Former CIA Officer Amaryllis Fox on Learning to Listen to Your Enemy

Former CIA officer Amaryllis Fox

Food for thought from Amaryllis Fox, a former officer with the CIA’s Clandestine Service, who last week spoke publicly for the first time about her undercover work as a counterterrorism and intelligence specialist.

In this short clip of an interview with the Al Jazeera channel AJ+ which was posted on its Facebook page and viewed nearly 30 million times, Fox points out what many of us already suspected: nobody is listening to each other.

“If I’ve learned one lesson from my time with the CIA, it is this: Everybody believes they are the good guy,” she said.

“The conversation that’s going on right now about ISIS and the United States overseas is more oversimplified than ever,” she said, one guided by “stories manufactured by a really small number of people on both sides who amass a great deal of power and wealth by convincing the rest of us to keep killing each other.”

“I think the question we need to be asking as Americans examining our foreign policy is whether or not we’re pouring kerosene on a candle. The only real way to disarm your enemy is to listen to them.”

Her conclusion? Our disagreements aren’t based upon our differences as people, but upon differences in policy.

“And while it may be easier to dismiss your enemy as evil,” she said, “hearing them out on policy concerns is actually an amazing thing. Because as long as your enemy is a subhuman psychopath that’s going to attack you no matter what you do, this never ends.

“But if your enemy is a policy, however complicated, that we can work with.”


More on Fox, who worked for the agency until 2009, on her IMG Speakers bio here where listed among her speaking topics is “In Their Shoes: The Art of Becoming Your Enemy”. Its description:

Sun Tzu said “to know your enemy, you must become your enemy.” After a career in counterterrorism for the CIA Clandestine Service, Amaryllis Fox adds “and once you have become your enemy, you will know he is not your enemy.”



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  1. Shellie Troy Anderson says

    Her humanist wisdom is inspiring, but behind everything is a highly-developed global web of arms suppliers, some of them completely invisible to governments, and unless we understand them and root them out, no peace will be had. We’ll keep seeing outbreaks of war in yet another country, which destabilizes yet another region, which finds yet another despot gaining power, and yet more women raped, yet more environments destroyed, etc etc. Peace is no good for the armament business. For over a century now, we the people are left to discuss our failures and try to recover from all the various wars while the arms suppliers get more and more sophisticated to the point that now they are nearly invisible. I’m not wanting to be overly pessimistic here, but we all have one gigantic blind spot.

    1. Bob R says

      No one’s saying it’s easy. 🙂

      You’re not being pessimistic — arms merchants and their enablers have always wielded immense power. To her credit Fox alludes to that here. Military spending globally was about US$1.7 trillion in 2015, figures most people can’t fathom. About 35% of that, US$596 billion, was spent by the U.S.

  2. Mick Canning says

    Yes, so much of what she says is spot on.

  3. Beata says

    I just posted this on Facebook too. I think everyone should watch it.

    1. Bob R says

      This has really struck a chord. From just under 30 million views this morning when I posted it to nearly 44 million now, nine hours later. That’s nice to see.

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