The man who brought hope to the hopeless

Sunday Telegraph:

For a man whose critics say he is far too fond of the television cameras, General David Petraeus, commander of US forces in Iraq, has been rather out of the limelight this Christmas.

The sprightly, media-friendly 55-year-old is not perturbed, however, that his face is no longer number one item on the US networks. As he said last week, where Iraq is concerned, "No news is good news."

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 US troop surge over the past 10 months, the last-ditch effort to end Iraq's escalating civil war by putting an extra 28,000 American troops on the ground.

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 Iraq is relative - 538 civilians died last month. But compared with the 3,000 peak of December last year, it offers at least a glimmer of hope.

...

But 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.

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.

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 US military mission in Iraq.

...

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.

...

There is much more between the ...'s.

The Sunday Telegraph I think gets it right in their selection, but more importantly comprehends why what he has done is so much more important than what other candidates have done. By demonstrating that an insurgency can be defeated with a proper application of both force and political savvy, he has made the world as a whole a much safer place. His results in Iraq should give pause to those who hope to deter US policy with the threat of an insurgency. It also undermines the domestic critics of the use of force who see every application as a potential quagmire.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Russia attacking Iranian forces in Syria

Shortly after Nancy Pelosi visited Laredo, Texas and shook hands with mayor of Nuevo Laredo this happened