War and Empathy by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
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Dr. Dyer has written a short essay about war, American leadership,
and the role of empathy in resolving conflict. Please read it and pass
along. This article is also posted on Dr. Dyer's Website at: http://www.drwaynedyer.com/articles/
Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
The war in Iraq, specifically America's role of leadership in this
war, is a painful invitation to ask ourselves what, if anything, we've
learned from previous wars. I, like you, am revolted by the brutal
killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent people during any war.
And, like you, I'm saddened by the apparent inability of human beings
to find less violent solutions to conflict and terrorism. What can
we learn from previous wars? Are there lessons from past experiences
that can help reduce or minimize the likelihood of excessive and unnecessary
destruction and devastation of lives and countries, and our future
on Earth? I believe the answer is yes! We can learn, and there are
In an interview with Errol Morris, Robert McNamara, the former Secretary
of Defense during the Vietnam War and the Cuban missile crisis, delineated
some lessons from both events. Eighty-five-year-old McNamara, in Morris's
Academy Award-winning documentary, The Fog of War, looks back at the
crucial mistakes made by our government in failing to understand our
supposed enemy, and even more egregiously, our failure to communicate
with those Vietnamese leaders we were assigned to hate and destroy.
The lesson? Empathize with your enemy.
with his North Vietnamese counterpart, described by McNamara as "a wonderful man named Thach," almost
30 years after pulling out of Vietnam, Thach still insisted that
America's mission was to
colonize and enslave the Vietnamese. Thirty years later, McNamara couldn't
convince his former enemy that we believed we were there to protect
them from Communist control. In all those years of conflict and killing
on both sides, we had never successfully communicated to our enemy
why we were fighting and killing them, and we were unable to empathize
with what they were experiencing as a civil war. Thach felt they were
fighting for their independence and we were fighting to enslave them.
Total misunderstanding is the result of failure to empathize. We must
learn to find out why we're so hated and make an attempt to understand
Today we are once again engaged in a gigantic battle with people that
we've dubbed insurgents or resistance fighters, who seem to be so filled
with rancor and rage that they're willing to sacrifice themselves and
their loved ones to destroy the hated Americans. Are we making an effort
to understand and empathize with our new enemy; to communicate with
those who want to destroy us? Sadly, the first lesson of war offered
by an octogenarian who's been there and seen the folly of fighting
an enemy you cannot comprehend, let alone, understand, is still being
ignored at a horrendous cost.
Our strategy today, just as it was some 40-plus years ago, is to kill
the insurgents even if we must destroy the villages - including schools,
mosques, homes, and businesses in the process. After all, we can always
rebuild what we've torn down. Yet the hatred remains, and force gives
birth to counter force. The killing and destruction go on, and the
people who witness the total annihilation of their land are future
insurgents in the making.
We're told by those who represent us that the insurgents and the average
Iraqi and Middle Easterner hate us because we stand for freedom and
democracy. It's my contention that we have it backwards. We're hated
because we fail to stand for freedom and democracy. In fact, what we
do stand for is whatever is best for American financial interests.
Under the Shah of Iran, freedom and democracy didn't exist, yet we
supported that regime. The Saudi royal family certainly doesn't stand
for freedom and democracy, yet we have no quarrel with them. The Emir
of Kuwait is not about freedom and democracy, and he has our dying
The average person on the streets of Iraq isn't fooled by our occupation
of their country. They hate us throughout the Middle East and the Moslem
world because we care most about how to make money in foreign lands.
They know it and we should know it. But we're told that it's our freedom
and democracy that engenders this animosity toward us. Residents of
Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Syria, and other countries throughout the Middle
East hate us vehemently because they believe that Americans simply
can't figure out how all that American oil got under their sand. They
believe that we're acting in our own self-interest and that we justify
destroying their villages and killing insurgents by convincing ourselves
that it's in the name of freedom and democracy.
If all of this is blatantly untrue, and we have no monetary motives
in our continual clean-up campaigns that are leaving corpses and severely
wounded people by the hundreds of thousands, then let's make an effort
to communicate with those whom we're now aimlessly killing. I ask each
and every person who conducts this war under the guise of Christian
principles to answer this question: How much time have you spent praying
for your enemy today? Read Jesus in Matthew 5:43-44: You have heard
that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell
you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Throughout our history, there has been a long list of those we've
been conditioned to hate. The British, French, Spanish, Germans, Japanese,
Russians, Communists, Northern Koreans, Vietnamese, Iranians, Taliban,
and both northerners and southerners in our own country are some of
the people we've been encouraged at various times to call enemies and
to hate. The list is long, and as time passes, those we were assigned
to hate we later were told should be removed from our hate list. The
enemy is obviously hatred itself, and the glassy eyes and the tears
rolling down the face of a former wartime Secretary of Defense say
it all to me. Have empathy for your assigned enemy.
With empathy you know in your heart that it's not a sign of weakness
to attempt to understand that the people we call terrorists have placed
the same label on us, and that the use of force will create a counter
force, a never-ending saga of killing and hate. Ending war involves
cultivating empathy in our policies and the love of God in our hearts.
As the Native Americans reminded us: No tree has branches so foolish
as to fight among themselves.
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