Dec. 9, 2010— -- Gen. David Petraeus is Barbara Walters' pick for the Most Fascinating Person of 2010. Walters called the top commander in Afghanistan "an American hero."
"In life, it seems, there are people who break things and people who fix them. This man is a fixer," she said on the ABC special, "10 Most Fascinating People of 2010." "A lot depends on General Petraeus and his combination of humanity and strength."
In June, Petraeus was appointed by President Barack Obama to replace former Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Petraeus had previously served as the commander of the Multi-National Force-Iraq in 2006, where he was seen as the one who turned the tide of violence in that nation and could do the same in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan -- a country which has defeated every foreign army that ever entered it -- may be the ultimate test. After nine years of war, the Afghans' support of U.S. presence in their country has dwindled, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. Since last year, Afghans' confidence that U.S. and NATO forces can provide security and stability in their area has also dropped.
But Petraeus is a different kind of general, fighting a different kind of war. The counterinsurgency strategy largely authored and being implemented now by Petraeus is based on the idea that wars cannot be won with bullets alone, but instead through the hearts and the minds of the local population. Human terrain is the decisive terrain.
To Petraeus, this means gaining the trust of the local population, opening schools, teaching farmers new techniques, helping businesses grow, bolstering the government to provide basic services to citizens, and ultimately, keeping the peace to keep it from becoming a launching pad for terrorists.
Petraeus Tops Eclectic 'Most Fascinating' List
Petraeus topped a wide-ranging list, which highlighted some of the most prominent names in entertainment and politics, including the cast of MTV's hit reality show "The Jersey Shore," teen dream Justin Bieber, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the newest American Idol judge Jennifer Lopez, comeback queen Betty White, and future British princess Kate Middleton.
In 18 seasons, Walters has picked an eclectic group for the title of "Most Fascinating Person." Last year, first lady Michelle Obama was named the Most Fascinating. In 2008, it was then President-elect Barack Obama. Past honorees include J.K. Rowling, Nancy Pelosi, Camilla Parker Bowles, Paris Hilton, Laura Bush, Lance Armstrong, Gen. Tommy Franks, Colin Powell, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Nelson Mandela and more.
ABC News' Kristina Wong and Martha Raddatz contributed to this report.