Well, first of all, I'm very honored to be included in this gathering, included especially among so many close friends of Richard Holbrooke. I am truly one of those people that Kati alluded to who was absolutely helped and mentored, yelled at and sort of kept after throughout my career.

I used to refer to Richard as both my mentor and my tormentor -- (laughter) -- and I think he definitely played both roles.

I feel very fortunate to have been a part of that because, in a sense, I was -- I was a bit of an accident. He had just taken over the European Bureau. He had made some personnel decisions, where he didn't like the attitude, frankly, of some of the people who were working on Bosnia, because he felt they were defeatist. And one thing about Richard is, when he took on an assignment, he did -- he did it with the notion that there could be success at the end of the day.

So he turned to his principal deputy and said: Who do you have? Who can be the director of the Balkans? And John Kornblum had just met me on the bus that morning -- (inaudible) -- (laughter). He said: I've got just the guy. (Laughter.) And (one catch was ?) that Richard insisted that he meet me. So I went up to his office at 7:00 at night; I wasn't even sure what it was about. He was watching Andrea Mitchell, who was on NBC that night, and he muted her and asked me a question about the -- about the Balkans. And before I could answer him, he pointed the remote at me and muted me. (Laughter.) And so I never really got a chance to talk to him. (Laughter.) So he said -- he said OK -- this was a Friday night, and he said: OK, we'll meet you in New York on Sunday; we've got to go meet Itzebegovic. And that's where it began. (Laughter.)

It was a -- it was an -- it was an extraordinary ride. I remember he looked at me -- we got into the car, and he hadn't really looked at me before, and he said -- he asked me how old I was. And when I told him, he said: Why do you have less hair than I do, if you're so much younger? (Laughter.) And then I explained, because I worry a lot more than he does. (Laughter.) In fact, I was wrong. He worried an awful lot.

And when -- one of the things about working on the Balkans with him -- first of all, he understood the history. He really read it, and he expected other people to read history. And I guess, in his disarming way, he would mention reading a book, and then asking whether I had actually read the book. And before I could change the subject to not having to tell him no, I hadn't, he kind of quizzed me, and eventually threw the book at me. And I had to read it that night and be quizzed on it again the next morning. I mean, he really felt people ought to understand the facts.

The second thing about the Balkans was, you know, a lot of people might think that it was just happenstance that he dealt with the Balkans, but I think he understood that region for two very profound reasons. One, he understood the human rights dimensions of the problem, the fact that so many innocent people were suffering so much, and he really took this to heart. And to go with him to a refugee camp or somewhere was really to understand his humanity. And -- but the second issue, that I think is not so well know, is he understood how corrosive this was to the trans-Atlantic relationship. And he was a huge believer in the trans-Atlantic relationship and the need for the U.S. and Europe to work together in the -- in the Cold War -- in the post-Cold War period. So I think he really understood that it was somehow bigger than just the confines of the Balkans.

And finally, because he was such a student of history, he understood that big problems in the world don't necessarily happen in big places. He understood that big problems can happen quite often on the scruffy edges of places. And he was willing to go wherever and to do whatever to deal with those scruffy places --

GELB: But Chris, let me interrupt you for a sec --

HILL: -- (inaudible) -- he's very much missed.

GELB: Let me interrupt you for a sec. Give us a sense of why Dick thought he could do this. All sorts of people had tried and failed. What made him think he could succeed?

HILL: Well, he was not someone lacking in self-confidence. (Laughter.) I think that's important in this game.

Secondly -- and maybe I'm flattering myself here -- but he really believed in his team. You know, once he took you on, he really felt that he had the best people working for him. And he took on a lot of people. It was a -- you know, there are a lot of people who kind of feel that they are very much a part of a Holbrooke team, even to today.

So I think he had self-confidence. He put together a good team. He knew the issues. And he also understood that when you're dealing with bad guys -- and that was a great deal of the legacy, though I certainly appreciate Richard Haass mentioning that there's another element to the legacy, that is, dealing with allies -- you know, it was either Napoleon or Holbrooke who said, my greatest strength is that I have no allies. (Laughter.) It is a full-time job to take care of your allies. (Laughter.) But he understood that in dealing with -- in dealing with bad guys, you had to -- (inaudible) -- close to them. You had to get them to trust you.

GELB: Chris, thanks a lot.

Vali -- (applause) -- very good. Vali, up to you to tie the recent loose ends.

VALI NASR: Well, thank you very much. It's a great privilege to be here and to speak about my reminiscences of Richard a year after he passed away. I still -- when I think, I still don't know quite how I ended up with him. It was one of those flukes of life, but a life- changing experience. In many ways, it was an intense experience that I'm still, in some ways, recovering from. (Laughter.)

But actually, to the point that Chris mentioned, I think one of the unique things about Richard was this idea of a team. And I think the way, in particular, he conceived of the idea -- of the notion of SREP (sp), the office of a special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, as a whole-of-government entity that would bring people from the outside to address issues, was interesting, was -- but also said something about the way he viewed government. He knew it very well, but he fundamentally believed that it was not functional in terms of addressing pressing foreign policy issues.

I think, you know, these days it's very difficult not to think of Richard given what's happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan in terms of, you know, what was his contribution in the first two years of this administration and what would it have been had he lived or if he was here today. I think, you know, one of the most important issues to keep in mind about him is that he fundamentally believed that his job -- or at least that's what he saw as one of his missions is to restore the balance in American foreign policy between civilians and the military, that fundamentally, it shouldn't be the U.S. military who makes American foreign policy, it should be the State Department and the diplomats.

GELB: But was it?

NASR: No, it wasn't. And actually, it was -- it was -- it was part of the entire, you know, mission was to essentially argue that we shouldn't -- and that was his experience with Vietnam. I mean, I never heard him once refer to the Balkans in the two years that I worked with him. It was not a pertinent example even though it was the crowning achievement of his career in some ways. But Vietnam, to him, had many lessons, one of which was that, you know, you're not going to succeed in these difficult situations if the diplomats are not in charge.

And he also thought that fundamentally, the best way to look at this problem of Afghanistan and Pakistan is to -- is to start big. You have to have actually a vision for U.S. strategy, for U.S. future in that region, and then you work your way to seeing where you want Afghanistan and Pakistan end up. And he argued very effectively we should see these regions as one, you know, one entity; their fate is tied together; the problem crosses the borders; without Pakistan, you can't win in Afghanistan, and if you don't win in Afghanistan, Pakistan is going to be hell, and you're going to be dealing with it for a very long time. So he put his shoulder to that.

And fundamentally, he was not in favor of sending troops to Afghanistan. He was a loyal soldier. He followed, you know, what his superiors wanted, defended the policy, but he thought it was awfully close to a Vietnam scenario of gradually getting more and more into a war. And what his recipe was was that you have to find a way to just keep, you know, Pakistan in a Goldilocks situation, positively oriented. You can't fix it short-run, you can't get full cooperation, but if you get more cooperation (than you don't ?), and in Afghanistan, you need to work on a peace deal.

And now, for instance, we recently read in the papers that the Taliban has agreed to open an office in Qatar. This is really a crowning achievement of Richard's work. You know, when he was arguing in a sort of a guerrilla-war fashion in the State Department, the White House about talking to the Taliban, nobody wanted to hear it. We didn't talk to terrorists; we were going to win this on the battlefield; this was static that distracted attention from, quote/unquote, "COIN strategy" and convincing the president to send more troops into the field.

But he persisted, in the ways that Richard only would persist -- you know, calling people every five minutes, getting in their face -- (laughter), and pushing and pushing -- I don't know how many memos we wrote about the fact that it is possible to talk to the Taliban -- until, literally right after Richard passed away, this began to become American foreign policy, with the secretary of state giving a speech, the first Richard Holbrooke speech at the Asia Society, embracing the idea and then, you know, sitting in Pakistan and telling the Pakistani press that, yes, we are talking to the Haqqani Network, we are talking to the Taliban, this is now officially U.S. policy.

This is what Richard fought for, that the -- ultimately, you know, we have to finish this war. And just -- you know, one of the things Richard was very good at was, obviously, working the media, and partly was to keep them positively oriented towards these issues. And that's very clear that, you know, since he's gone, even -- you know, that that element has also been lost.

GELB: Vali, give us a sense of how Dick thought this war would end. What did he think was going to happen?

NASR: Well, ideally he thought that it was possible to arrive at a peace settlement that would provide a semblance of stability and a political order that would allow us to declare victory and leave. He didn't believe we could turn Afghanistan into a democracy. He didn't believe that, you know, we can forever stay there and pay for state building, for varieties of other commitments that we had made.

But at the same time, he didn't think that we could defeat the Taliban on the battlefield, either; that that was not surmountable; that the military was selling the president and the American people a bill of goods that would get them deeper and deeper into this war. And ultimately, if you're not going to just cut and run, if you're not going to fight it out, the only other option is to find a diplomatic solution.

I think he really believed that the American political system has lost a sense of value of diplomacy. It doesn't value its diplomats. It doesn't value its diplomacy. It starts and ends with arguments that came out of Iraq, out of military options. COIN totally dominated the discussion then. This is counterinsurgency doctrine. And I think, you know, probably when General Petraeus referred to him as "my wing man," I think that, to him, was the biggest insult, even though they were friends, that that's how low, you know we have come, that the diplomats serve as aide-de-camps to generals.

GELB: But that's all right, actually, because all the rest of us were Dick Holbrooke's wing men. (Laughter.) It's true.

Let me ask a question of all of you as a way of pulling some of this together, because -- I mean, Frank and I talked to Dick about Af- Pak all the time. I'm sure Chris did as well. Here he had the Vietnam experience and he comes away from that saying, my Lord, how could we get into this situation of trying to change a country, do this nation building? It was really an impossible task.

And he also saw in Vietnam that, sure, we could sit down at the negotiating table, but in the end, to negotiate was just a softer landing toward losing. So how did he get mixed up in this Af-Pak thing, you know, with that in his head? And this is really addressed to all three of you. How does he think this really all evolves with that Vietnam history in his head? Frank, why don't you --

WISNER: Well, it's a very tough question, in part because among -- Richard was an enormously disciplined person. As scattered as he appeared to be and -- with Kati's neckties, he was in fact enormously disciplined. He was out to accomplish his commitment to the job he'd been given, and he wasn't going to put that at risk. He didn't sit and wring his hands and say we're on the wrong track. What he tried to do was accommodate what was -- what was required of the mission as it had been handed to him by the president, by our national security system: to provide a strong civilian presence in Afghanistan, to provide a logic and a commitment of resources and engagement with the government of Pakistan, and at the same time begin to define in his own mind, but not articulate out to the public, that we had to contain this matter and move it to a political conclusion.

He did not ever show his cards in public. He maintained that discipline all the way through. And any attempt to try to get Richard to say where are we going, why are we doing this, he would deflect the question; talked about what we were accomplishing, but then made it clear that the political outcome, providing a political solution, providing a negotiation with Pakistan -- and I think Vali put it so well, the "Goldilocks solution" in -- to deal with Pakistan -- was what drove his thinking.

NASR: If I may -- oh, Chris, go ahead.

GELB: Go ahead, Chris.

HILL: I would -- I would first say that I don't think he was every daunted by long odds. And certainly, Af-Pak had very long odds, even perhaps more so than we took on -- than when he took on the Balkans. But I think he really did have a sense of the thing going in the wrong direction. And I think the whole issue of militarization of foreign policy was something very much on his mind. As he saw the debate of, you know, "Is Afghanistan important because of Pakistan, or is Pakistan important because of Afghanistan?", he had a sense of balance that I think he felt that the military was erring to the side that Afghanistan was more important because that's where our troops are and we cannot be perceived as not having won. And I think he was very concerned about that kind of imbalance.

So I think that helped drive him there. But, you know, I think fundamentally he loved a challenge. He understood how so fundamentally important this was to our country, and he wasn't going to shy away from it.

GELB: Before Vali goes on, I failed to mention at the outset that this meeting is on the record, so you can take back anything you want. (Laughter.) Thank you.

NASR: Well, I --

GELB: And by the way, we have, as you can see, teleconferencing not only with Chris, but with council members -- is it all over the world, or only in Denver? (Laughter.)

(Chuckles.) Vali, go ahead.

NASR: I remember one time I asked -- I said to Richard that, you know, the Pakistanis, even they are wondering why are you doing this; that, you know, anybody who wants to build a career or, you know, move up or do something better, this -- Pakistan is not the place to get in -- (laughter) -- and especially the manner that he did try to move things: you know, lobby in Congress, work -- you know, promise them things.

And I think, you know -- and I know a lot of people in the press have talked about, you know, the fact that he didn't become secretary of state or he -- or that he had ambitions. I never felt that. I thought, you know, as Henry Kissinger said about him, that he had -- that he didn't have ambition to be; he had ambition to do. And I think it really mattered to him that he accomplished these things, rather than whether or not they were a stepping stone to something more.

I also think he really liked doing it. I mean, you know, when he was on these trips, he was more -- and, you know, some of my colleagues here -- Dan Feldman, I'm sure, would attest -- he had more energy than all of us. We would be totally exhausted; he would -- he liked talking to, you know, diplomats; he liked talking to people, to civil society; he was on the go. And I think, you know, Afghanistan, Pakistan, above everything else, was not just a national security challenge, it was a diplomatic challenge that, you know, allowed him to actually exercise his skills. And I think he enjoyed doing that.

GELB: Well, let me ask the question a different way. First of all, I have to disagree with you, Vali. I think Dick wanted to do as secretary of state. (Laughter.) He wanted to combine these two things: the doing and the secretarial thing. And all of us who've worked with him believed he should have been secretary of state, what's more.

But let's say he was in that job. What could he have done from that pedestal to shape this Af-Pak war that he couldn't do from where he was? What were the main forces in this administration? Is -- was the resistance from the military, the CIA, from the president himself? What was going on? And I address again to all of you.

NASR: I mean, you know, the rules of American bureaucracy and government are there.

In other words, there is interagency rivalry. They looked at Afghanistan/Pakistan from different prisms. They had different priorities.

But I think he had an impossible job, largely because he was -- his office was embedded in one of those agencies, which could not --

MR. : And the weakest agency.

NASR: As the weakest of them. So essentially what -- the way Richard compensated for that was essentially lobbying at a personal level. So you know, he -- given the relationships he had at Treasury, at Pentagon, at -- in Congress, he essentially worked it at a personal level, but he didn't have the authority to order another agency to do X, Y and Z. I mean, for instance, we couldn't even get the Homeland Security to go easy on visiting Pakistani generals and not do body searches on them. That would take weeks and weeks of, you know, going through the whole system. So you know, there is the way -- can you call somebody you know, one of his many mentees over the years, who was at the Department of Homeland Security, to sort of accommodate a visiting Pakistani.

But I think, you know, the -- there was a handicap, and that -- and particularly given that the intelligence operations at the Pentagon were so much more powerful in terms of policy making, you know, you -- he felt the fact that he had one hand tied behind his back trying to work these issues.

WISNER: You know, I think I'd add only, Vali, to that last observation that the sense of having a hand tied behind his back -- as I watched him and related somewhat to him during this period, which was -- you could tell how difficult that his time in government was. It was very difficult because at core I don't think he ever believed nor did he have the equation with the president that he would have wanted to have. He had to wrestle with the fact that he almost came from another generation and that he was up against a White House staff that was skeptical of him. He had to face as well a military which was in a position of dominance with regard to the policy, and he had to make his way against that and never in any of these regards appear to be whining or complaining, but rather the confidence in his own personality, the power of his arguments to be able to overcome and shape a way forward, and to be able finally to break through to disbelieving or skeptical audiences by having the analytical answers to the questions that were in front of him. And he never gave up. He never lost that spirit or heart. But it was a very, very tough road.

GELB: You know, I would add or underline something that all of my colleagues here have said, which really should surprise you, if you focus on it, but it was absolutely true. They each made the point that however Dick felt about policy -- and boy, he was brimming with problems about the policy -- he was loyal. Now you'd never guess it, because Dick was such a pain in the neck -- (laughter) -- but he was loyal to his secretary, Hillary Clinton; he was loyal to the president.

WISNER: Right.

GELB: And you know, even in intimate conversations with his staff or whatever, he never broke that, which is a really important facet of the guy that I think has gotten lost in the commentary.

Chris, you wanted to chime in here?

HILL: Yeah, I completely agree with that last point, Les. He really was very loyal. I mean, I saw him a couple of weeks before his death, and we were at La Chamais (sp) restaurant till pretty late at night, and he talked about the problems he faced, you know, the issues in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the problems with the politicians there, and obviously, I mean, I could tell that some of the major problems were happening in Washington. And he was really very careful never to let his guard down.

I think it was a real old-school loyalty. I mean, he had a kind of institutional loyalty. You know, he'd talk about the State Department. He -- whenever I'd do something he didn't like, he'd call me a typical foreign service officer -- (laughter) -- which was an epithet -- (laughter) --

MR. : Right. Right. Right. Right.

HILL: -- (yet he had ?) this great sense of loyalty to the institution. And I think this institutional loyalty was kind of old- school in him and continued into being very loyal to all his bosses.

GELB: Let's explore Bosnia a bit more. Bosnia is his -- I guess, his first contact with a problem involving ethnic clashes. And somehow or other, he figured out a solution that all the different ethnic groups could abide by, Chris, which was -- which is really a stunner in this day and age where we seem unable to corral these ethnic hatreds in almost every other venue. Well, what made it possible in Bosnia, and what makes it so hard here? Frank can deal with that as well.

HILL: Well, first of all, I think with respect to Bosnia, he was -- again, I can't emphasize enough what a student of history he was. I mean, he really knew what he was talking about, and he knew that the complexity of the issues in Bosnia kind of went beyond some of the cartoon images of it that would be reached in the U.S. -- (inaudible) -- he understood that these things did indeed go way back, they did indeed involve different (equities ?) of different groups.

And so he tried to work with everybody. And when you look at the Dayton peace accords, you know, a lot of people say it ended up with, you know, political structures that were far too complex for that small country to handle. Well, one of the reasons for the complexity was he was trying to give everybody a kind of stake in the game and a sense that they have gotten something out of it.

So I think it was a combination of this historical understanding of the place and also his role as negotiator, where when you're a negotiator, you kind of have to get close to everybody, listen to everybody and try to work out something where everyone has some sense that they got something out of it. So I think it was that part of his personality. He did not like to disappoint people.

GELB: We've got 20 minutes left. And we now turn it all over to you plus our members on the tube.

Farah (sp), are you here?

MS. : I'm here.

GELB: So the floor is open for questions or comments or whatever. Please raise your hand. Identify yourselves. Anybody raising their hand?

(Off-mic exchange.)

Go ahead, over there.

QUESTIONER: Susan Woodward -- as Chris will remember, had a lot of contact with Richard in the '90s in Washington on Bosnia, and Les will know that, too -- from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York now. I'm fascinated by Vali Nasr's discussion of this civil- military relations issue, right, which I think someone should -- it'd be better to be a Ph.D. dissertation right now, but somebody should be writing a book on this because -- I don't -- I didn't know that he didn't discuss the Balkans with you. But to me, what he was doing in Afghanistan in the year before he died was exactly what -- the lessons he drew from what happened at least in Bosnia, if not also in Kosovo.

GELB: (Inaudible.)

QUESTIONER: And the point I wanted to ask --

GELB: I thought you just made it.

QUESTIONER: Well, no, I wanted to ask a question -- (inaudible) -- and Chris might want to come into this, too -- is that it wasn't so much the balance between military and diplomatic, it was using military success on the battlefield to get people, in his mind, to the negotiating table. We can talk about whether that was a good idea in the last two or three years or not. But would you at least talk, the two of you, about that particular argument, about under what conditions diplomacy works?

GELB: Very good point. Chris, why don't you start this one off, the relationship --

HILL: Well --

GELB: -- of the force to the diplomacy?

HILL: First of all, he was a strong proponent of the use of military tools to affect the diplomatic outcome. So he saw, really, military strength as a tool of diplomacy. I think he parted company with other people who saw somehow that diplomacy should be an element in military strategy. I mean, so I think that's one kind of clear difference.

But I was struck by Vali's comments as well because I think some of the things he did to try to reach out to sort of -- he and his bad guys -- you know, it's not like he liked Milosevic or anything remotely like that. He couldn't stand these people, but he understood he needed to reach out to them.

And I think to some extent what I could see in Afghanistan was stuff from his playbook in the Balkans very much.

GELB: But let me put the point more directly. What I'm hearing is, in the Balkans -- it's true -- we had the capability to hurt Milosevic very badly, and he understood that. In the case of Afghanistan, our ability to really crush the Taliban is much, much less. So Dick could use the military threat in a much more constructive, productive way in Bosnia than he could in Afghanistan.

NASR: This is all true. The problem was that none of this was actually on the table in terms of discussion. I mean, the reason he wasn't -- in his mind, I'm sure, he had a lot of reference points about what happened in the Balkans, and even balancing, you know, Northern Alliance and is with Hazaras, with, you know, the south. But the problem was that the debate in the United States did not include diplomacy at all. I mean, if you look at Bob Woodwards' book of -- account of what was being discussed, it was about, you know, winning on the battlefield with more troops or, you know, a much more targeted approach using drones and special forces.

For the first two years that I was involved, the job of the State Department at least was not defined to do diplomacy, it was to manage assistance and aid to Afghanistan. So, you know, our office and Richard ended up doing pomegranates in Kandahar and, you know, quince (in Western ?) Afghanistan, largely because that's all the State Department was allowed to do.

So diplomacy like that had no place. This idea that, you know, you could use force to bring people to the table is clearly what he would have liked to be authorized to do. So he had to actually fight in order to convince people that there is -- (ready ?) -- for diplomacy. The way diplomacy was understood is that the diplomats' job is to go around the world and get money and troops for the ISAF mission, so that their job is to corral resources for the war, but not to end the war. And the strategy that was being presented to the president, was being discussed, was heavy on military solution and very sort of light on a diplomatic solution.

But otherwise, I agree. I think he fundamentally would have supported the idea that, you know, you should use military force in order to bring people to the table.

GELB: Thank you.

WISNER: Vali, let me just add an additional thought. There is no doubt in my mind that simply delivering more troops and more agricultural assistance was not going to make a difference. I also believe that he was not persuaded that military power would end up producing a political settlement inside of Afghanistan, and that as he came to the end of his time, he came to a conclusion that if you didn't deal with the geostrategic aspects of the problem, you were not going to be able to settle Afghanistan.

GELB: As frank is saying, that Dick was trying to solve it from the outside rather than the inside.

WISNER: That you could not bring the Taliban and Haqqani to the table and get a deal, but what you had to do was go to India, to Pakistan, to Afghanistan and try to forge an understanding, backed by the nations around, that they recognized that radicalism was their collective worst enemy; and if you could create that coming together of these three, you could actually then begin to shape a political settlement.

This would not be driven by the military. This had to be an act of statesmanship. And that's the way he saw the way through the problem.

GELB: As you can see, my problem with this panel is that they're too smart and they know too much. (Laughter.)

A question back there.


GELB: Someone back there.

QUESTIONER: (Inaudible.) I published "To End a War."

GELB: Peter, identify yourself.

QUESTIONER: Is this on?

GELB: What?

QUESTIONER: It's not on.

GELB: Oh, Harold. Hello, Harold.

QUESTIONER: How's that? Can you hear me now?

GELB: Yes.

QUESTIONER: OK. I published "To End a War," so I discussed the Balkans quite a lot with Richard. But maybe out of loyalty, out of my maybe lack of real historical knowledge of what was going on, it always intrigued me, when he got to the Balkans and did the brilliant job he did, why the hell did it take so long for the Europeans and the United States to actually get their act together to get to the point of intervention, where he could display his skills?

What light can you shed on Richard's role in that formative period before intervention?

GELB: Chris, why don't you handle this?

HILL: Well, I think, first of all, Washington was divided on the issue of how to proceed, and it wasn't really until summer of '95 -- that is, after Srebrenica massacres -- that there's a consensus position that we needed to aggressively seek a solution that did involve some internal partition. You recall there were a lot of people who felt that we should not create -- or recreate the Bosnian state as some sort of federal state. So that was one issue.

I think the second issue was there was a -- through the spring time, there was an effort to have the Europeans take a go at it; that's where Carl Bildt (ph) came in. While we couldn't make up his -- our mind, maybe the Europeans could. And thirdly, there were practical issues on the ground where the Europeans were totally invested in UNPROFOR and an investment in UNPROFOR essentially meant that you couldn't bring NATO into the picture as an instrument of diplomacy, which is finally what was done.

GELB: Thank you. I'm sure you could give a good answer to this too, Harry (sp).

There's a hand back here.

QUESTIONER: Gerard Gutley (ph). Just as a former journalist, I would observe that it was a very good point and people mentioned his -- Richard's belief in informing the public, the power of public opinion. In fact, we all knew that he -- at heart, he was really a journalist, and one of his earliest ambitions was to become a journalist, but I understand The New York Times did not hire him. So -- (laughter) -- we know the results. Had he gone into journalism, media, he would have risen right to the top, no doubt.

We've been talking about specific events here and rightly so: the Balkans, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Pakistan. We haven't really talked -- and I'm not sure Richard really spoke much about his strategic view of what was happening in the world globally.

For example, he was not only assistant secretary for Europe, but also for East Asia at a very important point -- this was a while back -- dealing with Japan and China and Korea and the rest. Do any of you -- have you talked, Chris or others, with him about how he felt -- the power shifts taking place in the world over the last 20 years in this global sense, particularly of China, India, et cetera, and what he thought of that and what he thought America's response to that could or should be?

GELB: Well, maybe Frank can handle this.

WISNER: Well, I think you put your finger on a very important point. I cannot remember a specific conversation I had with Richard that treated it directly. But the way he thought about power and the way he imagined nations can react, one to the other, the current shift in the global situation was exactly the world he saw working.

He saw a balance of power as a driving force. He believed balance of power had to be nourished with a strong sense of responsibility, believed deeply in the humanitarian thrust of American diplomacy. He believed deeply in the primacy of democracy. But he also believed that the United States was entering a period in its life, where it would share power, where it had to make consensual arrangements, where it had to work with allies and today's adversaries would not be necessarily tomorrow's adversaries. So I think he was with it and on top of the -- (inaudible) -- that you're putting out even if I don't remember a specific conversation where he brought all the points together.

GELB: Yeah, I think I did have a few conversations with him that dealt with these issues. In the first place, he didn't think that China was an enemy or even an adversary. It was a competitor, another major power -- (inaudible). And he was very worried that we were going to transform it into an enemy. He wanted to be tough with the Chinese, he had had experience with them, but not the degree of turning them into a certain hostile power.

There was a long way to go, and this wasn't the Cold War. In the Cold War, we just had military competition with the Soviet Union -- no economic relationship. In the case of China, we had a -- have a profound economic relationship. And that was a lever to do things.

As far as the Europeans are concerned, I think Dick had come close to writing them off; that he didn't think they were going to do a damn thing; that in the end, he had pushed and shoved them on Bosnia, but on Af-Pak, you know, they were doing what they were doing, because they felt they had to, but as far as accepting any kind of real responsibility in the world, he thinks -- he thought that that had passed the day in Europe.

HILL: (If I -- ?)

GELB: Chris has a -- Chris?

HILL: I wonder if I could --

GELB: Yeah, go ahead.

HILL: If I could just add, I agree with you that Richard was very frustrated with the Europeans, but I would not just look at the European diplomacy in Bosnia as a function of trying to get the Europeans engaged on Bosnia. Obviously, that's part of it. But he was a huge believer in maintaining the trans-Atlantic alliance after the Cold War. I think he really believed in the idea of that relationship. And he was also a very powerful figure in the whole NATO enlargement debate, which, obviously, went well beyond the issue of Bosnia.

And then, I was the assistant secretary for Asia some 28 years after he had the job, and so I was the beneficiary of a lot of his advice on the subject. And he was very much a believer in a robust dialogue with China, and the notion that the U.S. and China should be able to work together on these things -- huge believer in that relationship, and a believer that if we could work that relationship well, we could deal with some of these scruffy problems; notably, North Korea.

GELB: Thank you.

David Holbrooke -- and then, do we have a question from the ghost online? Vera (ph)?

MR. : I think right here.

GELB: Go ahead, David.

DAVID HOLBROOKE: David Holbrooke. Thank you, Richard, for doing this. Thank you to the council. The family really appreciates this. And, of course, thank you all.

One of the things, looking around the room, I see are a lot of his friends. I know how important his friends were to my father. And one of the friends who came to visit, (along with you, Vali ?), in the hideous days when he was in the hospital 13 months ago was Ambassador Haqqani from Pakistan. And I've followed that story. I don't begin to understand it, but I've wondered to myself -- and perhaps you can answer this -- would he have been able to make a difference? Would he have been able to intervene so that -- and he really -- they really seemed to be legitimate friends -- that he wouldn't be in this situation now?

GELB: Thank you, David.


NASR: I'm sure Richard would have -- would have done everything he could to help Ambassador Haqqani at this time. And I think, you know, he had enough, if you would, relationships built with various people in Pakistan -- with General Kayani, General Pasha, et cetera -- to intervene.

But I think, you know, a lot of what's happened with Pakistan (fundamentally ?) would not have happened had Richard been there, largely -- not only because of the stewardship he was doing, but largely because after he passed away there's nobody really minding the relationship on a day-to-day basis. You know, when there is crises, we focus on Pakistan, but not in between. And I think one of the things Richard understood very well is that relationships are made if you invest time in them.

The number of times he, you know, went to Pakistan on the slightest, you know, development, and the amount of time he spent meeting, you know, every single person that he had to meet, you know, was one reason why there was a -- there was an open channel; so that, you know, many of the things that now sort of snowball and become a problem were addressed at that point in time.

And I think, you know, the whole -- this whole issue of "memogate," of, you know, Pakistanis allegedly trying to pass information to the Pentagon -- and I'm sure that, you know, if Richard was alive, he would have been on the phone with Admiral Mullen the minute this memo arrived, and this -- somehow, the whole memo thing would have had a very different life cycle than the one -- (than it sounded ?).

GELB: Have a question?

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Bill Haseltine, XSL (ph). There is a(n) aspect about Richard's career which isn't often discussed, and that's his business career.

And my question, after a couple of remarks, is -- to you is to what influence did that have on his foreign policy judgments and --

GELB: His business career? (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER: But I can say personally that he was a(n) equal visionary, to me at least, in business as he was in foreign policy. He heard me talk about the genome many years before you knew about the genome. He made a very active effort to become involved in that project. He introduced me to his business friends, and a result of that, we raised $2 billion to help get that business off the ground and bring drugs. He didn't make a penny off of it, much to his continual regret. (Laughter.) He went off to the U.N. at that point. And then he came back after his U.N. stint, brought in friends like Dick Beattie and others and helped me enormously. I had a motto for him, which you might recognize, that he was terrible in little things and great in big things. (Laughter.)

But the question I have for you as panelists is to what extent did that vision that extended to genomes and business to some extent influence his foreign policy?

GELB: Well, that is indeed a challenging question. (Laughter.)

MR. : We'll let you answer.

GELB: Pete Peterson liked to say that the most difficult thing ever said about himself was that he taught Dick Holbrooke everything he knew about banking. (Laughter.) But let me try to answer that.

I think Dick did banking as the most interesting thing available to him outside of being secretary of state and that he learned a tremendous amount in the process about the importance of economics in this world, something I think that Richard Haass and I talk about regularly. And Dick Holbrooke talked about it all the time, something that we've not really adjusted to in American foreign policy and something that I think ought to be at the core of our foreign policy.

Last question.

WISNER: Way in the back.

GELB: Way in the back. Oh, no, wait a second. Before we do that -- excuse me -- we have a call from the beyond --

WISNER: Steve Pieczenik.

GELB: -- from Steve Pieczenik. Steve, are you there? Oh, can he talk?

MR. : No, just read it, Les. (Inaudible.)

WISNER: Steve Pieczenik asks, how did Richard's unique personality affect the success of his diplomatic efforts? (Laughter.)

GELB: Well, it did. (Laughter.) I think -- Steve, I think what you've heard from my colleagues here was that this was a -- this was a guy who could overwhelm a problem and overwhelmed some of the -- some of the worst problems. Maybe that's a transition to some final remarks I'd like to make.

It -- I like to talk about Dick essentially only with close friends. Very hard for me to talk about him sincerely and realistically in groups. He was so special and so really different. He was the -- he really was far and away the most outstanding diplomat of my generation and a guy of enormous capacity to get things done. It's quite astonishing when you look at all the things he thought of doing and did.

He reminded me, as I was thinking about it this evening, about Prospero, the central character in Shakespeare's last play, The Tempest. Prospero -- at the end you'll remember he gave up or had to give up his magic. He was a magician. He made himself into a magician. He called it his arts. But he had to give it up in the end, though at the height of his powers, he could command beasts like Caliban -- not to be confused with Taliban -- (laughter) -- and Ariel, a spirit, and his fellow man.

Prospero had a chance to say his peace at the epilogue to the audience and to ask for its approval.

Dick never had a chance to make that last speech, but everything that's happened since his -- since his death has been testimony to how much we think he was one of the extraordinary people of our time.

I thank my fellow panelists.

MR. : Thank you, Les. Thank you. (Applause.)

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