From the award-winning author of The Unwinding—the saga of the ambition, idealism, and hubris of one of the most complicated figures in recent American history, set amid the rise and fall of U.S. power from Vietnam to Afghanistan.
I doubt that any novel, not even one co-written by Graham Greene and F. Scott Fitzgerald, could have captured Holbrooke fully, and I certainly thought that no biography ever would. But now one has. George Packer’s Our Man portrays Holbrooke in all of his endearing and exasperating self-willed glory: relentless, ambitious, voracious, brilliant, idealistic, noble, needy and containing multitudes. It’s both a sweeping diplomatic history and a Shakespearean tragicomedy, with Holbrooke strutting and fretting his hour on the stage ... the book overflows with the trait that was Holbrooke’s saving grace: an in-your-face intellectual honesty that is not tainted, as Holbrooke’s was, by his manipulativeness. The result is so bracing that Our Man not only revitalizes but in some ways reinvents the art of journalistic biography.
... by the end of the second page, maybe the third, you will be hooked. You’ll come to understand that the author, New Yorker writer George Packer, understood Holbrooke, understood power, understood America in its eclipse at the end of the 20th century and into the 21st ... you’ll realize that Holbrooke, who died nine years ago, was central to what was central to much of postwar American life, and that in a terrifying way his story is America’s story ... there seldom has been a book quite like this — sweeping and sentimental, beguiling and brutal, catty and critical, much like the man himself ... [an] undercurrent of poignancy that runs throughout ... this book screams a lesson about the perils of substituting ambition for the true distilled idealism of youth. It is a treatise of loyalties abandoned, chances squandered, promise wasted.
Our Man is one of the most fascinating dissections of US power – its strengths and serious weaknesses – I’ve read. Holbrooke represented muscular liberal interventionism in human form – a person and an argument whose power peaked in the 1990s and disintegrated in the first decade of the 21st century, as the world changed around him.