Hannah Arendt was an intellectual and political philosopher of the mid-twentieth century, famous for her attempts to understand totalitarian regimes. Raised in Konigsberg, Germany, she observed first-hand the emergence and the effects of two totalitarian states: Adolph Hitler's Nazi Germany, and Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union. Nothing is more characteristic of the totalitarian movements in general and of the quality of fame of their leaders in particular that the startling swiftness with which they are forgotten and the startling ease with which they can be replaced. Fundamental to Arendt's description of totalitarianism are: the presence or emergence of a central theme or ideology, the adoption of that ideology by the masses, either because of desperate circumstances or political appetite, the institutionalization of that ideology through violent means and propaganda, and the use of terror to fuel the masses to maintain the ideology and spread it beyond borders (Kohn 1). Arendt's conclusions and observations though arrived at nearly a half century ago, are still useful for profiling present day and, hopefully, someday predicting future totalitarian regimes. To demonstrate this premise, an assessment of Saddam Hussein's regime, using the central elements of Arendt's analysis of totalitarianism, will be presented. To aid in the analysis and discussion, some historical examples will be provided to shed light on Arendt's views and to demonstrate how they applied to Saddam's Iraq. .
Arendt observed that totalitarian regimes take form or are born of an ideology, often associated with racist, as in the case of Nazi anti-Semitism, or classist struggles, as in Stalin's communist Russia (Jacobus 86). As Hitler's Nazi Germany grew out of and became consumed with the idea of creating a racially purified Aryan Germany and extending it to all of Europe, Saddam's goals, formed along with his Baathist principles, were aimed at creating a pan-Arab world and a master race.