I’ve always been aware of and appreciative of cultural differences.1 One time, as I was seconded to the state department — I’ve been on careers of a lot of things, and I remember getting in front of them and something, an area where I had some expertise in another country, we were studying in Washington, D.C. in the state department building, and just offhand I said, “The first thing you’ve got to understand, these people are different from us.” It was like I hit a buzz saw, and I finally understood, oh — I mean I had all kinds of argument. I finally understood that the Americans of that time and maybe today, they think when you say different, you mean inferior. So, you say somebody — like you say Colombians are different from us, and many Americans take it as you’re meaning, well, they’re inferior to us. So, how the hell do we ever learn anything about them if we can’t look at their differences?
Same way with Arabs; I had — one time I was U.S. Officer, senior officer on a station that had a lot of Middle Eastern allies. At that time, the Iranians were still our allies and others, and I got to understand. Again, I said, “These people are utterly different. They do not think like Americans. There’s no reason why they should think like Americans.”2
And I think this is a problem some of our professionals in recent years had real trouble with the past administration on the Iraqi war and all, is that the civilians at the top acted like they had never read a book on history, like they honestly thought that we would do certain things and the people would all come in the streets waving palm fronds and saying “You have liberated us,” and all, which means they had no grasp whatever of the past culture.