This Ex-CIA Agent Has Superb Advice About Dealing With Your Enemies

What do The Hunger Games, Star Wars, Independence Day, and ISIS have in common? The answer might surprise you. It will also open your eyes up to the nature of the United States’ conflict with the group.

According to former CIA officer Amaryllis Fox (who, it must be mentioned, has the coolest undercover CIA name ever, even if it is completely real), the comparison came from an Al Qaida fighter, during a debriefing. “He said, ‘All these movies that America makes…they’re all about a small, scrappy band of rebels who will do anything in their power with the limited resources available to them to expel an outside, technically advanced invader.’”

Yeah. We’re the Empire. At least, according to the people who say that the reason they’re fighting, in Fox’s words, is “hopes for their children.”

Fox recently spoke with AJ+ about the most important lessons she learned from her decade with the CIA. “Everybody believes they’re the good guy,” she says. It’s the first time she’s spoken publicly about working undercover. And in just three minutes, she packs a lot in.

“The conversation that’s going on in the United States right now about ISIS and about the United States overseas is more oversimplified than ever,” Fox says. Americans believe that ISIS poses an existential threat to the U.S., but from there, the conversation stops. Consider the view of the U.S., then, from the perspective of an average citizen of Iraq or Syria: when asked why the United States dropped bombs on their country, the general answer, says Fox, is, “They were waging war on Islam.”

“Those are 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,” she says, stressing that the way to disarm your enemy is to hear them out — to really listen to their story, and to realize that, “more often than not, you might have made the same choices if you’d lived their life instead of yours.

“As long as your enemy is a subhuman psychopath that’s gonna attack you no matter what you do, this never ends,” she concludes. “But if your enemy is a policy, however complicated, that we can work with.”

They’re powerful, challenging words that a lot of Facebook and YouTube commenters take issue with. But that hasn’t stopped the video from being shared over 300,000 times. Hopefully they’ll inspire some of us to start listening.

Check out the full interview below: