Just got back from hearing the megillah read to open the Purim holiday. Once again I was struck by how much King Achashverosh’s approach is a gross charicature of that which is indeed too often taken by superpowers facing ethnopolitical conflict. He’s approached by one party in a conflict between two feuding minorities (Jews and Agagites), and with no regard to the who’s responsible or who’s endangered (Haman is bent on genocide to maintain his pride), he agrees to a request for help because it comes from a traditional ally (Haman) and it’s in his economic interest (10,000 silver talents). Then, after becoming complicit in the planned slaughter of one side, he switches side based on discovering another personal interest (his Jewish wife Esther) which trumps the old one. He then abetts the gruesome slaughter of the other side (Haman’s extended family) instead.
It’s the kind of story, as the Rabbis recognized long ago, that makes someone want to get drunk.