The London newspaper named him as their Person of the Year:
...the reason for picking Petraeus is simple. Iraq, whatever the current crises in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 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.As the Telegraph elaborates:
A failed Iraq would not just be a second Vietnam, nor would it just be America's problem.
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 Samarra, an act of provocation that finally achieved their goal of igniting sectarian civil war.
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. US casualties continued to rise, too, but increasingly American troops became the bystanders in a religious conflict that many believed they could no longer tame.
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.Aspiring leaders should memorize what General Keane pointed out - that a leader needs to know "how to cope with uncertainty and failure" because that, in my opinion, is always the key differentiator between leaders and followers: Leaders find their way out of a mess, while followers are happy just to wallow or complain.
Simply being the best and brightest soldier of his generation, however, would not be enough for Iraq in 2007, where a major part of the "surge" involves reconciling Iraq's warring political tribes...
"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 Iraq."
Now as the Telegraph duly acknowledges:
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.And even if, as the Telegraph goes on to say, should in the end General Petraeus' accomplishment end up being a brief "hiatus in the collapse of Iraq" well, that wouldn't really diminish his achievement. As the Telegraph writes:
Where once Iraqis saw the glass as virtually empty, now they can see a day when it might at least be half full.
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.