Friday, July 08, 2011

What’s inside a tyrant’s mind?


What’s inside a tyrant’s mind?

The question of why dictators – even the most charming among them – oppress their own people.

Ronald Reagan labeled Gaddafi the ‘mad dog of ME
Photo by: Reuters

Dictators and autocrats have been getting bad press of late, but few people stop and think about just how hard their daily lives really are.

Maintaining a wardrobe of fantastically flamboyant African robes, à la Muammar Gaddafi, isn’t an easy task, nor is getting your tailor to design camp military uniforms with epaulettes more outrageous than Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Think of the dangers, confronted by Kim Jong-Il, of confusing Monday’s drab, shapeless, colorless polyester suit with Tuesday’s drab, shapeless, colorless polyester suit. And no one appreciates the time-sapping demands Bashar Assad faces in getting his pencil mustache just so, nor the concentration skills and dexterity needed to effectively wield his facial grooming implements.

Although these kinds of dilemmas are not appreciated by most, there is something even harder to understand – something far less amusing.

That is the ability of present-day dictators to so readily give orders to kill as many people as it takes to maintain their grip on power.

For most people, the enormity of taking one life would be appalling enough; having the deaths of thousands on your conscience – not to mention the suffering caused by the medieval methods of torture employed today in places such as Syria and Libya – is simply unimaginable. Yet, as has been apparent in the past few months on our TV screens, in our newspapers and over the Internet, such crimes come more easily for some people and weigh less heavily on their souls.

Psychiatrists have explored this issue to try and understand what characteristics these dictators share and what allows them to commit the atrocities they do.

According to Prof. Fred Coolidge of Colorado University, there are a number of critical personality disorders that, when occurring together, cause a “perfect storm” for the development of a psychopathic personality.

First and foremost among these traits is an intense narcissism, an extreme form of egocentrism in which the approval and adulation of others is critical to one’s self-esteem.

This narcissism, Coolidge says, also creates a powerful drive to seek power, and the desire for power is a major motivator for a typical dictator.

Another characteristic common among autocratic leaders is a sense of huge self-importance, a feeling that they are special, destined to have some great impact on their country and on history. A complete lack of interpersonal empathy, along with severe paranoia, completes the set, making for a particularly efficient and ruthless dictator.

But despite these antisocial pathologies, despots often have an ability to appear charming and smooth, and even seem empathetic, says Prof. James Fallon of the University of California – Irvine’s Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior.

This description of an autocrat’s ability to disarm matches the impression former UK ambassador to Syria Henry Hogger got of Syrian leader Assad: “He was easy to talk to. Tony Blair got on well with him, and he had a good sense of humor.”

It seems implausible that the man who so charmed Blair is now responsible for the deaths of approximately 1,400 people and the inhuman torture of young children.

And according to Sir Terence Clark, another former British diplomat who served as ambassador to Iraq between 1985 and 1990, these features were also noticeable in Saddam Hussein.

“Saddam came across as very well-practiced in the arts of diplomacy and statesmanship,” Clark says, adding that his narcissism was apparent, too. “He took on the [informal] title of ‘Leader of Necessity,’ and saw himself as a figure who was needed by Iraq at that moment in history.”

Saddam also had a vision – not an ideological one of, for example, social reform, but of making Iraq a major player in the Middle East and, most likely, the broader geopolitical arena.

Crucially, he saw himself as the pivotal character and was driven by a desire to acquire power, maintain power and create a dynasty by grooming his sons Uday and Qusai to inherit him. The cult of personality he cultivated is another symptom of his narcissistic egomania and need for adoration. Portraits and posters of the man were made all over the country, designed to portray him as a father figure of the nation.

But what is the pathology that allows for wholesale slaughter and violent repression? Lack of empathy, it appears, is one of the key elements in this regard.

Interfering with the plan of a dictator is a bad idea, explains Fallon. “Assad has a plan, and that plan, in his mind, is the greatest good that can be achieved for his country. To obtain his goals, he is willing to do things normal people would not, which is to kill people who are in the way.”

His vision of himself in relation to his country is almost parental, Fallon continues. “His attitude is, ‘If you threaten my children, i.e., my country or my ideas, I will kill you.’ He just has a lower threshold.”

It seems, therefore, that a dictator’s malignant narcissism helps convince himself that his plan is good; his megalomania is responsible for the development of some grand idea or vision; and his lack of empathy means he has fewer issues with committing what to other people would be unspeakable crimes.

FALLON’S DESCRIPTION of dictators having a grand sense of saving the world fits well with what Eli Shaked, a former Israeli consul-general to Turkey, has to say about Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan is not a dictator; he is a legitimate politician and has been democratically elected on three separate occasions. Nevertheless, Shaked’s impression of the man closely mirrors the characteristics described by the psychiatrists.

Erdogan, says Shaked, wants to return the Middle East to the days before Ataturk, with Turkey playing a pivotal and influential role in the region. He wants to restore the country’s influence to what it was under the Ottoman caliphate, and this explains his desire to engage so actively with all the regional problems of its neighbors – with Syria, Greece, Armenia, the Kurds and Israel.

Unfortunately, says Shaked, he has failed to accomplish these dreams, and this is perhaps one of the causes of the retreat of democracy in Turkey over the past few years. Critical journalists have been imprisoned, and according to the former consul-general, opposition leaders have been set up in compromising positions, forcing them to resign.

Erdogan’s grand “neo-Ottoman” visions, combined with his hypersensitivity to criticism, fit well with the classic antisocial pathologies of true dictators, but these are not the only traits they share. Another notable pattern witnessed of late in the recent Middle East uprisings is of leaders such as Assad, Libya’s Gaddafi and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh claiming that the revolts are not, contrary to appearances, led by popular protest against brutal and interminable state repression, but by Islamist cells, Western provocateurs or Zionist agents seeking to undermine the nation.

“They absolutely believe their own rhetoric,” Coolidge says; they are not in any way pretending.

Witness Gaddafi’s ramblings shortly after the rebellion against his rule began in earnest back in February. This “mad dog of the Middle East,” as former US president Ronald Reagan affectionately labeled him, claimed that those protesting against him were, in actuality, protesting for him. In a brief, bizarre TV interview, Gaddafi claimed, “I was talking with the young people in Green Square and wanted to spend the night with them, but it started to rain.”

Later, in a 70-minute televised address Gaddafi said there was, however, a small group of youths who had been given hallucinatory drugs and had attacked a couple of police stations.

This refusal to acknowledge reality comes from autocratic rulers’ deep-seated belief that they are heroic, munificent leaders, working toward the betterment of their country. But it is also nurtured by the corrupting nature of their position. Because they possess an acute sensitivity to criticism, they will remove by any means necessary those who disagree with them, and appoint fawning cronies and relatives, who are themselves attracted to power and financial benefits, as advisers and state officials.

“The proclivity of autocrats to literally shoot the messenger means that these people are never given a true picture of the country’s state of affairs, and they slowly become divorced from reality,” says Fallon. This situation leads the regime to grow ever more distant from its people by completely insulating itself from their grievances, and this in turn, compounded by the ruler’s lack of empathy, leads inexorably to vicious repression against anyone opposing the ruling elite.

Ultimately the despots who have made daily headlines in recent months for their unmitigated cruelty are completely addicted to power.

“All addictions are the same – drugs, nicotine, love, shopping, power, all feed into the hedonic hot spot and support pleasure,” says Fallon. But whereas a normal person can manage without constant stimulation of this pleasure center, someone with an addictive personality is left devastated when he fails to get his fix; it’s real pain, like losing a loved one, and he will do anything to ward off the symptoms of withdrawal.

“Addicts continue with whatever behavior they’re addicted to, just to avoid that pain. It’s not pleasurable, it’s managing the pain of withdrawal,” explains Fallon.

“What makes dictators different is that they’re addicted to power, and no amount of power will satisfy them. It keeps getting worse and worse. This is the idea of malignant addiction to power, and this is what dictators have and what drives their will to cling to power and their totalitarian inclinations.”

This stark diagnosis of what motivates the likes of Assad, Gaddafi and others is frightening, because it means there are few limits to what they are prepared to do to avoid the awful pain that results if they lose power.

“We will enter a bloody war, and thousands and thousands of Libyans will die if the United States or NATO enters,” warned Gaddafi back in February. He was deadly serious. Such threats are not to be taken lightly, and should serve as a clarion signal to the world that tyrants everywhere will stop at nothing to maintain their grasp on the reins of power.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

BBC Reports on "Accident"

According to the BBC, Palestinian terrorists accidentally dressed up as Yeshiva students, walked into the Yeshiva and committed mass murder.

Click on the screen capture to enlarge, scroll down to the BBC's "are you involved" form

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Jabbering on about nothing

Below are excerpts from a really good article by Yosef (Tommy) Lapid. While I disagree with his rhetoric about the settlers, the rest of the piece is right on the money and is basically what I’ve been saying forever.

The road to nowhere

There is no point to the talks because ultimately they lead nowhere, being an exercise in futility that will never culminate in an agreement. The relationship between Israel and the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria will carry on without the benefit of a formal agreement, as they have until now.

The die was cast when Israel withdrew from Gush Katif. It was a historic step, a sacrifice that shook Israeli society.

The Palestinians' response was not long in coming: They stepped up the Kassam fire and elected Hamas, establishing a regime that does not recognize Israel's right to exist and is unwilling to concede its armed struggle until Israel is completely defeated.

THE ISRAELI public has learned its lesson. It has learned that every Israeli concession boomerangs against us, that the Palestinians prefer suffering and war to prosperity and peace, that there is no one to talk to and nothing that can be trusted: not Oslo, Camp David, Madrid or the withdrawal from Gush Katif. The Israeli peace camp has imploded and the Right is gloating, "We told you so!"

Abbas cannot give up the "right of return" or a single inch of land beyond the 1967 borders because if he does, he will not survive. And Olmert, even if he wanted to, could not close an deal with him because of two ironclad principles: Israel cannot make concession to the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria because Hamas could take over Ramallah at any moment, just as it did in Gaza.

Abbas would be removed from power, Ismail Haniyeh would be declared the president of Free Palestine, women would be ordered to veil their faces, men to grow beards, and the Kassam rockets - and eventually Katyusha rockets too - would land not only on Sderot but on Netanya and Kfar Saba. And on Ben-Gurion airport, cutting off Israel's air connection with the world.

Giving in to the settlers is a shameful capitulation to the use of force and the deterioration of the rule of law. It is a victory for the zealots that will haunt us for all time. But that is the reality in which we live - a destructive, insane one; but reality nonetheless.

Olmert and Abbas can talk until they're blue in the face. The Beduin say that the dogs bark and the caravan moves on. In this case, the peace caravan isn't going anywhere.

Palestinians send kids to their deaths'

Yes, it’s true, I don’t know why I’m even surprised, Palestinian terrorists send children to their deaths'. Yesterday, the IDF mistakenly killed two children who had been sent by Islamic Jihad terrorists to collect the rocket-launchers they had used to fire rockets at Israel. The IDF forces saw people approaching the launchers and took them to be terrorists and opened fire.

The Israel Defense Forces killed six Palestinians in three separate incidents Tuesday, including two children who were targeted as they tried to collect Qassam rocket launchers in the Gaza Strip…

Soon after the launch, an IDF force identified the source of the rocket fire, surveyed the area, and identified a number of suspicious images near the launchers…

They said it is possible that Islamic Jihad had hired the children to collect the launchers after the launch. This phenomenon had already been observed in other instances, the IDF officers said…

An IDF source said that troops that had carried out the operation identified the figures next to the launchers as militants. "They were handling the launchers and they obviously hadn't come to slide on them," he said. "Every Palestinian, including the militants, knows that anyone who hangs around these launchers is endangering themselves.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Rocket Defence System Still Being Mismanaged by Politicians

Haaretz reports that defence industry officials have said that there is still no consistent funding plan for the rocket defence system elected by the Ministry of Defence (which happens to be rubbish anyway compared to other ones which are at a more advanced stage of development, less costly and more effective as I mentioned here).

What is the problem here? How is it so complicated to work out that Israel desperately needs a workable defence system against short range rockets? The major threat facing Israel on its northern border is short and medium range rockets and missiles and that negating their effect would effectively neutralise Hizballah and Syria’s ability to harm Israel without actually trying to invade.

It’s now a year on and we seem to be no closer to having an up and running rocket-defence system, despite the fact that Qasssams are still being fired at the south-western Negev every day and that tensions on the northern border with Hizballah and Syria are still extremely high. How hard is it to decide on a system, fund it, develop it and deploy it? The technology is there and the necessity is there. The funds have to be made available to counter this strategic threat to the State of Israel.

Lack of funds may expose home front to missiles

Lack of a consistent funding plan may leave the home front open to rocket and missile threats from neighboring countries, defense industry officials told Haaretz Thursday… They warned that inadequate and short-sighted budgeting may cause contractors to be unable to meet the government's deadline 20 months from now for deploying anti-ballistic rocket systems near population centers…

The sources estimate that the budget for Iron Dome, Israel's short-range, rocket-based interception system, will run out by the end of 2007…

A senior official in the defense industry told Haaretz that the Iron Dome project "is advancing at a very slow pace, which contradicts the cabinet's resolutions on quickly setting up active defenses for towns and cities near the Gaza Strip and the border with Lebanon that have in past years come under repeated rocket attacks."…

"The defense industries need money to make headway. But currently, there isn't even a dedicated administrational body for handling development and to regularly allocate budgets and sub-budgets," the official said. ”

Thursday, August 16, 2007

UN Security Council to Reject expanded role for UNIFIL

Notice the soldier at the back carrying a gun which he will never use, maybe he needs a paper-weight though?

The Jerusalem Post reports that UNIFIL, the UN force supposedly responsible for peace-keeping in southern Lebanon and preventing arms-smuggling and other Hizballah activities, will not be given a wider mandate to step-up its operations against the flagrant violations of the cease-fire and UNSC Resolution 1701. Well, we wouldn't want to tire them out, give them something to actually do or otherwise bother them would we?

"Report: UNSC to reject Israeli request to expand UNIFIL role

The UN Security Council will reportedly reject an Israeli request to expand UNIFIL's mandate in southern Lebanon against Hizbullah...

According to the report, the Security Council will reject the request due to safety concerns for its personnel on the ground in southern Lebanon. "

Is there a reason they carry guns or is it simply for the photo opportunities?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Palestinians Continue Ongoing Efforts to Kidnap IDF Soldiers

Yup, those busy “militants” are industriously burrowing away, trying to kidnap more Israeli soldiers. Thankfully, the tunnel they were digging from Gaza to Israel was discovered before it could be put to use. Good to see Gazans putting their time, effort and money into such profitable endeavours which help the Palestinian cause so much.

Also note that the entrance to the tunnel was being hidden by a greenhouse growing tomatoes, a nice convenient civilian endeavour to hide behind. There’s is no end of civilian property and infrastructure which the Palestinian terrorists have used to hide behind. Sick!

IDF uncovers tunnel from Gaza to Israel

"An underground tunnel stretching towards Israel from the northern Gaza Strip and hidden by a Palestinian greenhouse was discovered by the IDF on Tuesday, security forces reported on Wednesday.

According to the report, Palestinian terror organizations hoped to fill the tunnel with bombs, which would then be detonated under an unspecified Israeli civilian or military target. The army is also checking into the possibility that gunmen intended to use the tunnel to infiltrate into Israel."

US to immortalise Iran’s Guards as Heroes

The Revolutionary Guards fight to win the Ahmadinejad Lookalike Competition. First prize - Ahmadinejad’s toupee. Still greasy.

The Times Online:
“US to blacklist Iran's Guards as terrorists
America is planning to increase the pressure on Iran by designating its elite fighting force, the Revolutionary Guards, a terrorist organisation. “

America clearly needs a new plan of action. Does George Bush not realise that as soon as he says something is bad, the entire world of radical Islam want to make it ten times bigger, stronger and more explosive? Let’s take the Revolutionary Guards as an example. No doubt, as soon as America decides they are the big bad, their funding and publicity will increase tenfold. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will no doubt get up on his soapbox and start yelling (because they do always yell don’t they, invest in some microphones people…) about how evil America is and how the West is trying to take over the world, destroy all that is good, steal your last rolo…

I really think that Mr Bush would be better off giving Haniyeh and his friendly neighbourhood bomb supplier Ahmadinejad a big hug and kiss on the cheek. It’s the quickest, shortest and least bloody way to bring peace to the Middle East. As soon as he says Hamas is good and Israel is bad, every Arab leader will be queuing up to sign a peace agreement with Israel before you can say “we’re so contradictory we’ll blow up Al Aqsa ourselves dammit.”

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Taliban Scum Killing Hostages One by One

Shim Sung-min, who was with his church group on an aid mission in central Afghanistan, was found Tuesday. Authorities say Taliban militants fatally shot him.

The inhuman scum who terrorised Afganistan and the rest of the world for seven years, and who continue to try to thrwart democracy and decency in Afghanistan today, are doing what they do best; killing people.

Twenty-three South-Koreans were abducted by the Taliban in Afghanistan and two have now been murdered after the Taliban demands and deadlines were not met.

Afghanistan, and the fight against the Taliban is a crucial battleground against Islamism and NATO needs to send more troops and spend more resources on this huge problem before the insurgency there gets out of hand once again.

EverLife Flashlight
Free Web Counter
EverLife Flashlight