Jennifer Roback Morse
In a recent column, I described Saddam Hussein as an attachment disordered individual. In this week’s column, I analyze what to do with him.

Some of my correspondents worried that a psychological analysis of Hussein might lead to excusing his behavior or minimizing his culpability. Forget that. I’m not here to propose a therapeutic plan to help poor little Saddamy-wammy.

I am here to say that a disordered person like Saddam can exploit the free world’s regard for fairness and due process. From the U.N. resolutions to the Iraqi court now trying Saddam, the world community treated Saddam as if it were afraid to actually exercise any authority. Saddam can sense fear from a mile away. He is sick and we are afraid. Not a good combination.

Here are some ways emotionally disturbed children routinely behave that can feed off our obsession with process and our fear of authority.

1. Disturbed children never admit anything, no matter how much evidence the parents have. So take it as a given that Saddam will never admit anything.

2. Disturbed children go through the motions of compliance, without ever fully complying. They always leave some part of the request or chore undone. It is part of their pathological need to be in control. It makes them feel powerful, as in, “you aren’t the boss of me.” Except they keep saying that, inwardly, way past the age of 2 or 3 when it is sort of normal.

Picture that never-quite-grown-up two year old when you remember Saddam pretending to comply with United Nations resolutions.

3. Disturbed children deflect responsibility for their actions by a lot of talking. As long as he is allowed to talk, the child thinks the issue is negotiable. Saddam has been disrupting the proceedings of the Iraqi court by running his mouth.

You can’t let these kids chatter. They will suck you into their craziness and excuse-making. Sooner or later, you will slip into some opening they can use to divert attention from what they’ve done.

Don’t go there. When the kids break a rule, my husband and I make a point of saying as little as possible.

Instead of talking, we deliver the consequence. It may take only a single word: “Sit.” We may bodily (and wordlessly) remove them from whatever they were doing. Sometimes, we’ll say, “go get me a dollar.” If they’ve offended another child, we may say, “thank you for volunteering to do Johnny’s chores.” (At which, Johnny breaks into a wide grin.)

Jennifer Roback Morse

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love In A Hook-up World. She blogs at

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