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 Petraeus Doesn't Rank

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Norman Thompson
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MessageSujet: Petraeus Doesn't Rank   Lun 24 Déc - 15:26

PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE stopped caring about Time magazine's Man of the Year contest some time ago. On a periodic basis, the magazine signaled its chronic frivolity and opted for idiotic gimmicks. You might remember that last year we all won the prize. In an earlier year, the planet Earth won. Even given Time's parameters--the award is supposed to go to the person who had the biggest impact on the world in the previous year--these choices showed that even Time's editors didn't take the award particularly seriously.

Because of those aforementioned parameters, past winners of the Man of the Year combine to form a rogue's gallery of gimmicks, serious newsmakers and, most notably, historic villains. Joseph Stalin is in Time's Man of the Year collection. So too is Adolf Hitler. There's even the Ayatollah Khomenni, facing Mecca five times a day and demanding death to America.

Conservatives got wrapped up in this year's award process more than usual. Although I haven't made a scientific study of it (and have no plans to do so), I don't recall in past years conservative commentators and bloggers lobbying for a particular individual. But this year was different. We had a guy who we wanted to see honored by Time magazine as its Man of the Year: David Petraeus, the man who has done so much to change Iraq. Even by Time's expressed standards, Petraeus would have been a logical choice. No one had done more to change the world in 2007, and given the nature of
our long war, Petraeus's performance in 2007 is likely to have ripples that will last decades.

Naturally, Time shoved a sharp stick in the collective conservative eye and chose Vladimir Putin as its man of the year.

IN THE ESSAY DESCRIBING its selection process, Time's Richard Stengel hurries to point out that "Time's Person of the Year is not and never has been an honor. It is not an endorsement. It is not a popularity contest." Lest we doubt the magazine's sincerity on that score, Stengel further notes that Joseph Stalin, "the man for whom (Putin's) grandfather prepared blinis," twice brought the prize home to Moscow. While Stengel is suggesting that Stalin was an obvious monster, not everyone who covered Stalin in the American media shared that view.

Regardless, according to Stengel, Time's Man of the Year award "is supposed to be a clear-eyed recognition of the world as it is and of the most powerful individuals and forces shaping that world--for better or for worse." Given Time's putatively clear-eyed coverage, it's no surprise that David Petraeus hardly registered a blip on the magazine's radar screen. The runners up that Stengel mentioned included Al Gore (mentioned first!), Baghdad's inept politicians, China, and J.K. Rowling. It is a peculiar clear-eyed view of the world that judges J.K. Rowling's 2007 year to have had more long term "shaping" power than David Petraeus's. (In Time's official list of runners-up, Petraeus came in fourth, trailing Gore, Rowling and China's Hu Jintao.)

TIME'S SKEWED VISION helpfully clarifies some of the deep-seated bias and willful ignorance that characterize so much of the mainstream media. David Petraeus stopped being a news story for outlets like Time when he began succeeding. Is there any doubt that if he had fared differently, al Qaeda in Iraq (or al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as the New York Times calls the organization) would have either walked away with the prize--or at the very least ranked higher than J.K. Rowling?

Acknowledging David Petraeus would force the magazine to acknowledge that we've had some amazing success in Iraq over the past several months. Why, even Jack Murtha agrees with that assessment. Of course, many in the media have been wedded to the notion that Iraq was lost long before the surge began. Harry Reid pronounced the surge a failure before the troops actually began surging. The Daily Kos derided the surge as "the escalation" in a pathetic example of neo-Lakoffian branding. In his debut column for Newsweek a few weeks ago, Markos Moulitsas pronounced Iraq an "unwinnable quagmire." Earlier this week, Andrew Sullivan, in an essay endorsing Ron Paul for president, insisted, "Let's be clear: we have lost this war."

People with this kind of blinkered view are in no position to acknowledge that in the past six months in Iraq, civilian and American military casualties have both fallen by more than 70 percent. What's more, they're not about to deal with the fact that the Iraqi people are demanding a peaceful, democratic, and civil society, a first for an Islamic nation in the region since Turkey went that route almost a century ago. Sometimes deliberately choosing foggy vision can be preferable to taking a "clear eyed" look.

MORE INTERESTING THAN Time's selection of Putin and its slighting of Petraeus is its overlooking of Iran's latest villain, Mahmoud Ahmadenijad. If Time felt it was one of those years to go the bad-guy route, Ahmadenijad would have made a lot more sense than Putin.

is an old style threat. Ahmadenijad is something new--a crazed Islamic fundamentalist who may control a couple of nuclear weapons before you can say "blini." What's more, Iran and its kooky leader were all over the news this year. Whether he was speaking at Columbia University or crowing over an NIE reassessment or being spoofed on Saturday Night Live, Ahmadenijad was never far from the front pages. Arguably, I could see giving the nod to Putin over Ahmadenijad. But saying that J.K. Rowling had more power in shaping the world this year than Ahmadenijad? That's indefensible. Nevertheless, perhaps one of Time's bloggers will give defending it a whirl later in the day.

Ignoring Ahmadenihad is a critical part of Time magazine's worldview, just as surely as slighting David Petraeus is. Acknowledging Ahmadenijad as a major news story would tacitly acknowledge the necessity of seriously dealing with the unprecedented threat he represents. Instead, we have both party's presidential frontrunners promising to turn on the diplomatic charm with Iran, with Republican Mike Huckabee going the extra mile in fatuity, comparing Iran to a wayward relative.

No doubt this attitude suits Time's vision just fine. But calling that vision "clear-eyed" is the height of arrogance and lunacy.

Dean Barnett is a staff writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
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