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Zalmay Khalilzad—Man of the Hour at the U.N.

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Even in its current state of radioactivity, the Bush Administration does manage to command the loyalty of some solid, even outstanding figures. The best of them is Zalmay Khalilzad, who has served on the National Security Council, in Afghanistan, Iraq and now as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. I am tempted to say that to the extent anything good happened in Iraq or Afghanistan, Khalilzad is probably the reason why. He got his education at Chicago and he has run for a long time with the Neocon pack. And that in my mind makes Khalilzad’s success as a political analyst and as a diplomat all the more remarkable. He seems to be the exception that proves the rule: the card-carrying Neoconservative who is effective, conscientious and dedicated. Moreover, while so many Neocons feign scholarship and expertise, Khalilzad is indubitably the genuine article.

Today, Khalilzad gets a suitably warm portrait in the pages of the New York Times, in an article by Warren Hoge. It’s worth reading in its entirety, but here’s a passage that the instinctively modest Khalilzad probably wishes hadn’t been printed, but nevertheless shows him well:

One by one, the ambassadors at an unusually jolly diplomatic dinner last month rose to pay tribute to the new American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad. He was a needed “breath of fresh air,” said one. Another described bonding with him on a Security Council trip the way a child might talk up a new friend at summer camp. A third said that while no one expected disagreements with American policy to end, he liked the “sensitive” way that policy was now presented.

His turn to respond, Mr. Khalilzad stood and said, “I have discovered from your comments that the best thing I have done was to choose my predecessor.”

But indeed, most Americans would have had the same thing to say about John Bolton.
And one other trait of Khalilzad’s that endears him to me: his love for the great poet and son of Afghanistan, Mawl?n? Jal?l-ad-D?n Muhammad R?m?. I’m with him on that, most decidedly. Here’s one of my recent Rumi-nations.

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