Common sense from the British media

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on December 30, 2007

The Sunday Telegraph of London wasn't blinded by the politics of its newsroom, like Time magazine was, and has wisely named Gen. David Petraeus as its "Man of the Year."

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.

Nonetheless, why should we choose to nominate Petraeus[?]

There has, after all, been no shortage of other candidates this year. President Nicolas Sarkozy has impressed many with his determination to reform France, while George Osborne reinvigorated politics in this country by daring to put tax cuts back on the agenda - though both men still have much to prove.

There are plenty of brave figures thrust into the limelight who handled themselves with dignity, such as Gillian Gibbons, the teacher jailed in Sudan; the Glasgow airport luggage-handler John Smeaton; and Kate and Gerry McCann. Sporting stars such as Paula Radcliffe and Lewis Hamilton have inspired millions of fans.

There has also been great British military leadership and bravery on display this year, not least in Helmand, where British troops are now fighting a Taliban foe as fierce as anything their American counterparts encountered in Baghdad or Fallujah.

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.

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December 2007



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