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Entering the inner theatre of a despot: the rise and fall of Saddam Hussein

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This article investigates leadership by terror, a form of leadership that is both an ageless phenomenon and a contemporary problem. The article attempts to enter the despotic mind and understand how the despot functions. It also highlights the peculiar psychological interplay between despotic leaders and their followers and explores the collusive group dynamics between leaders and led. In examining the ways people become desensitized to violence and are co-opted to go along with the practices of a despotic regime, it offers groupthink, obedience to authority, identification with the aggressor, and dehumanization of the enemy as dynamics that pave the way for leadership by terror. Finally, the article ends by entering the inner world of the led, looking at how a despot's subjects cope with the terror enacted by a tyrannical regime. For the purpose of representation, one of the better-known contemporary despots has been selected: Saddam Hussein. His rise and fall will allow us to better understand the inner theatre of despots generally. The example of Saddam Hussein demonstrates the sadistic disposition, the paranoia, the malevolent antisocial behavior, the megalomania, the tactics of terror, and the flawed reality-testing that characterize the behavior of most despots.

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