Compared to his boss Hillary Clinton, who was not even a career diplomat, state department veteran Richard Holbrooke was far from diplomatic. To many, he perpetuated the American strongman stereotype. Always in a bad mood, always upset at something. The Ambassador (proper) to Pakistan, Anne Patterson was, in comparison, the toast of the town while Hillary Clinton stood up to the pack of local TV anchors with the sort of aplomb that a local politician would give his left arm for. The disparity in skills diplomatic might have been intentional; the old Good Cop/ Bad Cop routine. But perhaps the difficulties of diplomacy in Pakistan simply got to him. Specially in the aftermath of the Kerry-Lugar Bill, when the US Congress passed the bill that placed restrictions on its own government, preventing it from giving aid to a military dispensation in Pakistan. The local media, however, was presenting sensationalist, sometime absolutely fallacious reports on the legislation. The huge dole that the US government gave at a time of fiscal crunch was interpreted more as imperialist policy than aid. Ambassador Holbrooke was heard on several occasions, telling local journalists to read the actual text of the bill itself. That could have been exasperating. But it is, after all, an occupational hazard that should have been dealt with gracefully.
To be fair to the ambassador, the odds were stacked against him as soon as he started his job. The very idea of lumping war-torn almost-state Afghanistan and Pakistan together was a little too much for Pakistani sensitivities. But he was fighting from both sides. Back home, the Americans accused him of being too soft on Pakistan, especially at his insistence on continuing aid for Pakistan without the rather stringent conditions. Ironically, here in Pakistan, he was accused of being too tough on Pakistan. Many in the West say that Pakistan has lost a true friend in Richard Holbrooke. That may even be true, but we can never really know for sure. Death is the only certainty all those who live will face. We wish for Ambassador Holbrookes family the strength to pass through this difficult time.