Good Day World!
Who will history be kind to or revile as we look back at the 20th century? Before I share my list of candidates, I think it’s important to add a qualifier; these choices ultimately depend on who is in power at the time.
Now that we have that cleared up, let’s take a look at three lists; one with world leaders leaving behind good legacies, another with bad legacies, and the third list of leaders who could be remembered either way.
As you might have guessed, the good list isn’t as long as the other two. Good leaders are heavily outweighed by bad ones historically. I’m not sure why that is. How many great leaders in the 20th Century stand out to you (I’ll list mine below)? My calculations are based upon a simple formula of statistics, facts, and personal opinion.
First, let’s look at some people who I think will not be remembered kindly in history books:
Adolf Hitler (Germany), Benito Mussolini (Italy), Joseph Stalin (Russia), Vladimir Lenin (Russia), Osama bin Laden (al Qaeda), Saddam Hussein
(Iraq), Idi Amin (Uganda), Nicolae Ceausescu (Romania), Kim il Sung (North Korea), Mao Zedong (China), Pol Pot (Cambodia), Augusta Pinochet (Chile), Hideki Tojo (Japan), Slobodan Milosevic (Yugoslavia and Serbia),
Francisco Franco (Spain), Menghistu (Eithopia), Tito (Yugoslavia), Ismail Enver (Turkey), Yakubu Gowon (Biafra), Jean Kambanda (Rwanda), and Yahya Khan (Pakistan).
That was the short list. There’s not enough space in this column to list all of the bad leaders in the 20th century. Now, let’s look at the candidates for good leaders worldwide:
John F. Kennedy (USA), Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (India), Franklin D. Roosevelt (USA), Winston Churchill, (England), Nelson Mandela (South Africa), Ch’iang Kai Shek (China), Leon Trotsky (Russia), Jimmy Carter (USA), and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (Turkey).
Here comes my favorite list, those leaders who could go either way when the historians try to categorize them. Here’s my real close good/bad list:
From America we have three presidents: Richard M. Nixon (“I‘m not a crook…”), George H.W. Bush (can you say Iran-Contra?), and George Walker Bush (invading Iraq and Afghanistan for no good reason). His brother Jeb, recently said history will be kind to him. I beg to differ.
From Russia (with no love): Nikita Khrushchev (known for temper tantrums), Leonid Brezhnev (he spied on his own countrymen), and Vladimir Putin (who may or may not restore the old Soviet Union).
Gamal Abdel Nasser ( a dictator with mixed accomplishments), Golda Meir (resigned after questions of her handling of the 1973 Yom Kippur War), and Hafez el Assad (current Syrian dictator involved in a civil war).
From England we have:
Anthony Eden (his Middle East policy in 1956 was a failure), Neville Chamberlain (“Peace in our time…” after visiting Hitler), and Gordon Brown ( his popularity nosedived during the 2008 recession).
From Canada we have:
Kim Campbell ( during her four months as Prime Minister she was unable to bring forth any new legislation), John Turner (he was out of touch with his country), and Joe Clark (who suffered from a poor public image and imagined weakness).
As much fun as this has been, I’m not going to continue this last list. Suffice to say there are a lot of 20th century world leaders whose legacies are in question. Leaders whose accomplishments have been dwarfed by dumb and sometimes deadly decisions.
The 21st century, still in it’s fledgling stage, promises to give us a whole new crop of world leaders to evaluate. As I mentioned earlier in this column, world leaders are ultimately judged by historians with agendas.
Acute readers may have noticed I selected three Americans out of the nine picks for the good list. I did mention that part of the process is simply my opinion (worth nothing on the open market) and easily contested.
Time for me to walk on down the road…