As a reader of this excerpt of Ronan Farrow’s book War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence on Richard Holbrooke, he must have a prodigious memory, or be like Samuel Pepys spending many hours recording the events of his day in dairy entries. Yet his penchant for supplying quotation marks, to comments made by the prominent political actors, in his melodramatic retelling of the Holbrooke Saga, indicates what? Some of the quotations are part of the public record, but others are not.
For one so young Mr. Farrow traveled in exalted political circles. In 2009 Mr. Farrow was 22 years old. Yet his educational achievements, for one so young, are more than impressive:
Farrow attended Bard College at Simon’s Rock, later transferring to Bard College for a B.A. degree in philosophy and becoming the youngest graduate of that institution at age 15. In 2009, he received a J.D. degree from Yale Law School, and was later admitted to the New York Bar.
Mr. Farrow’s rise to prominence as political commentator can be attributed to his academic achievements, and the prominence of his parents and the advantages that brought.
He was part of a team of officials recruited by the diplomat Richard Holbrooke, for whom Farrow had previously worked as a speechwriter. For the next two years, Farrow was responsible for “overseeing the U.S. Government’s relationships with civil society and nongovernmental actors” in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Mr. Farrow offers this telling assessment of Holbrooke early in his essay: But he was a detailed observer of the world and indomitable in his excitement about it. In other words, he was the rare asshole who was worth it. Is this what Mr. Farrow wishes to convey about Holbrooke?
In August 1977, then Assistant Secretary of State, Holbrooke traveled to Indonesia to meet with President Suharto in the midst of Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor, in which over 100,000 East Timorese were ultimately killed or starved to death. According to Brad Simpson, director of the Indonesia and East Timor Documentation Project at the National Security Archives, Holbrooke had visited officially to press for human rights reform but, after meeting Suharto, had instead praised him for Indonesia’s human rights improvements, for the steps that Indonesia had taken to open East Timor to the West, and for allowing a delegation of congressmen to enter the territory under strict military guard, where they were greeted by staged celebrations welcoming the Indonesian armed forces.
n January 2001, Holbrooke said that “Iraq will be one of the major issues facing the incoming Bush administration at the United Nations.” Further, “Saddam Hussein‘s activities continue to be unacceptable and, in my view, dangerous to the region and, indeed, to the world, not only because he possesses the potential for weapons of mass destruction but because of the very nature of his regime. His willingness to be cruel internally is not unique in the world, but the combination of that and his willingness to export his problems makes him a clear and present danger at all times.”
Near the end of this excerpt, Mr. Farrow offers this bit of either the cynical use of political kitsch, or perhaps the saddest comment on the absence of a father, in the life of a child, I have yet to read!
“He was the closest thing to a father I had,” I said quietly, surprising myself. “He was the closest thing to a father I had,” I said quietly, surprising myself.