Empathize with Your Enemy

>> Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Last week, I began thinking about how Robert McNamara's Eleven Lessons from The Fog of War weren't being applied to the war in Iraq. (It's been more than three years since I've seen The Fog of War, so I'm sure I don't remember this perfectly.)

Rule 1: Empathize with your enemy.

McNamara recounted how the Vietnamese knew they were fighting a civil war. We felt we were fighting communism. Iraq is in the midst of a civil war. Our government insists we're fighting terrorism.

It's quite easy to remember this rule after reading an editorial from last Friday's (Aug 24) NY Times.

When it comes to fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq, Washington and Baghdad are often at cross-purposes. In the western province of Al Anbar, the American military has registered some gains by enlisting local Iraqi Sunnis to fight against foreign-led Al Qaeda formations. That strategy depends on the sense of Iraqi nationhood among local Sunnis. But the Maliki government prefers to concentrate on fortifying Shiite political power and exploiting the immense oil reserves of southeast Iraq. It is hard to imagine any Shiite government acting very differently.

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