Another terrific audio interview by Russ Roberts. In this case, he talks to political scientist Bruce Bueno de Mesquita. Basically, his outlook on the world is that autocrats are rational, and they do what is best in order to maintain power in an environment in which the power base is fairly narrow.
One of his points is that in a true democracy one observes freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and neutral third parties counting votes. Many nominal democracies lack one or more of those characteristics.
Another point is that in a democracy, leaders get in big trouble for losing a war. This makes them cautious about getting in, but more likely to "double down" than to get out. Autocrats can lose wars without being overthrown (think Saddam in 1991), so they approach war differently.