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Holbrooke couldn’t get a meeting with Obama because he saw Af/Pak surge as sabotaging Middle East policy

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I haven’t read Ryan Lizza’s piece in the New Yorker on how the Arab spring has remade Obama’s foreign policy. ( was put off by the title, the Consequentialist, it sounded astrological, and isn’t this just a fancy way of saying Pragmatist?) I have to read it. But I have smart friends, and one sent this assessment along:

I felt the ghost of cuts. Especially around the division between the State Department and the WH in “the first two years” (i.e. almost all) of the administration. It seems to me that Lizza, who doesn’t care for Obama and who shows it more than he thinks (and as much as Remnick allows), portrays a foreign policy in nearly complete dishevelment, with the lack of co-ordination emanating from the top. It is astonishing that Holbrooke couldn’t be scheduled for a meeting with the president, and now we know why: the special envoy on Afghanistan/Pakistan was opposed to sending the additional 40,000 troops; he saw it as completely sabotaging Obama’s declared intentions in the Middle East, West Asia and China. (The Woodward book gave hints about Holbrooke’s doubts but pulled this punch.) The quotation from Brzezinski is precise and very damaging:

“I greatly admire [Obama’s] insights and understanding… [But] the rhetoric is
always terribly imperative and categorical: ‘You must do this,’ ‘He must do
that,’ ‘This is unacceptable.'”  Brzezinski added, “He doesn’t strategize. He

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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