Sunday, July 30, 2006

Drop the "Devil" shit and you will understand your enemy

Like many of us, I have been focused a great deal on the horrific fighting in southern Lebanon and Northern Israel, and how these are part of a much larger drama that also features Iran, Syria, Russia and the US and others. Anyone can see that all this violence needs to stop and the differences—and they are real—be settled at the bargaining table. But how?

For most of us, we cannot even understand what is going on, largely because we see the whole travail through the eyes of a side we feel has been dealt injustice by the other. Actually, it is not so hard to see what is going on and what is going to go on soon in international affairs.

Still, the first step is a very important and difficult one.

Back in the days of the cold war, each side's military and most of their political backers — US and USSR — saw the other as devils. In many case the metaphor was taken quite literally. The "Communists" were "Godless Communists." The demonization was complete.

You cannot understand your enemy's thinking unless you cease thinking of him as the devil. Yes, he remains the enemy, but while he is conspiring with his friends, he does so because he believes YOU are the devil, and are conspiring with YOUR friends to crush him. And you are, because while you are not the devil you believe he is and is plotting to crush you. Which he is. Not because he is the devil, but because he believes you are planning to crush him. Which you are. Because ...

Your enemy's generals are for the most part not diabolical but are charged with protecting their homeland, just as yours are, and they take that seriously, as they are trained and sworn to.

Negotiation 101: Drop the "devil" shit, and you will be able to understand your enemy and negotiate with him to de-escalate violence, and stop or prevent war.