It's sometimes a helpful tool, especially for diplomats. Stephen Walt tries it with Iran:
Many Americans think of Iran as an aggressive, unpredictable country led by a set of aggressive, fanatically religious clerics. That tendency probably increases if you watch a lot of FOX News or listen to talk radio. From this perspective, Iran's nuclear program and its support for extremist groups like Hamas or Hezbollah is evidence of aggressive ambitions, perhaps of the very worst sort. But ask yourself how this situation might look to an ordinary Iranian, or even to a member of its ruling elite.
To many Iranians, their interest in nuclear technology (and possibly nuclear weapons) is entirely rational and essentially defensive: they have two nuclear neighbors (India and Pakistan), a third nuclear weapons state nearby (Israel), and the world’s most powerful country (the United States) has troops on either side of Iran and has been seeking to overthrow the Iranian government for a number of years now. Plus, various American politicians keep saying that "all options ought to be on the table," and Obama's special envoy to Iran, Dennis Ross, participated in a study group last year that advocated a hardline approach. It doesn't take a lot of imagination or empathy to figure out why Iran might want a nuclear deterrent: wouldn’t we want the same thing if we were in their position? Similarly, supporting radicals elsewhere in the Middle East keeps the U.S. off-balance and complicates efforts to unite various Arab states against Iran itself. A bit of empathy won't resolve these issues, of course, but it might help us reject the fervent threat-mongering that drove us to launch a foolish war in Iraq and has led others to favor a similar approach to Iran.
This was the point of my post on the Amalek meme.
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