Ten Terrible Decisions Made By World Leaders Throughout History


Mao’s Great Leap Forward

The Great Leap Forward was a disastrous attempt in 1958 by Mao Zedong to rapidly industrialize China. He banned all private holdings and created communes where peasants who no longer owned their own land would live together in a field and would be forced to work steel instead of farming. Each farm would be given a steel furnace and often every peasant in the commune was forced to work long hours. Mao also tried to improve farming through a number of misguided techniques set forth by Trofim Lysenko. The techniques decreased grain production but local leaders were under so much pressure that they actually falsely reported large increases in grain production in order to please their superiors. Unfortunately, these numbers were used to determine how much grain was sent to the capital to be used for export, the false numbers meant little if any grain was left to feed the peasants.

These and other polices of the Great Leap Forward are believed to be responsible for the Chinese Famine which resulted in the deaths of millions of Chinese. 30 to 40% of all houses were also destroyed as part of the Great Leap Forward as the materials were needed for their efforts to industrialize. Even as Mao knew his people were starving, he continued to export grain in order to save face and some even claim he knew millions would die through his program but he thought it was a worthwhile sacrifice. The economy also failed as the period of the Great Leap (1958 – 1961) was the only time between 1953 and 1973 that the economy regressed. Officials who had lied about harvests were publicly executed and Mao took a backseat to government affairs for several years.  Liu Shaoqi said in 1962 that 30% of the economic crisis and famine was the result of nature and 70% human error.

  • ken hunt

    You missed McCarther’s decision to do nothing when the Japanese invaded the Phillipines. He left the entire US airforce on the ground and the Japanese destroyed the planes on the ground.

    • John Moyer

      He didn’t really have much of a choice. The US forces were really under-equipped and were being overrun by Japanese forces. FDR did not want to lose one of his best generals so FDR ordered him to leave.

      • stan

        This is laughable. The only thing Douglas MacArthur was good at was self-promotion. He should have been court-martialed for his inaction in the hours following the Japanese attack.

        • disqus_v3SHzvCspj

          MacArthur and McCain were similar in some respects; we have suffered with both.

          • baeksu

            When you say McCain, are you talking about John McCain? I do not follow this comment.

  • Larry Thompson

    The Vietnam war was a mistake; but, it was the conduct of the war that was a mistake, not the fact of it. The exact same situation had presented itself in Greece in 1948; the difference was the media was war weary and really didn’t get involved. This led to a very swift, successful campaign in which the Greeks, strongly aided by the Americans, were able to defeat Communist forces which wanted to put Greece behind the Iron Curtain. Anytime politicians, goaded by an ignorant media, involve themselves in the conduct of a war, it is going to go badly. This is what happened in Vietnam.

    • RR

      The media was fine with the war for the first five years. Plenty of time for a “swift” victory. Any comparison with Greece is not credible.

    • Matthew

      “The Media” didn’t kill 58,000 American soldiers.

    • sarms58

      I think there is a huge difference between Greece – a western nation – and Vietnam. While we have many cultural similarities with the Greek people, we knew nothing of Vietnamese culture. Our western ideas of “freedom” and democracy” were foreign to their culture.

      • disqus_v3SHzvCspj

        LBJ is still very near the top of my ‘worst President’ list, way worse than the inept Carter. Time has proven that we had no dog in the fight anyway, and now, fifty years later, Vietnam is doing quite well. My old duty station, Nha Trang, now looks remarkably like Waikiki Beach in Honolulu with 30 story hotels all along the beachfront.

        • Mike Minyen

          LBJ did indeed get us heavily involved in Vietnam, but in the end he realized his mistake even making the statement “the kids (anti war protesters) were right. As a consequence he declined to run for reelection. That one fact makes him one of the greatest presidents. Did Bush ever admit his mistake? You think the great orange one being sworn in on the 20th would/ever admit a mistake large or small?

  • pronto

    There is a school of thought that now says that Neville Chamberlain did not appease Hitler due to being ignorant or naive regarding Hitler’s intentions of heading towards war.
    NC realized that neither England nor France were in a strong position to go to war at that time.Both countries had been severely damaged,like Germany,from WWI.
    Unlike Germany,England & France had not rebuilt their military & had let them stagnate over the decades prior to WWII.

    • disqus_v3SHzvCspj

      That has been my contention. Chamberlain was a realist, and sacrificed his reputation for 18 months which allowed England to develop and install Radar, buy a large number of Bofors AA guns, drill, train and equip a neglected Army, build and develop Spits, Hurricaines and eventually Wellingtons. Hitler was set to invade England but never got enough of an edge to pull the trigger, so he made his greatest error and went after Russia.

  • Dave Eicher

    Hopefully we will not be adding President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran to the list.

  • John Pilon

    We could add GW Bush’s disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq.

  • John Williams

    Soon to join this list–selling guns to drug cartels, paying a billion and a half dollar ransom, and trading five high-level terrorists for a traitor…

    • Michael Arnold

      i was just going to post that

    • Yeah, Reagan was a fucking disgrace to this country.

  • Mr. P

    I don’t see how Chamerlain’s appeasement was a mistake. England ended up declaring war in defense of Poland after Germany invaded but the Soviets ended up taking control of Poland and all of Eastern Europe after WW2 anyway. The English lost their status as the world’s superpower and they are nothing but a forgotten island nation currently being colonized by the 3rd world today.

  • Joe Swaim

    While Kennedy escalated our involvement in Vietnam, the real bad decision was with Truman. FDR had made an agreement with Ho Chi Men that he would support Vietnam independence from French colonialism in exchange for their fight against the Japanese in WW2. Truman broke that treaty and sided with the French return.

  • Michael Arnold

    1.5 billion to the muslim brotherhood in egypt, which ultimately went to ISIS. this isnt at the top of the list?

  • Michael Arnold

    my post about obama funding ISIS with 1.5 billion sent to the muslim brotherhood in egypt was deleted?