Why democracies win more wars than autocracies
Like Putin, dictators tend to start risky wars, writes Senior Fellow Allan Stam
From President Biden to the U.S. media, almost everyone frames the war in Ukraine as a battle between democracy and autocracy. Are democracies equipped to prevail, some wonder? With slow decision-making, volunteer armies and polarized public opinion, democracies might seem at a disadvantage.
Questions about the security capabilities of democracies resonate beyond the crisis in Ukraine. Whether democracies can successfully fight speaks to the ability of South Korea to fend off North Korea, of Israel to survive in its hostile environment and of the United States to compete with China in the 2020s and beyond. Our research suggests democracies are well-equipped to win in fights against autocracies.
The unfolding war in Ukraine suggests autocracies enjoy few advantages on the battlefield. Ukraine is faring far better against Russia than many had projected. In four weeks, Russia has reportedly experienced 7,000 to 15,000 combat fatalities. The United States suffered around 7,000 deaths across two decades of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. Russia has also reportedly lost more than 1,500 military vehicles to Ukrainians armed with U.S. and British antitank weapons.