Tuesday, April 23, 2019

On Richard Holbrooke and the U.S. Information Agency

Thomas Meany, "The Canonization of Richard Holbrooke: Why Third Way liberals saw a glamorous, difficult diplomat as the protector of their values," The New Republic, April 23, 2019

If anyone questioned the sureness of Richard Holbrooke’s [JB see] media touch during his lifetime—when he was persona very grata on cable news shows, dated Diane Sawyer, and set-designed the Dayton Accords on a remote U.S. air base to dramatize the inconvenient necessity of American power—the fact that George Packer has produced a 600-page portrait of him should lay to rest any doubt. Not every diplomat of the second-tier receives full biographical treatment, much less from one of the most beloved journalists in the country. ...

Packer relates fresh vignettes of how the hustling paid off when Holbrooke was back at the State Department in the Carter administration. After, for instance, he won the prize of youngest-ever assistant secretary of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in 1977, he took a trip to Laos, where he met the Vietnamese ambassador and blamed poor relations on Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s national security adviser. News got back to Brzezinski, who was furious, and tried to have Holbrooke fired. But in a nimble coupling of intelligence and media contacts, Holbrooke had the story discredited: He had a friend in the U.S. Information Service [JB: doubtless the United States Information Service, the overseas arm of the non-defunct United States Information Agency, responsible for public diplomacy], who came up with the idea of dismissing the report as a piece of Soviet misinformation and had the CIA send a cable to the State Department exonerating Holbrooke. With his name cleared, Holbrooke then leaked details of the whole affair to right-wing talk show host Robert Novak, who mocked Brzezinski in a column for believing the Soviet fabrication.
See also:

John Brown, "Richard Holbrooke’s Public Diplomacy: The Case of the US Cultural Center in Belgrade," Huffington Post (12/22/2010)

No comments: