There is power politics and there is military might. But what keeps the world spinning, more times than not, are two people from enemy camps who can sit down together and find a way forward that keeps the peace. They need to be able to make their argument without alienating the opposition, to be charming enough that persistence never feels like a nuisance, and when necessary, to threaten without being threatening.
For nearly 50 years, Richard Holbrooke was one of those warriors of reason and persuasion. As a young man, he authored portions of the government’s top-secret file on Vietnam that would later become known as the Pentagon Papers, and he made his bones while seated at the table of the Paris peace talks during the last months of the Johnson Administration. Under President Clinton, he was the chief architect of the Dayton peace accords, which ended the war in Bosnia in 1995, and later served as the U.S. representative to the United Nations. “If Richard calls you and asks you for something, just say yes,” Henry Kissinger once said. “If you say no, you’ll eventually get to yes, but the journey will be very painful.”
His amazing career is the subject of a new HBO documentary, The Diplomat, directed by his son, David. Not only is the film an indelible portrait of the man — with interviews with Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Wesley Clark, and Bob Woodward — but it’s also a document of American foreign policy through the life of one of its best and brightest, who passed away in 2010 at 69.
In this exclusive clip, above, Washington insider Bob Woodward shares a recording of one his deep-background chats with Holbrooke, who was cautioning his bosses, Hillary Clinton and President Obama, against a military commitment in Afghanistan. It’s just two guys eating lunch, but it demonstrates the intricate inner workings of statecraft and loyalty.
The HBO documentary The Diplomat, which qualified for the Academy Awards after debuting at the Tribeca Film Festival, will debut on Nov. 2.