Jennifer Roback Morse posits that Saddam Hussein suffers from reactive attachment disorder. She writes:
According to Karl Zinsmeister’s Boots on the Ground, Saddam’s father abandoned him before he was born. His mother went to her brother’s house near Tikrit to give birth, and then abandoned the baby, leaving him to be raised by his uncle’s family.
Morse points out that "normal" people don't aspire to be dictators -- nor, I'd add, president of the United States. Saddam's sadism, manipulation and self-absorption are classic RAD.
Morse is a part-time Hoover fellow who writes about love, marriage, sex and the family. She also adopted a Romanian boy.
Examining the childhoods of despots and serial killers can help us understand how a human could become so twisted. The Austrian psychologist Alice Miller has made exposing the cruelty of child-rearing her life's work. In "For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence" she showed how the pain Hitler experienced as a child could have led to the almost unimaginable cruelty he displayed.
Miller doesn't excuse Hitler, by the way, even though she seeks to understand his behavior in terms of his early experiences. I once wrote to her, asking how we could hold people responsible for their actions if they had been abused as children. She responded that we all are ultimately responsible for our own actions, no matter what our experiences, and that many other people have undergone equally horrendous experiences without becoming monsters themselves.