Former CIA officer Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA officer Amaryllis Fox

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

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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