Wednesday, October 26, 2005

What is the first step to winning the war in Iraq?

What is the first step to winning the war in Iraq?

I was just checking out neo-neocon's post Dinner party politics and how to avoid them. It brings to mind the problem of seeing the other person's point of view.

It's amazing how easily we reach a point where we become convinced the other person's opinions are simply ridiculous. We become convinced too easily that the people-who-believe-what-we-do-not are simply unable, or unwilling to make sense. Or they're just idiots. Who hasn't wanted to resort to "...rapier witticisms meant to slip beneath an opponent's guard and gut him without him ever knowing his ignominous defeat..."?

When I find myself thinking along those lines, it can only mean that I have given up trying to think beyond my opinions.

You may not like what I'm about to say.

Giving up like that is not evidence of the other guy's stupidity. It's evidence of your stupidity. Mine too, when I do it.

I am not saying we have to agree with the other person. It's just that we have to be very slow to brand them as the fool. We have to be very slow to stop trying to see the world as they see it. Often, when we finally do see things as the other guy sees it, we still disagree. But we are changed, too.

There is another reason. Sun Tzu, could tell you. It's important to know how the other guy thinks, whether he is your best friend, or your worst enemy.


Oh yeah, this was a post about the war in Iraq.

I don't know what you think of the war in Iraq. Right now, it doesn't actually matter what either of us think.

Whether you think it is right, or whether you think it is wrong, there is one thing we should all be able to agree on.

We can't really win in any way shape or form, until Americans and Canadians and Europeans -- until Westerners -- have really looked deeply into the minds of Iraqis. And not just of Iraqis, but also of the other players in and around the warzone.

In the meantime, we do not understand anything. We won't until we can see the world through their eyes.

What we do is assume we know something about them. We give up on really trying to understand them. We do. Us. Liberals and Conservatives.

How do I know? Because we can't even really listen to each other without declaring ourselves the winners -- and that the other guy is just an idiot.


So, what is the first step to winning the war in Iraq?

Well, I didn't promise that I knew how to win the war. (Whatever winning means.) But I do know what the first step is. Learning to understand the other guy.

As long as we are not doing that, we are guaranteed to be losing.


Get discipline. Keep listening till it really hurts good. Then when it is too painful, keep on listening. Keep going till you really understood the other guy. Not just till you got tired, you lazy lout.

Discipline starts at home. Spread the word.

2 Comments:

Blogger Phil Plasma said...

You're bang on in this post. Spending as much time with Ihab as I had has helped me to get a much better appreciation of how much can be different in the world, and in changing my attitude towards others. I will be the third to admit that my own failings can be at least partly attributed to simply not knowing enough. Take the flu shot, for example. I haven't read nearly enough about it to have formed a meaningful opinion, and yet I am not going to get the shot and feel pretty strongly about it. You can call me ridiculous if you like.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Copernicus Now said...

Great example, phil.

I am guessing we might both agree that it is perfectly appropriate to have opinions -- even strong opinions -- about things we know too little about.

Opinions are not bad. Wrong opinions can be very useful. Strong feelings are not a problem.

But when those opinions -- or those strong feelings -- tempt us to quit trying to understand the other point of view, or the person behind that point of view, then we have a problem.

5:59 PM  

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