Op-Ed

PrintPrint EmailEmail ShareShare CiteCite
Style:MLAAPAChicagoClose

loading...

The Character of Nelson Mandela

Author: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
December 5, 2013
Commentary

Share

While traveling around the country promoting my last book, Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present, I was often asked which insurgents I admired the most. The answer is those insurgents who have fought relatively humanely and, most important of all, once they have seized power have governed wisely and democratically and shown a willingness to give up power when the time came to do so.

This is not, needless to say, the norm. Much more common are insurgents like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Mugabe, Kim Il Sung, and (fill in the blank) who, while posturing as freedom fighters battling an evil dictatorship, swiftly become dictators in turn as soon as they seize power. The exceptions to that rule are some of the greatest figures of modern history–the likes of George Washington, Michael Collins, David Ben-Gurion, and, most recently, Nelson Mandela.

I can remember growing up in the 1980s when there was widespread suspicion among conservatives in the U.S.–including many in the Reagan administration–that if the African National Congress were to take over, South Africa would be transformed into another dysfunctional dictatorship like the rest of the continent. That this did not come to pass was due to many reasons including F.W. de Klerk's wisdom in giving up power without a fight.

View full text of article.

More on This Topic

Op-Ed

What Would Nixon Do?

Author: Gideon Rose
New York Times

Gideon Rose discusses President Nixon and Henry Kissinger's attempt to extricate the United States from the Vietnam War even as the local...

Op-Ed

Anyone But Karzai?

Author: Max Boot
Washington Post

Max Boot compares the U.S. decision to back the overthrow of South Vietnam president Ngo Dihn Diem in 1963 to signals from U.S. senior...