I already said before: why don't you compare Russia with actual democracies? Why it's always Ukraine and Russia, not Poland and Russia, not South Korea and Russia, not Japan and Russia, not the US and Russia, not Germany, the UK, the Baltics, etc, but only Ukraine and Russia? Being a democracy doesn't guarantee you prosperity, neither dictatorship makes a country automitically poor. You don't become automatically smart and successful by being born in a rich family, but the riches your family holds certainly help you aquire education and develop your intelligence, thus you aquire a chance
to become more successfull than a lower-class scum. Democracies encourage innovation and a peaceful transition of power, they guarantee stability and minimize the loss of human lives, thereby forcing your society to grow at a higher speed and preserve human capital better than authoritarian states.
Half-assed interventions. You must either be prepared for a full-fledged invasion, occupation of the country and subsequent nation building with billions of $ being wasted for humanitarian reasons or not to invade at all.
Doesn't seem like a failure to me if we talk about economy. I don't know much about Iraq, Saddam and American policy in the region and can't tell what's the difference between the pre-Saddam Iraq and post-Saddam Iraq. There's no dispute that on average democracies work better than authoritarianism, and that ideally every country in the world should implement democracy. The problem is that not every invasion is well thought out and reasonable, we should strive to change the regime everywhere, but not every invasion can lead to a positive result in the long term, and even a successful coup would require millions of $ to change the mentality of the people and stop the economic crisis that always follows the political instability caused by coup. If you don't stop the economic crisis, then there is a risk of return to authoritarian rule.
Economic support in hard times is very important, people don't understand the root of their troubles and tend to vote for the wrong candidates or decisions. Yes, I'm looking at Brexit.
Example: Russians support Putin because after the economic crisis in the 90s they started to associate liberalism and democracy with a poor quality of life, they had a desire to see an authoritarian strongman in the political arena. The situation is similar to the USA. American income has stagnated in the last 30 years and well-paid work in the manufacturing sector was moved to countries with lower cost of labor, it provoked increase in workers in low-paid service sector, stagnating income and working class ressentment, and the desire to overthrow neoliberalism and the establishment, which in turn led to Trump's election. Does Trump solve the problems that made American workers vote for an oligarch, against their own interests? Hell no, he doesn't. Neither is Putin, but Putin, unlike democratic rulers, not only slowed down Russian economic growth, but also actively uses administrative and non-legal resources against his opposition. In a democracy, an idiotic ruler would be ousted from power, but in an authoritarian state this power-hungry idiot uses all possible means to remain the head of state and keep the bad policies he implemented.
In such cases, a regime change is a reasonable solution, but this is a job for think tank employees to analyze how many resources should be spent on a coup or an invasion, and whether it is worth it in the long run. Invading Venezuela in 2014 would be a better solution than waiting for its economic collapse and then invading it in 2019. In Syria, too, the US had to invade the country in 2011 OR fully ignore it rather than choose the worst and simply support the rebels thus provoking long and bloody civil war. McFaul does not specialize in the Middle East, but he mentions that the US officials were confident several times before 2014 that the Syrian government should soon fall. It is likely that American intelligence and analytics did a poor job, which ultimately led to the wrong decisions by the president based on the experts' poor reports describing the internal situation in the country. However, Syria would not be such a problem if Russia and Iran, two hostile athoritarian
regimes, didn't support it. If the whole world consisted of democracies and only one authoritarian state represented by Syria, there would be enough pressure to crush the country completely. Neither DPRK would survive without support from its authoritarian buddies, China and Russia.