A Sense of the Enemy: The High Stakes History of Reading Your Rival's Mind
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More than two thousand years ago the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu advised us to know our enemies. The question has always been how. In A Sense of the Enemy, the historian Zachary Shore demonstrates that leaders can best understand an opponent not simply from his pattern of past behavior, but from his behavior at pattern breaks. Meaningful pattern breaks occur during dramatic deviations from the routine, when the enemy imposes costs upon himself. It's at these unexpected moments, Shore explains, that successful leaders can learn what makes their rivals truly tick.
Shore presents a uniquely revealing history of twentieth-century conflict. With vivid, suspenseful prose, he takes us into the minds of statesmen, to see how they in turn tried to enter the minds of others. In the process, he shows how this type of mind-reading, which he calls "strategic empathy," shaped matters of war and peace. Mahatma Gandhi, for instance, was an excellent strategic empath. In the wake of a British massacre of unarmed Indian civilians, how did Gandhi know that nonviolence could ever be effective? And what of Gustav Stresemann, the 21-year-old Wunderkind Ph.D., who rose from lobbyist for chocolate makers to Chancellor of Germany. How did he manage to resurrect his nation to great power status after its humiliating loss in World War One? And then there is Le Duan, the shadowy Marxist manipulator who was actually running North Vietnam during the 1960s, as opposed to Ho Chi Minh. How did this rigid ideologue so skillfully discern America's underlying constraints? And, armed with this awareness, how did he construct a grand strategy to defeat the United States? One key to all these leaders' triumphs came from the enemy's behavior at pattern breaks.
Drawing on research from the cognitive sciences, and tapping multilingual, multinational sources, Shore has crafted an innovative history of the last century's most pivotal moments, when lives and nations were on the line. Through this curious study of strategic empathy, we gain surprising insights into how great leaders think.
he had not come to Berlin to meddle in German domestic affairs. He said not to place any significance on this event. He had not planned it and had made efforts to keep it out of the press. All of this gave Stresemann the impression that Chicherin was sincere. There was a relaxed feeling in their discussions, and Stresemann concluded that the Soviet representative might now be less fearful of German policy.46 That same month, Leon Trotsky was ousted from the Politburo. Perhaps a shift was
near-complete attention. If the secret rearmament in Russia had been well-known to the British, then why did they not seize this opportunity to protest it? Governments are often hamstrung in their ability to object to a country’s actions when their objections are based on covert intelligence reports. No government wants to risk exposing its spies, sources, or methods. But once a public disclosure occurs, governments are free to make diplomatic protests at no risk. Scheidemann’s speech handed the
Germany, and both missions aimed at gleaning the Chancellor’s will. One crucial difference between the two leaders’ conclusions can be traced to the way that each man mentalized. Roosevelt tried to grasp how Hitler thought by constructing a theory of how the Führer would behave based on Hitler’s own drivers and constraints. FDR recognized from episodes such as Kristallnacht that Hitler possessed a uniquely racist, extremist ideology that was more than mere rhetoric. Like Roosevelt, Stalin also
wants most. Psychobiographies can be helpful in many realms, such as determining an individual’s negotiating style or understanding his personal quirks, but they are less valuable when statesmen need to anticipate an enemy’s likely actions under fresh circumstances. The history of twentieth-century conflicts has been marked by the inability to gain a clear sense of one’s enemies. Grasping the other side’s underlying drivers has been among the most challenging tasks that leaders have faced. The
instead for making amends. Obviously, some enemies cannot be accommodated. Some differences can never be bridged, but many can. Understanding what truly drives others to act as they do is a necessary ingredient for resolving most conflicts where force is not desired. It is, in truth, an essential first step toward constructing a lasting peace. Afterword Fitting In: Some Thoughts on Scholarship, Sources, and Methods WARNING: THIS AFTERWORD IS intended for academics. I want to describe to