"History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again." - Maya Angelou

This article is based on the AskReddit question "Historically, what are some of the most difficult decisions any humans have ever had to make?"

[Source can be found at the end of the article.]

1/16. Stanislav Petrov, the Russian radar watcher who decided not to report his radar readings right away when, for a moment, it looked like it might be nukes. He diverted a potential nuclear response that would have killed millions.


2/16. The decision between resorting to cannibalism or dying of hunger. Probably the most famous example is the Uruguayan rugby team, but there are a lot of instances of that decision throughout history.


3/16. The decision, made by several people including Churchill, to accept the free trade system enacted at Bretton Woods (discussions actually dated back to at least prior to US entry in WWII). The British knew that to accept the agreements would lead to an end to the British Empire, as it could no longer control trade between itself and colonies, but post-war Britain was desperate for economic aid and support from the US, which was conditioned on agreeing to the Bretton Woods system.


4/16. Making the decision to stay and burn to death in the trade center or jumping to your own death had to be a pretty horrifying decision. These people were given just moments to decide their fate and I can't even comprehend being in that type of situation.


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5/16. I think the decision to assassinate Franz Ferdinand gets overlooked a lot, especially considering how different our world would look without WWI and all it set into motion. (Although, to be fair, it was a disaster waiting to happen).


6/16. When the plague broke out again people knew how bad it could get. People had to decide what to do to survive with what they had. Stay or leave.

There were people made unemployed so many couldn't afford to hide out somewhere safe for the years plague spread so thier choices were limited or more risk of starving in the countryside. Decision I'd hate to make.

One example of this is the plague outbreak of Eyam.


7/16. The guys who killed and ate their comatose cabin boy while shipwrecked, later to be convicted for the crime in court. Also known as the death of Richard Parker.


8/16. The decision of Namanides to debate against Pablo Christiani. The king of Spain had decided he wanted to prove the authenticity of Christianity by having a disputation between a converso and a representative of the Jews. Namanides had three options. Refuse, and bear the king's wrath, go and lose on purpose, which would do unknowable damage to the faith of Spanish Jewry and risk punishment from the crown, or go and win, the choice he made, which ended up with him fleeing Spain, and setting the stage for the Spanish Expulsion.


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9/16. President John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis: For thirteen days in October 1962 the world waited seemingly on the brink of nuclear war and hoped for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.


10/16. Apollo 11 Launch. This was the big one. They weren't 100% sure that the LM's ascent stage could make it back to the CM. Or that there wouldn't be some other catastrophic issue on the moon's surface; so much so that Nixon had a speech prepared that was essentially telling the American people and the world that we were forced to leave two Americans on the moon to die.

Ironically, there was an issue on the moon. The circuit breaker that allowed the ascent engine to fire got snapped off. I think it was Aldrin's pen cap that was used to jam into the hole, allowing the LM ascent engine to fire.


11/16. The evacuation from Dunkirk, I assume many in the British Parliament expected Great Britain to surrender within the month though they did abandon France they saved the majority of their troops from total annihilation possible saving Europe.


12/16. Caesar, the most beloved general in Roman history, deciding to cross the Rubicon, turning Rome from a republic into a a dictatorship and breaking the one unbreakable Roman law -- that no army shall enter the capital.


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13/16. Unit 731 was a Chinese torture camp where "scientists" fed hungry children to starving animals and would cut open people without anesthetic and tested biological agents on their own citizens. The US pardoned the scientists in exchange for their data, and the kicker is that this data didn't really contribute to medical science even though it was believed at the time that it could have saved many lives. The other kicker is that by getting the data, we may have inadvertently saved the lives of millions by denying the Russians from getting the biological warfare data.


14/16. President Harry S. Truman. He had to make the conscious decision to take 200,000 lives in order to save many more. I do not doubt that he was haunted by that decision for the rest of his life.


15/16. The one by Soviet vice admiral Vasili Arkhipov not to launch a nuke against the USA, despite the other commanding officers on board his sub being for it, in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis.


16/16. Igor Gouzenko's decision to defect to Canada and tell the Canadian, American, and British that soviet spies were had infiltrated them and by doing this he put both his life, the life of his wife and unborn child, his family in Russia, and his friends' life in danger.



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