1. Stanley McChrystal
For a man accustomed to life outside the spotlight as the former head of the military’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command, McChrystal now finds himself at the center of the foreign policy initiative that will define Obama’s presidency: the Afghanistan war. In the six months since McChrystal took command of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, McChrystal has dramatically revamped the war, closing far-flung bases in sparsely populated areas, ordering an end to offensive air strikes, restricting combat rules of engagement to reduce civilian casualties, restructuring the war around protecting the civilian population, and reorienting the NATO military command to promote deeper integration. McChrystal’s dire assessment of the war this fall was viewed as an attempt by McChrystal to force his views on the president. But his ardent defense of the president during a week of congressional testimony in December received much less notice from the Beltway chattering classes.