Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Josef Korbel School of International Studies

First Advisor

Rachel Epstein

Second Advisor

Nadia Kaneva

Third Advisor

Tom Farer


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.

Copyright Date


Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Ketevan Chincharadze


Received from ProQuest

File Format



English (eng)


92 pgs

File Size

633 KB


International relations, Political science, Peace studies