While it's beneath the U.S. media to acknowledge our military, I note, via Powerline, that others are not so blind. General Petraues is the U.K.'s Sunday Telegraph's 'Person of the Year.
General Petraeus: man with a message of hope
The critics said it couldn't be done, but the vision and determination of General David Petraeus have brought greater security and cause for optimism to the people of
. He is The Sunday Telegraph's Person of the Year Iraq
For a man whose critics say he is far too fond of the television cameras, General David Petraeus, commander of US forces in
, has been rather out of the limelight this Christmas. Iraq
The sprightly, media-friendly 55-year-old is not perturbed, however, that his face is no longer number one item on the
networks. As he said last week, where US is concerned, "No news is good news." Iraq
Today, we put him in the spotlight again by naming Gen Petraeus as The Sunday Telegraph's Person of the Year, a new annual accolade to recognise outstanding individual achievement.
He has been the man behind the
UStroop surge over the past 10 months, the last-ditch effort to end 's escalating civil war by putting an extra 28,000 American troops on the ground. Iraq
So far, it has achieved what many feared was impossible. Sectarian killings are down. Al-Qaeda is on the run. And the two million Iraqis who fled the country are slowly returning. Progress in
is relative - 538 civilians died last month. But compared with the 3,000 Iraq last year, it offers at least a glimmer of hope. … [T]he reason for picking Petraeus is simple. peakof December Iraq, whatever the current crises in Afghanistanand , remains the West's biggest foreign policy challenge of this decade, and if he can halt its slide into all-out anarchy, Gen Petraeus may save more than Iraqi lives. Pakistan
Iraqwould not just be a second Vietnam, nor would it just be 's problem. America
It would be a symbolic victory for al-Qaeda, a safe haven for jihadists to plot future September 11s and July 7s, and a battleground for a Shia-Sunni struggle that could draw in the entire
Middle East. Our future peace and prosperity depend, in part, on fixing this mess. And, a year ago, few had much hope.
To appreciate the scale of the task Gen Petraeus took on, it is necessary to go back to February 22, 2006. Or, as Iraqis now refer to it, their own September 11. That was when Sunni-led terrorists from al-Qaeda blew up the Shia shrine in the city of
, an act of provocation that finally achieved their goal of igniting sectarian civil war. Samarra
A year on, an estimated 34,000 people had been killed on either side - some of them members of the warring Sunni and Shia militias, but most innocents tortured and killed at random.
casualties continued to rise, too, but increasingly American troops became the bystanders in a religious conflict that many believed they could no longer tame. US
Except, that is, for Gen Petraeus. Despite his well-documented obsession with fitness - he starts his 18-hour days with a five-mile run - he is the opposite of the brawn-over-brain image that has dogged the
USmilitary mission in . Iraq
Top of the class of 1974 at West Point Military Academy and the holder of a PhD in international relations, he is the co author of the US military's manual on counter-insurgency, a "warrior monk" for whom the messy intrigues of asymmetric warfare hold more interest than the straightforward challenges of 2003's invasion.
Simply being the best and brightest soldier of his generation, however, would not be enough for
Iraqin 2007, where a major part of the "surge" involves reconciling 's warring political tribes. Iraq
When the White House called, confirming him for the job, President Bush was looking not just for an outstanding leader but also a diplomat, a politician and a negotiator. It seems he got them all.
"Petraeus has a rare combination of great geopolitical skills as well as tactical and military ones," says retired General Jack Keane, a fellow architect of the surge strategy. "He is good at working with ambassadors, with the Iraqi government, and he also knows how to cope with uncertainty and failure, which is what you get in an environment like
Lest Gen Keane seem a little biased, it should be pointed out that British commanders hold Gen Petraeus in similarly high regard.
Northern Irelandveterans who worked with him in Baghdadthis year came away with the opinion that it is now America, not , that is the world leader in counter-insurgency. Britain
As Petraeus toured some of
's abandoned, bullet-scarred Sunni neighbourhoods last February, his own comrades were not the only ones predicting he might fail spectacularly. Baghdad
USpublic, the clamour grew for the troops to be brought home altogether, and to be declared a lost cause unworthy of further American sacrifice. Iraq
The surge's "boots on the ground" strategy would simply force the militias into temporary hiding, critics said, wasting thousands more Americans lives in the process.
The strategy's chances of success were commonly put at only one in three - and those were the odds quoted by its supporters. Indeed, when The Sunday Telegraph visited
in the spring, US troops were candid about their expectations. Baghdad
"Sure, the bad guys will go into hiding," said one commander in Jamia, an al-Qaeda-infested neighbourhood with 30 murders a month. "All we can hope is that things will have improved by the time they come back, so they're no longer welcome."
Nine months on, things do seem to have improved, thanks largely to Petraeus's extraordinary coup of turning Sunni insurgents against their extremist allies in al-Qaeda.
With the chief accelerant in the civil war gone, Shia militias such as the Mehdi Army have also been deprived of their main raison d'être, and with extra US troops on the streets, Iraqis who had previously felt vulnerable to the gunmen now feel safe enough to return home.
Things are far from perfect but, after four years in which events did nothing but get worse, the sight of a souk re-opening, or a Shia family being welcomed back home by their Sunni neighbours, has remarkable morale-boosting power.
Where once Iraqis saw the glass as virtually empty, now they can see a day when it might at least be half full.
has had a habit of confounding even the most cautious of optimists. Iraq
Iraq's Shia-dominated government is not alone in worrying that the most controversial of Gen Petraeus's policies - the co-opting of former Sunni insurgents into "concerned local citizens" schemes to fend off Shia militias - may create new, better-organised forces for a renewed civil war once the US finally departs.
Many coalition officials fear such a scenario. Were it to occur, it would confirm the charges of Petraeus's critics that at best he has secured only a hiatus in the collapse of
Ultimately, that may prove to be the case.
But it should not overshadow his achievement this year: he has given another last chance to a country that had long since ceased to expect one. And for that, Gen Petraeus is Person of the Year.