He presided masterfully over the talks at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, and his Dayton Accords brought peace to Bosnia that has now lasted a decade and a half.
As ambassador to the United Nations, he reached an accord with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms on U.N. dues and procedures. He encourages Helms' support of anti-AIDS programs and was punctilious about traveling to North Carolina to honor him after he retired.
Holbrooke was less fortunate in his excursions into partisan politics. In the last decade, he backed Al Gore, John Kerry and Hilary Clinton for president, and any of them, if elected, would probably have appointed him secretary of state.
The inside story of Holbrooke's work in this administration has not been fully told, and may not be told as well as he told the story of his work in the Balkans in his 1998 book "To End a War." Relations between Holbrooke and Afghan President Hamid Karzai appeared to have been abrasive and at times nonexistent. I suspect that Holbrooke saw himself playing the bad cop while other appointees were playing good cop to a leader who at best has been a problematic ally of the United States.
It was an arduous assignment, and just reading about those long flights to Islamabad and Kabul, the endless hours of agonizing negotiations and his late night reading makes one weary. Like those leaders in World War II, Holbrooke seems to have literally worn himself out and pushed his body to the breaking point. Given an assignment that few would envy and placed in a bureaucratically ambiguous position, he labored hard and uncomplainingly in what he considered the interest of his country.
He leaves behind a tantalizing question: Were his great talents as fully utilized by this president as they might have been?