Sympathy For Devils


by Ralph Peters [author, novelist]

When it comes to dealing with America’s adversaries, rhetorical “empathy” may get the Obama administration points with the media, but stone-cold-sober analysis of the enemy’s view of the world would get better results.

There are plenty of problems with this administration’s Pollyanna approach to butchers, fanatics and dictators, but its fundamental foreign-policy weakness — even with allies — is its refusal to put itself in the other guy’s place.

Well, things look a lot different from Kandahar or Caracas than they do from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

If you’re a Harvard-educated member of our ruling class, insulated from violence, poverty and the passions of faith, it’s all too easy to convince yourself that al Qaeda “isn’t about religion,” or that Iran’s hard-liners “don’t really mean” what they say about longing for Israel’s destruction.

Assuming that everybody else, from Peru to Pakistan, is “just like us” and “wants the same things we do” is an old Washington sin. But President Obama has carried it to a level fraught with catastrophic danger.

We need to get it straight: The cabal of rulers in Beijing does not seek the same global outcomes we do. Afghan villagers do not dream of a Hamptons lifestyle. Al Qaeda believes that Allah wants bloody vengeance.

Russians assume they have a right to rule their neighbors. North Korea’s leaders do not share our humanitarian concerns. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is not just adding a little salsa to democracy. And Sudan’s Arab rulers do not believe that blacks are fully human.

If all men and women want the same thing, does that mean we’d celebrate if our kids became suicide bombers? Would the neighbors congratulate us? Any Post reader inclined to assist in the “honor killing” of his or her daughter after she’s spotted flirting?

Not even all of our fellow citizens want the same thing. How on earth can we continue to cough up the lie that war, massacre, vast atrocities and the savage oppression of women are just misunderstandings that a few ringing speeches and heart-to-heart chats will vanquish?

As an intelligence officer, the most challenging and important task I faced was the need to put myself in the mind and soul of an enemy, whether a military commander, a political leader or a fundamentalist madman.

It isn’t easy, and it certainly isn’t comfortable, but it must be done. The greatest leverage you can have in a negotiation is to grasp what your opposite number really wants, what his red lines are, his weaknesses. We obsess on what we have in common, but the key to coming out on top is a painstaking assessment of our differences.

Our enemies study us. We just draw up wish-lists and cross our fingers. As I’ve noted before, it’s natural for Obama to assume he can talk anybody into anything, since this charismatic, talented man talked his way into the Oval Office without ever really doing anything.

But when he attempts to engage Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, or Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, or Venezuela’s President-for-Eternity-and-Then-Some Hugo Chavez, it’s not just about blithe election promises and getting ACORN to register a few more cemetery residents.

Despite their present bickering, Iran’s hard-core leaders all want Israel destroyed. They may debate how and when, but not whether.

Putin’s life is dedicated to Russia’s centuries-old imperial mission. Chavez intends to export his new-model dictatorship throughout Latin America. Hamas and Hezbollah are not interested in amicable compromises over Israeli settlements.

And al Qaeda’s terrorists believe down to the depths of their withered souls that their god demands their barbarities and will reward them in paradise for their savagery.

The Obama crowd thinks they’re all kidding. After all, who takes religion seriously? Who would really pull a nuclear trigger? Who would spoil everything now, when America’s president travels the globe, crying out, “Our bad!”

Our self-mythologizing president got a hard slap in the face last month when Putin — a typical Great Russian racist — lectured him on Moscow’s imperial destiny. Encountering condescension instead of adulation seems to have come as quite a shock.

But how many shocks will it take before Obama grasps that not every foreign leader will be susceptible to his charm, that they have their own agendas — and that some of those agendas are irreconcilable with our national interests?

Our emboldened enemies tell us exactly what they mean to do. And we tell them they don’t know what they’re talking about.

In world affairs, self-delusion has always been a formula for catastrophe. ExileStreet

NY Post / copyright 2009 NY Post

Ralph Peters is Fox News’ strategic analyst. His latest book is “Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World.”

Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books, as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist for the New York Post and other publications.

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