Newsweek's Evan Thomas went to Pakistan with Richard Holbrooke. It's an interesting piece, but, what might be most notable about it is how milquetoast a character Holbrooke comes across as. (One colorful minor exception: the envoy padding around his military jet to Pakistan in yellow pajamas, barefoot, and eating a banana.) There are no grandiose claims about his role, no juicy musing about process, and there is a conspicuous nod to the role of Congress. He's also trying to play by the rules:
As we flew into Islamabad last week, Holbrooke called Sharif by phone to schmooze—but then he was careful to make sure that President Asif Ali Zardari knew that he had placed the call. "I don't go behind Zardari's back," he says.
As I write in my new TNR piece (I've been forbidden from linking until it's unveiled as our daily web feature this week), some Obama administration officials say they're pleasantly surprised at the low profile Holbrooke has been keeping. "By his standards," one administration official put it to me, "he's a pussycat!"
More importantly, the early verdict is that he seems to be doing his job well, and with a characteristic level of energy and determination, although it's still far too early to tell whether some of his signature initiatives--like giving up the Bush administration's poppy-eradication program--will succeed.