8. David Petraeus
for taking a demotion to save a war.
Commanding U.S. general | Afghanistan
George W. Bush and Barack Obama may have their differences, but both turned to the same man when they needed to salvage a war: Gen. David Petraeus, the man who literally wrote the book on how the United States should undertake counterinsurgency. Now, the world is waiting with bated breath to see whether Petraeus's strategy of civilian-centered security, which allowed the United States to achieve a relatively orderly end of combat operations in Iraq, can work in Afghanistan.
Petraeus has already used his new position and his incredible stature -- he has won the public's trust like no other battlefield general since Dwight D. Eisenhower -- to wield influence from Washington to Kabul. After agreeing to trade down from Centcom to the lower-ranking job in Afghanistan when Obama cashiered Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Petraeus quickly issued new rules governing the use of force by U.S. soldiers and seems to have dissuaded a Florida pastor from burning the Quran by arguing that it would endanger the lives of U.S. troops. In an echo of his success in co-opting Sunni insurgents in Iraq, he also convinced Afghan President Hamid Karzai to accept the creation of local anti-Taliban Afghan militias.
One person he hasn't entirely co-opted, however, is the U.S. president; the general has all but tattooed on his forehead his skepticism about Obama's July 2011 withdrawal timeline. In a sign of the immense credibility Petraeus enjoys, it is by no means clear which viewpoint would prevail in the battle for public opinion.
Alex Wong/Getty Images