Today's dictators just do not know how to do the job. They're weak and incredibly obvious. What's the fun of being an evil dictator if the United States bombs you out of existence a scant year later? Stalin had a nice little gig in Russia going. Saddam wasn't doing so bad for his part until he invaded a US oil interest.
They have to play their cards right. All too often they just out and deny their dictatoryiness. No, wrong, wrong, wrong. You openly admit it, wear it like a badge of honor. "Yes, I am an evil dictator. Want my card?" It disarms people. They question whether an evil dictator would admit to being an evil dictator. The best way to lie to someone is to tell them the truth first.
Next, you should maintain some trappings of a democratic republic. Allow political dissidents to broadcast nationwide... from prison. Hold elections with a candidate so awful and evil he makes you look like a kitten. Assign some of your secret police as school crossing guards in your cities. Pretend to care about what the people say. Grant something stupid, like build a few water-purification plants or stop taxing breathable air. It's the little things that people love.
Also, be sure to agree with whatever the President of the US says. If the Prez says you should hold popular elections, go ahead and do so. If your brainwashing squad and persona has done its job, you shouldn't have anything to fear. If the Prez says you should open up to weapons inspectors, let them flow in. They shouldn't be able to spot the secret bunkers you buried under your mansion. If he says bark like a dog and twirl, go ahead and tell the world you were exploring a career as an actor. Pride before the fall.
A common mistake is to place an iron grip around your citizens. Let them have freedom of speech. They're only going to say what they're thinking, and you can't read and punish thought... yet. By allowing them to speak and write their mind, you let them have a safety valve. By keeping it open and in the public, you can carefully monitor who's saying what without having to send your secret police into each nook and cranny of your country searching for political dissidents. If they act up, they'll be too complacent to bother to hide.
And be sure to keep a generic and attractive image. The uglier you are, the more likely the American public will favor invading your country and ready the noose. If you blend in, or look moderately attractive, people will find it hard to find reasons to blow you to smithereens. Saddam managed to limp along after Kuwait, but that moustache was his eventual downfall. Come to think of it, Hitler had a pretty weird mustache too. It never fails. Why would that beautiful person create a harsh and brutal dictatorship? Let's invade that monster running Rwanudanistania. He's hideous.
Finally, a potential dictator should keep in mind that improvisation is your best weapon. When the angry mob is at your door with their torches and pitchforks, you have to know the right words to turn that angry mob into your personal militia. When the UN starts imposing sanctions, you have to know the way to get your UN ambassador elected head of the council and cut it out. These things can only be learned through rigorous mental training. Dictator is not a job for the weak. Watching day-time television is not the path to victory. Shoving crayons up your nose isn't advised. You have to keep in top form.
Well, I hope this has been an informative beginner's guide to being a ruthless and heartless beast. Any complaints can be directed to the Chief of my Secret Police.