Reflections on an Exit

As Ambassador Richard Holbrooke prepared to leave his post at the United Nations in his native New York, he reflected in an interview to the weekend issue of the Financial Times on his four exits and re-entrances between government work and Wall Street. "Government tend(s) to be viewed by most people as a process while Wall Street id not interested in the process but only in the outcome. After all, government is about helping people not just about maintaining its own process. I also learned about the importance of closing a deal." He called the Millennium Summit of last September " a hell of a party and even bigger traffic jam." These did not change anything.

Having called the UN "indispensable" to US foreign policy, he says the only choice for the organization now is to reform itself in order to be saved. "And the more reform, the more money will come," he said simply.

Holbrooke reckons the "core issue" of US foreign policy in the next several decades will be Washington's relations with China. "Each cycle of history is marked by one great sweeping issue," he says. "The first half of the 20th century was marked by the battle against fascism, the second half by the rise and fall of communism.

"The large, overriding issue of the first half of the new century will be the relationship between the US and China. But I don't think it'll be a struggle that one has to win and the other has to lose. It will be the search for coexistence, in a way which each country respects the other."

Looking back with a critical eye at Clinton's foreign policy legacy, he says he was troubled by the fact that the US intervened in Bosnia too late, and has "grave concerns about what happened in Rwanda."

No one has asked the US to be a global cop, he says, but it presents itself as the world's only superpower, and, while this does not mean that it should attempt to solve every problem of the world, it does mean that it has certain responsibilities.

"If I had to sum up my greatest concern about American foreign policy today. It's the gap between our rhetoric and our resources," he says. "We keep proclaiming lofty goals, and then not putting up enough resources to achieve them."

In another interview with The New York Times the outgoing Ambassador described Kofi Annan as "the best Secretary General ever".