Imagine the galaxy with Anakin Solo alive. It paints a pretty, uncomplicated picture at first. Jaina never fell to the Dark Side. Jacen wasn’t nearly so disturbed. Han and Leia didn’t lose a child. The prophecy about Tahiri and Anakin would have had the potential to matter.
Now think of Anakin co-existing with Ben Skywalker.
The image becomes a bit complicated.
Throughout Anakin’s life, it’s clear that he is destined to be the next Luke Skywalker. He is powerful in the Force, quiet, intelligent, brave and understands the point of sacrifice. Jaina and others mention, either aloud or through silent observations that Anakin seems to understand more about the Force, both before and after his death.
"It's like this. For the past two years, I've listened to Anakin and Jacen debate the role of the Jedi and our relationship to the Force. In the end, what did any of that amount to? [...] Anakin started to figure it out. I sensed it in him after Yavin Four. He learned something there that the rest of us don't know, something that could have made all the difference, if only he'd had time to figure it out. If there is such a thing as destiny, I think that was Anakin's. He has always been different. Special." –Jaina Solo, Dark Journey
Had Anakin not died, would he have become the leader of the Jedi? I’m not sure, but it felt as if that was the direction the authors were taking.
That is, until Ben came along.
Ben has had his own issues with having probably the most famous father in the history of the galaxy (Darth Vader may have him beat…maybe). Ben isn’t even 18 and he’s already treated as if he is the next best thing. With Ben’s birth, Luke had a direct heir.
At the beginning of the New Jedi Order, there wasn’t a question as to who was destined to be the most powerful Jedi. Jacen was the more peaceful and Jaina was the solider. They were the support behind Anakin. I haven’t seen enough to show that Ben is nearly as powerful as Anakin was. While I don’t think Ben would have fought Anakin over the issue, it would have raised questions among fans.
The question remains is that if Anakin survived, how word it have worked with Ben? Would Anakin have been the one working with Luke or would Luke have taken a step back from the front lines? Anakin’s voice of reason would have come through somehow. There’s enough of an age gap between the two that Ben could take time gain enough life experience, one could argue. However, the other side to that is Luke won’t give up the mantle of the No. 1 “go-to Star Wars hero” until, well, we don’t know but it doesn’t look like it’s happening any time soon. By that point, Anakin and Ben would both be experienced adults.
That is, of course, if the Jedi actually need someone to lead them.
"The order can't wait for a great Jedi Knight to lead it. That's what everyone thought I was, and when I died, too much died with me. Don't make the mistake I did, don't let anyone push you into that. Every Jedi Knight has to be his own light, because the light shouldn't go out when one Jedi dies." Anakin Solo, Abyss
Ultimately, I don’t think there should be one end all, be all being the Jedi look to. While Yoda was clearly the leader, it wasn’t as if his death would have caused such a huge reaction in the Jedi Order. Yes, he’d been around for a along as everyone could remember, but great Masters died often enough. Through the movies or books, it never feels as if should Yoda die, the Jedi will fall into shambles or act lost. It’s a different story with Luke. In the beginning, when Luke started trying to grow the order, it would have crashed without him. No arguments there. But now, it could go either way. The Jedi either get with the program and realize hey, no more Luke Skywalker to fix our messes or fall into chaos. With the state of things at the moment, I'm leaning a bit towards chaos.
There’s no doubt that there will always be someone in charge, be it Yoda, Luke, Satele Shan or Ben. And while that isn’t a bad thing, blind dependence only leads to disaster. There are enough examples in both fiction and the real world to illustrate that point.
Ben has leadership qualities that come out, but not enough to make him win me over like Anakin did.
In the end, I don’t know how it would have played out. We’ll never know. Both characters are interesting, memorable and keep the reader’s attention. Until I see more of Ben’s character develop, I think Anakin would have been the better, more effective leader.