NATO Loses Richard Holbrooke
But Is His Replacement the Right Man for the Job?

WASHINGTON — Richard Holbrooke, the retiring chief U.S. negotiator on Bosnia, will join CS First Boston investment bank as vice chairman, he said Wednesday (Feb 21). "I'm going to start work tomorrow at CS First Boston as a vice chairman," he told Reuterss on his last day on the job as assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs.

Holbrooke, the architect of the Bosnia peace agreement negotiated under U.S. auspices at Dayton, Ohio last November, has said he planned to return to New York where his new wife, children and stepchildren live.

As the Dayton Accords came under increasing strain over the past two weeks, U.S. troubleshooter Richard Holbrooke was repeatedly called upon to salvage Bosnia's fragile peace agreement.

Richard Holbrooke at Rome Summit After making what he said would be his last trip to the region Feb. 2-4, Holbrooke returned for an emergency trip a week later and last weekend he orchestrated a Balkan summit in Rome, another maneuver to keep the deal from unraveling.

But after today, Holbrooke is to retire from government, leaving behind the unfinished business of the peace accords he hammered out in Dayton, Ohio, last November with the leaders of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia. A former investment banker who remarried last year, he plans to move to New York City, where his family lives.

Skeptics say he is eager to leave on a positive note, with the Dayton Accords and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination under his belt, and not be tainted by the messy business that long-term implementation of the agreement will entail. The State Department says it has no plans to keep him on in any formal role, although he may be consulted as needed.

Arguably, peace in the Balkans has more to do with the leaders who signed the Dayton Accords than with any outside party. But few doubt Holbrooke brought a brilliance, energy and chuztpah that was essential to the negotiations' success.

And that raises the question of what will happen when he bows out. Who or what will provide the force of will and personality -- the hands-on leadership -- to keep the parties moving forward, meeting the treaty deadlines and negotiating the landmines of the agreement's myriad ambiguous provisions?

There is little sign that former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt, the international community's high representative responsible for civilian aspects of the Dayton Accords, will be the heavy hitter in this regard. He got a slow start in his new job, and while the Americans want him to succeed and have been careful not to criticize him publicly, many feel that the Europeans, Bildt included, are not strong implementers.

To replace Holbrooke as assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs, the administration picked his deputy, John Kornblum, a highly respected career diplomat who has worked closely with him on Bosnia, among other issues.

Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who played a key role at Dayton, is also supposed to be more directly involved in Bosnia in 1995, including several trips to the Balkans. But after his visit two weeks ago, violations of the agreement by all sides seemed only to get worse, not better. And he has a wider world to worry about than just Bosnia.

The State Department announced last week that most of Holbrooke's Bosnia-related duties will fall to Ambassador-at-large Robert Gallucci, who distinguished himself with the 1994 deal that froze North Korea's nuclear program.

Although Gallucci is very well-regarded, he is still tentative about his Bosnia portfolio. Briefing reporters last week, his answers were formulaic, lacking the authority and passion, some say arrogance, that characterizes Holbrooke's discourse. Instead of attending last weekend's Balkan summit in Rome, Gallucci sent his deputy.

Holbrooke, a political appointee, frequently pushed the envelope in pursuing peace in Bosnia. Whether Gallucci, a career civil servant, would have that same freedom -- granted or indulged by the White House -- is unknown.

Foreign policy expert Kenneth Jensen says Gallucci is capable of being a tough negotiator so ``the key thing is what (his) charge will be from (President) Clinton and Christopher ... Precisely because of the complexities and vagueness in the Dayton Accords, there needs to be strong (U.S.) leadership'' in the implementation process.

Susan Woodward of the Brookings Institution, who wrote a book on the Balkans, said her greatest concern is not Holbrooke's departure but the lack of clear presidential leadership on how the Bosnia deal should be carried out.

``We need more coordination among the different arms of government that are working on this in terms of strategy, policy ... People are floudering around (and) I still see no evidence of presidential leadership here,'' she told Reuterss.

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