Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Character Disorders among Autocratic World Leaders and the Impact on Health Security, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Care

  • Frederick M. Burkle (a1) (a2) (a3)

Abstract

The development of autocratic leaders in history reveals that many share severe character disorders that are consistently similar across borders and cultures. Diplomats and humanitarians negotiating for access to populations in-need and security of their programs, especially in health, must understand the limitations placed on the traditional negotiation process. These shared character traits stem from a cognitive and emotional developmental arrest in both childhood and adolescence resulting in fixed, life-long, concrete thinking patterns. They fail to attain the last stage of mental and emotional development, that of abstract thinking, which is necessary for critical reasoning that allows one to consider the broader significance of ideas and information rather than depend on concrete details and impulses alone. These autocratic leaders have limited capacity for empathy, love, guilt, or anxiety that become developmentally permanent and guide everyday decision making. Character or personality traits that perpetuate the lives of autocratic leaders are further distinguished by sociopathic and narcissistic behaviors that self-serve to cover their constant fear of insecurity and the insatiable need for power. Human rights, humanitarian care, and population-based health security are examples of what has consistently been sacrificed under autocratic rule. Today, with the worst global loss of democratic leadership ever seen since WWII, leaders with these character traits now rule in major countries of the world. While history teaches us of battles and conflicts that result from such flawed leadership, it lacks explanations of why autocratic behaviors consistently emerge and dominate many societies. Building multidisciplinary capacity and capability in societies among democracies to limit or cease such authoritarian dominance first begins with a developmental understanding of why autocrats exist and persist in externalizing their pathological behaviors on unsuspecting and vulnerable populations, and the limitations they place on negotiations.

“…once in power, a leader with an Antisocial Personality Disorder thrives on continuing conflict and never seeks peace.” Daedalus Trust, London, 2016

BurkleFMJr.Character Disorders among Autocratic World Leaders and the Impact on Health Security, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Care. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2019;34(1):2–7.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Character Disorders among Autocratic World Leaders and the Impact on Health Security, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Care
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Character Disorders among Autocratic World Leaders and the Impact on Health Security, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Care
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Character Disorders among Autocratic World Leaders and the Impact on Health Security, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Care
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

Corresponding author

Correspondence: Frederick M. Burkle, Jr., MD Harvard Humanitarian Initiative 14 Story Street, 2nd Floor Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA E-mail(s): fburkle@hsph.harvard.edu; Skipmd77@aol.com

Footnotes

Hide All

Conflicts of interest: The author has no financial or personal relationships with other people or organizations that could inappropriately influence or bias this work.

Footnotes

References

Hide All
1. Burkle, FM Jr. Antisocial personality disorder and pathological narcissism in prolonged conflicts and wars of the 21st century. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2016;10(1):118-128.
2. Post, JM. Ethical considerations in psychiatric profiling of political figures. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2002;25(3):635-646.
3. Post, JM. Qaddafi under siege: apolitical psychologist assesses Libya’s mercurial leader. Foreign Policy. March 15, 2011. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/03/15/qaddafi_under_seige. Accessed January 14, 2015.
4. Post, JM. Narcissism and Politics: Dreams of Glory. New York City, New York USA: Cambridge University Press; 2014: xiii-xix.
5. Slobodan Milosevic. More or less: Heroes & Killers of the 20th Century. http://www.moreorless.net.au/killers/milosevic.html. Accessed February 15, 2015.
6. Post, JM. Saddam Hussein of Iraq: a political psychology profile. Political Psychology. 1991;12(2):279-289.
7. Post, JM. “Assessing leaders at a distance: the political personality profile.” In: Post JM (ed.) The Psychological Assessment of Political Leaders. Michigan USA: University of Michigan Press; 2003: 69-105.
8. Burkle, FM Jr., Hanfling, D. When Being Smart is Not Enough: Narcissism in US Polity. Harvard International Review. January 26, 2016.
10. Rosenthal, SA, Pittinsky, TL. Narcissistic leadership. The Leadership Quarterly. 2006;17(6):617-633.
11. Fisher, R, Ury, W, Patton, B. Getting to Yes: How to Negotiate Agreement Without Giving In. 2nd Edition, Harvard Negotiation Project. New York City, New York USA: Penguin Books, Penguin Group; 1991.
12. Democracy Index 2017: Free speech under attack. Intelligence Unit, The Economist. https://www.eiu.com/topic/democracy-index. Accessed June 15, 2018.
13. Havighurst, RJ. Developmental Tasks and Education. Chicago, Illinois USA: University of Chicago Press; 1948.
14. Sillitoe, A. The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner. Harper Perennial Modern Classics. United Kingdom: WH Allen & Co.; 1959.
15. Meyers, S. Narcissistic parents’ psychological effect on their children. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight-is-2020/201405/narcissistic-parents-psychological-effect-their-children. Accessed June 15, 2018.
16. Johnson, L, Dave, HP. “Assessment of Narcissism, The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences: Vol. II.” In: Carducci BJ, (ed). Research Methods and Assessment Techniques. Hoboken, New Jersey USA: John Wiley & Sons; 2018.
17. Sack, D. Could your child have too much self-esteem? The Blog 23 Oct 2012. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-sack-md/children-self-esteem_b_1822809.html. Accessed June 16, 2018.
18. Cousins, N. The Pathology of Power. New York USA: WW Norton & Company; 1987.
19. Sociopath World: Portrait of a sociopath. Do sociopaths have high IQs? October 9, 2009. http://www.sociopathworld.com/2009/10/do-sociopaths-have-high-iqs.html. Accessed January 15, 2015.
20. Avery, B. Personality Disorders. April 21, 2016. https://prezi.com/uo-os2txotwi/personality-disorders/. Accessed November 20, 2018.
21. Kendell, RE. The distinction between personality disorder and mental illness. Br J Psychiatry. 2002;180:110-115.
22. Lewis, G, Appleby, L. Personality disorder: the patient’s psychiatrists dislike. Br J Psychiatry. 1988;153:44-49.
23. American Psychiatric Association. General criteria for a personality disorder. DSM 5 Criteria-Revised June 2011. http://www.psi.uba.ar/academica/carrerasdegrado/psicologia/sitios_catedras/practicas_profesionales/820_clinica_tr_personalidad_psicosis/material/dsm.pdf. Accessed January 3, 2015.
24. Coolidge, FL, Segal, DL. Was Saddam Hussein like Adolf Hitler? A personality disorder investigation. Military Psychology. 2007;19(4):289-299.
25. Coolidge, FL, Segal, DL. Is Kim Jong-Il like Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler? A personality disorder evaluation. Behav Sci Terrorism Political Aggression. 2009;1(3):195-202.
26. Burkle, FM Jr, Egawa, S, MacIntyre, AG, et al. The 2015 Hyogo Framework for Action: cautious optimism. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2014;8(3):191-192.
27. Meijer, RI. Globalization is dead, but the idea is not. August 10, 2016. https://www.theautomaticearth.com/2016/08/globalization-is-dead-but-the-idea-is-not/. Accessed April 12, 2018.
28. Ghitis, F. Dictatorship, 21st-century style. CNN: Opinion. August 8, 2017. https://www.cnn.com/2017/08/08/opinions/dictator-lessons-opinion-ghitis/index.html. Accessed October 11, 2018.
29. Kirby, A. Climate refugees may reach many millions by 2050. Climate News Network. March 20, 2018. https://climatenewsnetwork.net/climate-refugees-may-reach-many-millions-by-2050/. Accessed May 12, 2018.
30. Mudde, C. The populist radical right: a pathological normalcy. Fronesis. August 31, 2010. https://www.eurozine.com/the-populist-radical-right-a-pathological-normalcy/. Accessed April 2, 2018.
31. Einbinder, N. How the far right has reshaped the refugee debate in Europe. Frontline. January 22, 2018. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/how-the-far-right-has-reshaped-the-refugee-debate-in-europe/. Accessed April 1, 2018.
32. McKay, H. UN humanitarian aid lines pockets of despotic regimes, critics say. Fox News. October 10, 2018. https://www.foxnews.com/world/un-humanitarian-aid-system-lines-pockets-of-despotic-regimes-critics-say. Accessed October 10, 2018.
33. Easterley, W. Stop Sending Aid to Dictators. TIME (Foreign Aid). March 13, 2014. http://time.com/23075/william-easterly-stop-sending-aid-to-dictators/. Accessed October 2018.
34. Patel, RB, Wild, HB. To do no harm: humanitarian aid in conflict demands political engagement. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2018;19:1-2.
35. Shaw, N. Eight current dictators as of 2018. The Borgen Project. https://borgenproject.org/category/dictatorship/. Accessed October 10, 2018.
36. Abed, T. Tyranny and mental health. British Medical Bulletin. 2004;72(1):1-13.
37. Franco, A, Alvarez-Dardet, C, Ruiz, MT. Effect of democracy on health: ecological study. BMJ. 2004;329(7480):1421-1423.
38. da Silva, ACF, Recine, E, Johns, P, Gomes, FDS, Ferraz, MA, Faerstein, E. History and challenges of Brazilian social movements for the achievement of the right to adequate food. Glob Public Health. 2018:1-9.
39. Waitzkin, H, Iriart, C, Estrada, A, Lamadrid, S. Social medicine in Latin America: productivity and dangers facing the major national groups. Lancet. 2001;358(9278):315-323.
40. Rechel, B, McKee, M. The effects of dictatorship on health: the case of Turkmenistan. BMC Med. 2007;5:21.
41. Golec de Zavala, A. Collective narcissism is the root of political evil. Foundation for Economic Education. January 17, 2018. https://fee.org/articles/collective-narcissism-is-the-root-of-political-evil/. Accessed June 19, 2018.
42. The Conversation. Welcome to the age of collective narcissism. January 25, 2017. https://theconversation.com/welcome-to-the-age-of-collective-narcissism-71196. Accessed April 19, 2018.
43. Behary, WT, Siegel, DJ. Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed. 2nd Edition. Oakland, California USA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc; 2013.
44. Albright, AK. Fascism: A Warning. New York USA: Harper Collins Publishers; 2018.

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed