I’m with William Kristol on this one: why wasn’t General Petreaus the obvious choice for Time magazine’s annual “Person of the Year?”
Time was when Time actually had something intelligent to say about the world. But that Time was a long time ago. Putin is certainly an influential man on the international scene, but why him, why now?
Because, that’s why. Because first runner-up Al Gore didn’t need the trifecta (Nobel, Oscar, Time), for what even the NY Times acknowledges is a film and a message that is “exaggerated and erroneous” from the standpoint of science. Because although Harry Potter’s a fine creation, the coice of second runner-up J.K. Rowling would have been an absurdity. Next in line seems to have been China’s Hu Jintao (who?? Jintao?). I’m sure he’s influential as well, and China is always a big story and will continue to be so into the distant future, but certainly he has not done anything to make him extaordinarily noteworthy this year.
Which brings us to Time’s next in line, Petraeus. How very non-Americentric of them to place him almost as an afterthought. But Iraq, and our recent turnaround there, is of major consequence to the world, not just to the US—especially if it is allowed to go forward and to be built on further.
And at this point it does appear, wonder of wonders, that the Petraeus manual will get a further workout. One of the interesting things (to me, at least) about the success of the so-called “surge” is that it constitutes a test of the principles Petraeus laid out in his guide to counter-insurgency. Theories are great, but there’s nothing like having to follow them up with performance. In this case, the performance (as Kristol points out in his Weekly Standard piece) has far exceeded expectations—not only of critics, but even of those predisposed to think it had a chance of success.
I’m sure Petaeus will manage to soldier on without Time‘s highest honor. He has far greater ones: the respect of those who serve under him, the gratitude of so many of the Iraqi people, and the satisfaction of tackling a very hard and important task and doing it well—work that is far from over, and that continues to be difficult and risky. Let’s salute him.