The road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions. I strongly disagree that just because the leader(s) of an authoritarian regime believe that he/they is/are working in the interests of "the nation", that this means the people living in that jurisdiction will necessarily be better off than under a regime whose leader(s) are out for his/their own interest(s), or a regime whose leader(s) practice "realpolitik".
China's recent history provides a good example of the contrast between these types. I think Chairman Mao, despite the fact that he enjoyed the good life at the top, believed at least to some degree that his communist ideas were making the world a better place. And he didn't seem to care much about getting along well with the global elites. The people running China today on the other hand are clearly not sincere communists, though they continue to pay lip service to communist ideology. I believe their only real ideology is keeping themselves in power, and to this end, as you note, they practice realpolitik.
And yet the Chinese people were objectively far, far worse off under Mao, who was perhaps the worst mass-murderer in history, than they are under Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping, and rest of the current crop of career-minded rulers.
I think a good case can likewise be made that Adolph Hitler and many of the Nazis sincerely believed in their ideology and thought they were doing what was best for the German people. Ditto vis-a-vis Russia for early Soviet leaders like Lenin and Trotsky (maybe not Stalin, who I think was more of a straight-up power-hungry thug).
I'm surprised however that you put the Taliban in the "ruthless thugs out for their own interest" category. Who else but rulers motivated by a misguided ideology, rather than by self-interest, would do something as senseless and unprofitable as blasting to ruin a hundreds of years old Buddhist monument carved into a mountain?
I'm also less than convinced that some of the people in your first group really thought they were working for the interests of "their nations". Napoleon, for instance, subverted the French revolution to become dictator. Even today the phrase "Napoleon complex" is often used for megalomaniacs, or people obsessed with wielding power.
And Gadhafi? This is the guy who's just recently been wantonly killing "his own" people, and who said he would fight to the "last drop of blood" rather than step down. One of his sons was trying to cut a deal with the Islamic fundamentalists he'd previously said were Al Qaeda terrorists (see http://uk.ibtimes.com/articles/192427/20110804/gadhafi-s-alliance-deal-rejected-by-islamists-as-they-prefer-the-rebels.htm ). Are these the actions of a regime that puts the interests of "their" country/people first?
Probably the most straightforward and relevant criteria by which to categorize authoritarian regimes is simply the amounts of damage they do. Death tolls are one fairly good data set to use for this purpose, since they can usually be estimated with at least some degree of accuracy (R.J. Rummel, who coined the term "democide", uses this yardstick to compare regimes -- see http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/MURDER.HTM ). Motives, on the other hand, are always nuanced and can be endlessly debated. We may never know with any certainty any ruler's precise mixture of motivations.
As for the power of bureaucracy, I think it's somewhat analogous to water. Taken individually, bureaucrats, like small amounts of water, are not particularly powerful; as you say, they can be easily manipulated and bent to the ends of a strong-willed ruler. But just as water flows downhill, they have their own inertia, and in large masses can exert a lot of pressure and eventually wear down and triumph over strong individuals (think of Schwarzenegger's failure to reform California government despite arriving on the scene as a vastly popular governor).
Love & Liberty,
((( starchild )))