New York Times columnist David Brooks wonders how Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has remained in power for 42 years. After chronicling behaviors that clearly suggest Qaddahi has narcissistic personality disorder, the column concludes:
Yet this very megalomania seems to be both the secret to his longevity and to his unhinged nature. The paradoxical fact is that if you want to stay in office as a dictator, it is better to be a narcissistic totalitarian than a run-of-the-mill autocrat. Megalomianiacs like Qaddafi seek to control every neuron in their peoples’ heads and to control every aspect of life. They destroy all outside authority and civil society. They personalize every institution so that things like the army exist to serve their holy selves, rather than the nation at large.It's not only safer for a tyrant to be a narcissist, it can also be better for his people, at least if you believe in the principles of Realpolitik (which approach I was pleased to see a frank NY Times article not only addressing openly and honestly with regards to Libya and other recent uprisings, but was also essentially endorsing that pragmatic approach to diplomacy).
They are untroubled by doubt or concern for the good opinion of others since they already possess absolute truth. They are motivated to fulfill their World Historical Mission and have no interest in retiring peacefully to some villa.
Jeane Kirkpatrick was right years ago to make the distinction between authoritarian dictatorships and totalitarian ones. The totalitarian ones are both sicker and harder to dislodge. Qaddafi’s unhinged narcissistic oddness seems to be the key to his longevity. So remember: If you’re going to be a tyrant, be a wacko. It’s safer.
Of course, a sociopath would be even better at ignoring conflicting global moral considerations in favor of "his people's needs." But I'm afraid most sociopaths simply do not have the motivation to stick with politics long term, as opposed to selling out and "retiring peacefully to some villa."