[January 8, 2017] In 1980, I began my graduate work thinking how lucky I was that I could expand my thinking on the “philosophies of life” while pursuing an advanced academic degree. It certainly didn’t work out that way. But I’m thankful for the time I had with the father of one of my associates. Talks with her dad, a retired Egyptian Army General, gave me a valuable, alternative perspective on war, the justification for war, and the philosophy of war and peace.
Those conversations forced me to rethink much of what I knew about war; not just its obvious brutality but how strategic thinking can lead to a much better (or worse) outcome. Sun Tzu wrote much about war and I was familiar with his ideas and “rule of warfare” and how those ideas helped shape what we see as war today. The Egyptians, using some of Sun Tzu’s concepts, started the war in 1973 with a surprise attack against Israel on the holy day of Yom Kippur.
I learned from the retired Egyptian general of the consequence of deception and betrayal during war. Through ingenious deception activity, Egypt convinced Israel that they would not actually attack. This misinterpretation nearly destroyed the Israeli army and the loss of Israel as a country.
But Egyptian President Anwar Sadat decided that he would hold back his army from attacking deeper into Israel which unwittingly gave Israel time and space to recover. Egyptian military leadership saw this as a betrayal and ultimately the surprise attack turned into a near rout of Sadat’s allied army. That is certainly not how Sadat’s decision was interpreted in the West at the time.
Today, I’m reading the book, The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf. It gives those of us interesting in The Crusades another view of the times and what the thinking was of the Arab leadership. So far, I’ve found the book fascinating. For example, I never would have thought the Arab world at the time was so fragmented or that they considered the Crusaders to be mostly unwashed heathens. Also many Muslims today consider the war on terror to be a continuation of those Crusades.
Seeing things from another’s perspective gives us better insight into how people think and ultimately how they will act. It is not as important that the viewpoint of others be correct but that we see it and understand it. As in war, leaders who fail to make the effort to understand other perspectives will themselves likely fail. Those who make the effort to “see” are the kind of leaders we need.
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