Who is a good person and who is a bad person?
I was thinking about King David, a morally ambiguous historical figure.
I was also thinking about Fidel Castro, a leader who some remember as a great leader in spite of the firing squads and the political prisons on the Isle of Pines.
One way to judge a life is by what evil it prevented or promoted. Some otherwise bad people have prevented terrible things from happening. Some have accomplished things in flawed ways that turned out for the best. We often do not get to choose between pure right and pure wrong.
God and history will judge the leaders of the old USSR. God and history will hold American leaders like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon accountable for escalating the Vietnam war or ordering the Watergate cover-up.
However, during the stewardship of those leaders on both sides of the Cold War, we avoided nuclear war. For those who didn’t live through that time, perhaps this is a given. But some of us remember nuclear war as a real threat overhanging our lives for decades. Remarkably, it never happened.
Whatever else you can say about the Western and Soviet leaders, they actively worked to avoid a thermonuclear war.
The exception to this was Fidel Castro. In a letter to Castro in 1962 it becomes clear that Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev, is horrified that Castro had sent a cable urging a nuclear first strike. You can read Khrushchev’s letter here.
As morally compromised a person as Khrushchev was as a Communist dictator, he appears in this letter as a person with a desire to choose life rather than death. I am grateful to him for that. I would not say that he was completely a bad person.
Other leaders on both sides from the 1950s through the 1980s worked to find other ways to further their interests. Sometimes those ways were bloody and dirty, but they were not nuclear war.
So of all the leaders on either side, only Castro really wanted to do a kind of global suicide bombing. Some of the other leaders gave their allegiance to awful agendas and violated human rights in many ways. But at least they eschewed the use of nukes.
Fidel Castro did not. So I am comfortable saying without reservation that he was bad. He was the only head of state on either side who sought a nuclear war.