ESR's Person of the Year for 2007
By Steven Martinovich
If voting for ESR's Person of the Year for 2007 proved anything it was how interesting the year actually was. We had candidates from all over the conservative map -- heck, even a few Democrats were nominated -- and people who made headlines throughout the year. Even God got a few votes. It was three candidates, however, who captured the lion's share of the ballots.
The first was U.S. President George W. Bush, a multi-year winner in the past (2001-2004, 2006). Though many have despaired of his domestic policies, more than a few voters admired Bush for his steadfastness in the face of daily attacks. "Always keeping to his principals, always quietly fighting for what he believes is right. He's a good man with good moral values and that's hard to come by in this day and age. And I'm as proud to say that I voted for the man today, as I was on the day I first voted for him to be president," said one voter.
The second was also a previous winner (1997), presidential candidate and Congressman Ron Paul. Many voters praised him for revitalizing conservative politics with his entry in the GOP race even if they also acknowledged the longshot nature of his bid. All were also unanimous in noting his commitment to smaller government.
The winner, however, was Gen. David Petraeus, the current Commanding General, Multi-National Force - Iraq. Had the general's career never included a stop in Iraq he would have already compiled an incredible CV. As Wikipedia notes, "Petraeus was the General George C. Marshall Award winner as the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College—class of 1983. He subsequently earned a Master of Public Administration (1985) and a Ph.D. (1987) in International Relations from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He later served as Assistant Professor of International Relations at the U.S. Military Academy, and also completed a fellowship at Georgetown University."
It was his assumption of the Iraq command in January 2007, however, that vaulted him to public consciousness and the "surge" that he help champion that has earned him deserved praise. Ignoring the objections of his peers at the Pentagon who believed that the men and material sent to Iraq in the surge would be better utilized elsewhere, Petraeus managed to do what almost everyone believed impossible -- he calmed Iraq. One year ago dire predictions were made about the nation sliding into a savage religious civil war. One year later? Violence has fallen markedly, the nation's political leaders and factions are beginning to work together, the rate of slain soldiers and citizens has declined, entire provinces like Anbar have been pacified and the media is acknowledging it all by ignoring the story.
Also impressive is the change in tactics that the general brought to Iraq. Instead of sequestering American soldiers inside of heavily fortified bases -- creating a siege mentality for the soldiers and for Iraqis the feeling of being prisoners in their own nation -- Petraeus created a network of stations in Baghdad, bringing American soldiers and the people closer together. The result was closer relationships, improved security and fewer dead.
For all of his achievements, however, Petraeus was attacked this past September in Congress by Democrats more interested in scoring political points than succeeding in Iraq and in the pages of the New York Times via a full-page ad purchased by leftist group MoveOn.org. He was called a shill for the Bush administration's Iraq policy despite the fact that he publicly stated that a purely military victory wasn't possible. He was attacked for daring to deliver an honest report on Iraq, a report which showed progress despite some setbacks was being made.
And it made him more popular with the American public, as Gallup polls later showed. That's a good thing because it's rumoured that the general has political ambitions. While most generals turned politicians prove to be failures, we think the hypercompetitive, extraordinarily intelligent and very motivated general might be one of those rare success stories.
Congratulations Gen. David Petraeus and may you and your fine soldiers stay safe.