Richard Holbrooke was one of the most legendary and complicated figures in recent American history. Brilliant, utterly self-absorbed, and possessed of almost inhuman energy and appetites, he was both admired and detested. From his days as a young adviser in Vietnam to his last efforts to end the war in Afghanistan, Holbrooke embodied the postwar American impulse to take the lead on the global stage. He was the force behind the Dayton Accords that ended the Balkan wars, America's greatest diplomatic achievement in the post-Cold War era. His power lay in an utter belief in himself and his idea of a muscular, generous foreign policy. But his sharp elbows and tireless self-promotion ensured that he never rose to the highest levels in government that he so desperately coveted.
Holbrooke’s story is the story of the rise and fall of America during its era of supremacy: its strength, drive, and sense of possibility, as well as its penchant for overreach and heedless self-confidence. Drawing on Holbrooke’s diaries and papers, George Packer’s narrative is both intimate and epic in its revelatory portrait of this extraordinary and deeply flawed man, and the elite spheres of society and government he inhabited.