Clinton Names Veteran Negotiators As Emissaries George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke have built careers as bargainers in politics, business and war. Now they'll try to untangle the barbed wire around two of America's biggest foreign-policy problems: Arab-Israeli relations and issues in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
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Clinton Names Veteran Negotiators As Emissaries

Former Ambassador Richard Holbrooke (from left), President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell look on as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at State Department headquarters on Thursday. Matthew Cavanaugh — Pool/Getty Images hide caption

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Matthew Cavanaugh — Pool/Getty Images

Former Ambassador Richard Holbrooke (from left), President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell look on as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at State Department headquarters on Thursday.

Matthew Cavanaugh — Pool/Getty Images

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has named high-profile emissaries to take on two of America's most tangled foreign policy challenges.

George J. Mitchell, 75, will be special envoy for Middle East peace, and Richard C. Holbrooke, 67, will be special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Both men have wide-ranging credentials. Mitchell is a former Senate majority leader and corporate director who helped settle the conflict in Northern Ireland. Holbrooke is a diplomat and financier who helped broker the deal that ended the Bosnian civil war.

Here's a closer look at each:

George Mitchell

George Mitchell could have been a Supreme Court justice. Instead, he wound up leading an investigation into illegal drug use in professional baseball.

During his involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process, he often cited his Irish ancestry. But Mitchell also has Arab ancestors, a factor that could play into his efforts toward Middle East peace.

This is not Mitchell's first foray into the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2000, he led an international commission that investigated the causes of violence in the region. In the commission's report, released in early 2001, he called on the Palestinians to stop using terrorist tactics and on the Israelis to freeze their construction of settlements in the West Bank.

Mitchell is a lawyer who made his name in Democratic politics in his home state of Maine. He was an aide to Sen. Edmund Muskie in the early 1960s and became a government prosecutor and federal judge in the 1970s. He lost a bid for governor of Maine in 1974 but was appointed to fill the Senate seat vacated by Muskie in 1980, when the senator left to become secretary of state.

Mitchell eventually became the Senate majority leader and ran this house of Congress for eight years. His Supreme Court opportunity came in 1994, when President Bill Clinton offered to nominate him for a seat. Mitchell turned down the offer, saying he wanted to stay in the Senate and concentrate on passing Clinton's health care plan, a measure that later failed.

Mitchell left the Senate in 1995 to join a private law firm in Washington — a firm that was later criticized for lobbying on behalf of major tobacco companies. The same year, he joined the board of the Disney Co. Much of his energy during this time was devoted to his appointment, by President Clinton, as special envoy to Northern Ireland. Mitchell chaired the negotiations that led to the peace accord known as the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

Mitchell was involved in the fight for control of Disney in 2003 and 2004. When Michael Eisner lost his bid for re-election as chairman of the entertainment and news conglomerate's board in June 2004, Mitchell was elected to replace him. Mitchell held the position until July 2006.

An avid baseball fan, Mitchell has been mentioned from time to time as a potential candidate for commissioner of Major League Baseball. He served briefly as a director of the Boston Red Sox and was appointed to lead an investigation into steroid use by MLB players. His report on the investigation, released in December 2007, named almost 90 current and former players alleged to have used steroids or other performance-enhancing substances.

Mitchell, now 75, often harks back to his boyhood in Waterville, Maine, where his father was a janitor at Colby College, a small but prestigious liberal arts school. Mitchell's father, also named George, was of Irish descent, but he was an orphan who was reared by a Lebanese family. Mitchell's mother, Mary Sa'ad, was a Lebanese immigrant who worked in a Waterville textile mill. Mitchell served as an altar boy in an Arabic-language Maronite Catholic church.

Richard Holbrooke

Richard Holbrooke has held many of the top jobs in the U.S. foreign policy establishment and has twice been a contender for secretary of state. He was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Bill Clinton, an assistant secretary of state, editor of the magazine Foreign Policy, a Peace Corps official and an investment banker.

Holbrooke is probably best known for his role in the talks among the warring factions in Bosnia that led to the Dayton Peace Accords, but he also has had a successful career on Wall Street, including serving as managing director of Lehman Brothers in the 1980s and early 1990s. He has been an influential adviser to top Democratic political candidates, including John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.

Holbrooke got his start as a diplomat during the early years of the Vietnam War. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service right after graduating from Brown University and served in the Mekong Delta and Saigon. He then worked in the White House as part of President Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam team and was part of the U.S. delegation to the Paris peace talks in 1968. He wrote the draft for one volume of the Pentagon Papers, the top-secret report on the Vietnam War that created a sensation when it was leaked to the news media.

After a four-year stint as editor of Foreign Policy magazine, Holbrooke got involved in Democratic politics in 1976, as a national security adviser to presidential candidate Jimmy Carter. He served as assistant secretary of state for Asian and Pacific affairs during Carter's term in office.

Holbrooke got back into government in 1992, when President Bill Clinton named him ambassador to Germany. He was assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs in the mid-1990s, when he led the team that negotiated an end to the Bosnian war.

Clinton named Holbrooke U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 1999, where Holbrooke negotiated a deal to pay off more than $900 million in America's back dues to the U.N.