Common misconception about dictators seems to be that they can do anything. This leads to a wiev of history that the dictators of past had an insane vision, that they set out to fullfill and did so either sucseeding or not.

To me it seems however that at least the most famous dictators were powerhungry political opportunists, who were bound by the populist promises they made to reach power. Nations wash their bloody hands by claiming all the evil deeds done under dictatorship as the responsibility of a single person or a small power house clique.

Hitler for example was elected in legal and democratic election. When he took all power, it was celebrated by the majority of germans. The holocaust was the result of his original rasistic populist demands, that he made to please the general public before he rose to power. The “ultimate solution” of destruction of the jewish population was a result of his national romantic plans failing, not his original plan. I think he never had an original plan. He went for the obvious populist demand, and made it legal. Democracy may not be more direct than that. When the war started to go badly he needed a scapegoat and as the german population had allready accepted jews for the role, the measures of treating the problem got harder as the real problems remained untreated and grew.

Stalin and Mussolini suffered similar problems. Stalin executed or sent into exile in Siberia numeoruos amounts of potential political rivals.  A dictator does not act like this from a position of power, but out of insecurity. These actions did not make Soviet Union stronger, but weaker under the nazi onslaugh. Mussolini gave italian people national pride by talking about the Roman empire. This was a path wich led to imperial politics and war of conquest that was far beyond the reach of Italian nation at the time. Eventually his bubble burst and Hitler ran to his help. This was maybe good for the wareffort at the moment, but in the long run ate the credibility of the fascist regime.

These are well known examples from the near history, but as I allready pointed out easily misunderstood. The fact that dictators are actually politicians dependent on national accept does of course not reduce their responsibility in horrors they create during their reign, but it should remind us to be carefull when a populist a politician makes demands that the society may all too easily be ready to fullfill, even when their ethical values seem shady.