Richard Holbrooke

(Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke)

Quote Topics Cited
A good policy badly executed becomes a bad policy. Policy & Policy Making ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
A war is only as good as the peace that follows. War & Peace
As the life of George F. Kennan shows, individual, original thinking by one lonely person can sometimes illuminate and guide us better than all the high-level panels, commissions, and interagency meetings. Leaders & Leadership
Blaming the UN for Rwanda is like blaming Madison Square Garden when the Knicks play badly. United Nations
Bureaucracies cling to their office space, their secretaries [assistants], their official cars, and their every allotted dollar and personnel position with a tenacity that drowning men might well envy. Bureaucracy
Diplomacy is a little bit like Jazz. It’s improvisation on a theme. Discrimination & Prejudice
Each agency has … acquired certain “pet projects” which its senior officials promote. These are often carried out by despite concern and even opposition by mid-level officials of other agencies as part of a tacit trade off: “We’ll let you do your thing if you let us do ours. Such deals … are almost never explicit, but are nonetheless well understood by the participants. Bureaucracy
Every other agency involved in foreign affairs jealously guards its prerogatives whenever State makes the slightest movement to broaden its role. Energy ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Give the Serbs 48 hours, and if they don't release the hostages, bomb them to hell. Terrorism
Hey, it’s the American way. United Nations
I do not believe that diplomacy equals weakness…. If you are going to use force you better make sure that it is effective. Diplomacy & Diplomats
I never heard of such a vile, profane man. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
I want you to learn nothing from government. This place is dead intellectually. It does not produce any ideas; it is all about turf battles and checking the box. Your job is to break through all this. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
If the press knows about a problem, big or small, that problem is far more likely to receive the personal attention of senior policy makers, then if it remains a well-kept secret. Media, Journalism & The Press
In today’s Washington, with its emphasis on orthodox thinking, such a person could never rise inside the government … This is a great loss, because, as the life of George F. Kennan shows, individual, original thinking by one lonely person can sometimes illuminate and guide us better than all the high-level panels, commissions and interagency meetings. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
In Washington, the funds available to the several other agencies for their overseas operations exceed those available to the State Department; the White House has not always given the State Department the necessary support. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
It’s not anti-Americanism that you see around the world. It is anti-Bushism Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
Negotiating is a little like jazz. You improvise on a theme. You know where you want to go, but you’re not always sure how to get there. Negotiating & Negotiations
Never turn down a job you haven’t been offered.
No one can know the full story of something as vast and complicated and as full of deceit as the War in Vietnam…The historians will not know it … History
Secret negotiations have a right to remain secret. Secrecy & Transparency
Should the foreign service continue to insist on a “well-rounded” officer which results in men who know little about any specific areas or functional field—but who are experts at surviving bureaucracy?
Size—sheer, unmanageable size—is the root problem [of the State Department] in Washington and overseas today. Management & Managing Government ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
The chances of catastrophe grow as organizations grow in number and size, and as internal communications become more time consuming and less intelligible. Bureaucracy
The first law of disaster relief could well read: every political decision has humanitarian consequences, and every humanitarian program has political implications. Foreign Aid
The thing the Pentagon should be seeking is success, not avoiding failure. Management & Managing Government
The UN is ultimately going to be judged on its ability in conflict resolution and conflict prevention. United Nations
The United Nations is an indispensable but deeply flawed institution. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
There is one iron law of history. When a country’s economy starts to decline, if it continues to decline, it will lose its greatness. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs
There’s no reason to respect anyone’s word in that part of the world. The only thing they respect is force and the threat of force. Discrimination & Prejudice
Vietnam in America was truly a second Civil War. War & Peace
We may be fighting the wrong enemy in the wrong country. Terrorism
Why is there so much resistance among people who work in the Government to the seemingly obvious fact that, in our democracy, if the Government lies, it will eventually get caught Management & Managing Government
You can’t go it alone even if you are the world’s only superpower. War & Peace ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
A peace deal requires agreements, and you don't make agreements with your friends, you make agreements with your enemies. War & Peace
As countries grapple with modernization, people who are left behind tend to hold firmer and firmer to their view of the evil of modernity.
By the way, if you do your job on behalf of your country, you have meetings where you put your position forward strongly, and the other side does the same thing. And I've had plenty of meetings in my career that really were heated, people yelling at each other.
Diplomacy is like jazz: endless variations on a theme.
Elections are rarely perfect.
I have worked in every - every Democratic administration since the Kennedy administration, and I know dysfunctionality when I see it.
I still believe in the possibility of the United States, with all its will and all its strength, and I don't just mean military, persevering against any challenge. I still believe in that.
I think Americans understand that in Afghanistan, unlike in Iraq and Vietnam, we are fighting an enemy allied with the people who attacked us on 9/11.
I think history is continuous. It doesn't begin or end on Pearl Harbor Day or the day Lyndon Johnson withdraws from the presidency or on 9/11. You have to learn from the past but not be imprisoned by it. You need to take counsel of history but never be imprisoned by it. History
If a country denies it has AIDS, that country will inevitably become an even greater victim.
I'm a product of the Kennedy era. Kennedy's Inaugural plus the accident of Dean Rusk brought me into the government. Those were my values. Government
I'm not a wide-eyed imperialist who wants to see Americans manning outposts all over the world. Not outposts to freedom in the cold war cliche, but islands of stability and seas of ethnic strife. That is not what anyone should feel comfortable seeing Americans doing. Freedom & Liberty ;War & Peace
In short, you can't let the deadline define the mission. The mission has to define the duration.
Nothing generates more heat in the government than the question of who is chosen to participate in important meetings. Government
Our enemy is Al Qaeda and its allies, people who have publicly said they wish to attack the United States again, people who have publicly called on nuclear physicists and engineers to help them gain access to nuclear weapons, which, as the whole world knows, Pakistan has.
Pakistani politics is complicated, and I think it's not something a foreigner can easily assimilate and understand. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
People in uniform are not sacrosanct. They don't have all the answers. The use of force is a political decision at its core, in terms of its objectives; then the military, as the experts, must be brought in to tell you how to do it.
The male elites that run most countries are exceedingly uncomfortable with the subject of AIDS because it's a sexually transmitted disease.
The United Nations is an indispensable but deeply flawed organization. It is valuable to the United States, and the United States is invaluable to it. We need to reform it.
The United States supports the reintegration of people who have fought with the Taliban into Afghan society provided they: one, renounce al Qaeda, two, lay down their arms and renounce violence, and three, participate in the public political life of the country in accordance with the constitution. Society ;Life
The World War II generation believed the United States could do anything - anything... And Vietnam was a shattering experience for everyone. War & Peace
There are certain kinds of second-tier confrontations which the U.S. does not need to get directly involved in. However, even in the second tier of problems, our intervention as a friend to both sides is important.
There's no question that the next generation of terrorists, rather than going for small, little dramas, will go for the big one. They now understand that the way to get the world's attention is not strapping bombs to themselves in a pizza parlour, but to do something so horrific it gets you into the Guinness Book of World Records for terrorism.
United Nations peacekeepers are going all over the world spreading AIDS even while they're trying to bring peace. What a supreme irony. War & Peace
We should not be surprised that democracy is imperfect even in Western countries.
World War I was not inevitable, as many historians say. It could have been avoided, and it was a diplomatically botched negotiation. War & Peace
You have to test your hypothesis against other theories. Certainty in the face of complex situations is very dangerous.
You will never catch up with the spread of AIDS no matter how much money, no matter how many antiretrovirals are put into the system, unless you stop its growth. And the only way to stop its growth is prevention. Money, Coins & Minting