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Opinion
Niall Ferguson

Putin Misunderstands History. So, Unfortunately, Does the U.S.

Biden is making a colossal mistake in thinking he can bleed Russia dry, topple Putin and signal to China to keep its hands off Taiwan.

Coup-proof?

Coup-proof?

Photographer: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

“The language people speak in the corridors of power,” former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter once observed, “is not economics or politics. It is history.”

In a recent academic article, I showed how true this was after both the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001 and the “9/15” bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Policy makers used all kinds of historical analogies as they reacted. “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today,” President George W. Bush noted in his diary, late on the night of the attacks, to give just one example, though many other parallels were drawn in the succeeding days, from the Civil War to the Cold War.