Hawkish Ideologues and the Risk-Averse Authoritarians
Hawks don’t understand why these states act as they do in large part because they don’t want to understand them.
Aaron MacLean from the poorly-named Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) claims to be able to explain “what Putin, Xi, and Khamenei want,” and then ends up offering the crudest and most simplistic stereotypes:
These rulers take risks their Western counterparts could never stomach because they think differently. They are educated in the much harder school of autocratic politics, and they are aware of a range of human ambitions that modern liberal states, from their earliest foundations, have sought to suppress in the name of peace and comfort.
This is a very strange way to think about why these different leaders act as they do. For one thing, it lumps together leaders that have relatively little in common except that they are the top figures in authoritarian governments. Insofar as they want what pretty much every political leader wants (regime and national security, power, and survival), we can say that they want the same things, but that doesn’t tell us very much. It is rather obvious to say that “these men don’t want what we want,” since what the U.S. wants in each case is to weaken and undermine their countries. They desire to make their countries more powerful and secure, if only as a way of making themselves more powerful and secure, and the U.S. has given them every reason to believe that our government is opposed to that outcome.