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“I believe in the transformative power of individuals. I believe in the big man and woman picture of history. I believe that there are times when individuals just make a crucial difference. A transformative difference. [Holbrooke] had the full force of the United States behind him. And he was willing to put it on the table.”



“Your dad cared…I think he cared because he saw the moral outrage of concentration camps in Europe. His own family had come from Nazi Germany, he served as an ambassador in Germany, he was deeply committed to the transatlantic alliance, he believed that the alliance’s role was to ensure that freedom and democracy and open societies existed across Europe and he’d been crazy enough to come here in ’92. It wasn’t an abstraction to him. He’d seen the killing.”

– ROGER COHEN, New York Times


“He pulled rank and said, 'I've been here before,' which he had. [He] would impart wisdom and was very aware of his role as mentor. I think he really prided himself on being a good mentor to a whole number of people from different eras of his life, but he really did respect good ideas wherever they came from.”



“[Holbrooke] saw that the problems…were essentially not military. We were not going to shoot our way out of this war. These were basically political problems that were going to be solved with the Afghans, not necessarily against them. But that the surgery that had to be done, the work that had to be done on the Afghan government with the Pakistanis, was huge. And these were really big jobs we're talking about that weren't going to be solved in 12 months or even 18 months.”

– DEXTER FILKINS, The New Yorker


“[Holbrooke] had been involved…in the Paris talks, he had served in Vietnam. He was known to be someone who was full of it a lot of the time, but also incredibly larger than life. In a way like President Clinton. Larger than life characters have larger than life strengths and larger than life weaknesses. Before I knew it, he was dating my assistant.”

– JOE KLEIN, Time Magazine


The Vietnam experience remained a scratch on his mind, a very deep scratch on his mind, and one that he would continue to have into the rest of his career, and Afghanistan was a good example."

– STAN KARNOW, Historian


There was combination in [Holbrooke] of both burning ambition, a desire to be where the action was, a desire to work his way up and to get to the level of his heroes, but also an ability to see things as they were..." 

– GEORGE PACKER, The New Yorker


“I am absolutely convinced that Richard Holbrooke believed that activist American foreign policy made the world a better place. And that we are the indispensable nation and he believed that in Bosnia and he made Bosnia better. He believed that in Afghanistan and he tried his damnedest to make it better.”

– DAVID ROHDE, Thomson Reuters