February 7, 2009

Richard Holbrooke? I Was Thinking John Wayne.

“You have a problem that is larger than life,” said Christopher R. Hill, a longtime colleague expected to be named as the new ambassador to Iraq. “To deal with it you need someone who’s larger than life.” — from: Back on World Stage, a Larger-Than-Life Holbrooke (NYT)

This morning’s NYT piece by Jodi Kantor features this image of new envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke. The photo was taken in 2006 and has got to be the companion to another picture she references:

Stashed in a drawer in his Manhattan apartment between snapshots of family vacations, a photograph shows Richard C. Holbrooke on a private visit to Afghanistan in 2006. He is mugging atop an abandoned Russian tank, flashing a sardonic V-for-victory sign and his best Nixon-style grin. The pose is a little like Mr. Holbrooke himself: looming, theatrical, passionate, indignant.

The Nixon analogy unleashed some unusual associations of my own. Besides Holbrooke’s wife framed between his legs (reminding me a bit of Katie Couric), I imagined Castro, and then Ahmadinejad (with the beard and sunglasses) also underfoot. (Now, what to make of the Russian tank?)

Given the scope of our Afghanistan and Pakistan problems, I hope Hill is right and this visual characterization of RH as the über
diplomat and Obama-era rock star equates to that much more leverage.

(image: Richard Holbrooke. caption: In a familiar scene, Richard Holbrooke stood on a tank in Herat, Afghanistan, in 2006 above his wife, Kati Marton.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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