Holbrooke, Richard

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HOLBROOKE, RICHARD (1941– ), U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and State Department official. Holbrooke was born in New York City. His parents were German-Jewish refugees who had immigrated to the United States. A graduate of Brown University (1962), he entered the Foreign Service. He served in Vietnam for three years; returning to the United States, he was assigned to the White House staff, where he served until 1967. He then returned to the State Department where he was a staff member at the Paris Peace Talks and then went on to head the Peace Corps in Africa (1970–72).

When he left the Foreign Service, he became a permanent member of the foreign policy establishment in the United States. From 1972 to 1977 he was managing editor of the influential American journal Foreign Affairs and was simultaneously director of publications for the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. With the Democrats back in power, he returned to government to serve as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. After the Carter administration, Holbrooke went into investment banking; he was a managing director at Lehman Brothers.

In 1993, he was named by President Clinton as United States ambassador to Germany during the post-unification period and when the capital of Germany was moving from Bonn to Berlin. He returned to Washington to serve as assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs, a position from which he could apply pressure from within the State Department on American policy toward Bosnia. He tried his hand at shuttle diplomacy, Kissinger style, and pushed for bombing. The Pentagon was reluctant to commit American troops and to demonstrate American military power. He was asked by President Clinton to conduct the Dayton Accords, negotiating an end to the slaughter in Bosnia. He kept the delegates in Dayton, Ohio, in less than opulent conditions at an Air Force base and pressured them, alternating between brutal frankness and flattery, never deceiving himself as to the character of those with whom he was negotiating, including Slobodon Milosevic. A reviewer of his book wrote: "He can be vain, pompous and ridiculous, but he managed to carry off, almost by sheer force of personality, an accomplishment that eluded governments, world leaders and multilateral organizations for four years. He ended the war in Bosnia."

Frustrated and passed over for secretary of state (the position went to Madeline Albright), he again left government service. In 1997 he was named special envoy to Cyprus where he tried to settle the dispute between Greece and Turkey. He was recalled to government service when President Clinton nominated Holbrooke as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He served the remainder of Clinton's terms until 2001 and was active in the Gore campaign for president; his name was raised in both 2000 and 2004 as a potential secretary of state in a Democratic administration. He is married to Kati Marton, a Hungarian-born writer.

[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]