Date of Award
Josef Korbel School of International Studies
Democracy, George W. Bush, Iraq, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, War
History shows that both democratic and nondemocratic countries wage wars to advance their strategic interests. This study has comparatively analyzed two conflicts – the 2003-2011 U.S. invasion of Iraq and Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine – to identify the trends that motivate both democratic and autocratic leaders to behave similarly by launching an invasion. The interpretive research of various memoirs, books, interviews, academic articles, news reports, and speeches, has uncovered that personal biases, particularly confirmation biases, play a significant role in motivating leaders to start a war. Leaders’ confirmation biases are often shaped by three prominent factors – historical memory, their ambitions and political vision, and unwaveringly supportive staff. In the pre-war period, both democratic and autocratic leaders first turn to history to identify their enemies and determine the prospects of their success in war. They form their opinions based on historical memory without further confirming past observations with evidence. History also sets a leadership standard and inspires presidents to pursue ambitious political strategies, which sometimes turn into ‘obsessions’ and motivate leaders to ‘fish’ for data that confirm their strategic beliefs. Such confirming information often comes from the administration staff, who share presidents’ beliefs or unwaveringly support their decisions. The lack of reliance on tangible evidence in this process biases leaders in favor of perpetrating a war that does not necessarily produce anticipated results. The paper provides more details about how leaders form their biases in two different systems and reach the same outcome – war.
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Received from ProQuest
Chincharadze, Ketevan, "Why Democracies and Autocracies Go to War: Comparing the Cases of Iraq and Ukraine" (2023). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2269.
International relations, Political science, Peace studies