Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The wisdom of Lawrence....

Also from today's Daily Telegraph

Pentagon promotes words of wisdom by Lawrence of Arabia

The US military has turned to the wisdom of Lawrence of Arabia for guidance on how to win the war in Iraq and understand the mindset of its insurgents.

In the latest list of books recommended to commanders, T E Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, his first-person account of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Turks between 1917 and 1919, is number two out of 100.

Extracts from the memoir and his essays have also been e-mailed directly to senior officers in the field.

So highly does the Pentagon consider the relevance of his insights that it has officially adopted one lesson he preached on Middle Eastern warfare as a recipe for success in Iraq.

"Do not try to do too much with your own hands," it runs. "Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them."

The words, which in today's context are interpreted as evidence of the need to build up independent Iraqi security forces and a functioning national government, are regularly repeated by senior officers....

..."There are very few lessons that have not been learnt in history. The skill is to choose to rediscover them."...

...Although there are vast differences in time and circumstance between Britain's imperial past and America's Iraqi present Lawrence's writings, US officers say, show a unique appreciation of insurgent tactics gleaned while he was assigned as a liaison officer to the Arab Revolt.

Then major confrontations were avoided as the rebels concentrated on guerrilla tactics, mostly blowing up railway tracks and cutting supply lines.

In Iraq today American convoys come under regular attack, sometimes by rocket-propelled grenades but mostly by roadside bombs.

"You can see the parallels," said Lt Col Tim Mundy, the commander of marines based on the Syrian border.

Lawrence also detailed the frustration of facing an enemy who hits briefly then hides, saying repeatedly that time was on the side of the rebels. In the Middle East, he concluded, "war upon rebellion was messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife".....


Blogger Dave and Stefan said...

So timely of you to have this comment here on the anniversary of Lawrence leading the capture of Aqaba from the Turks! It is a heavy irony that Lawrence would no doubt have appreciated if he was alive today, that the Anglo-American alliance, heirs to the British policies of the 1920s, are desperately trying to undo the damage they did by ingoring the claims of Faisal at the end of World War I and the rights of the Arabs to self-determination.

I enjoyed Seven Pillars of Wisdom, as well as a biography of Lawrence by John Mack (no connection to the returning Morgan Stanley boss) called A Prince of Our Disorder. But I read a book by the excellent John Keay recently entitled Sowing the Wind, which makes Lawrence to be a misguided egomaniac that disrupted the policies of our Arabists in the field. I wonder if reading Seven Pillars really can turn back the clock?

Good luck with your move!

2:27 pm  
Blogger Madame Chiang said...

Lawrence was definitely a maverick and as such he gets a fairly mixed press...personally I don't think he was the wonder kid that he has been made out to be...I do think there were elements of 'misguided' egomania...but then who wouldn't have given the circumstances that Lawrence lived and worked in.

One thing's for sure...where ever you go in Jordan...he is seen as a great hero.

If Lawrence can help the US then all well and good...they need all the guidance they can get at present.

4:28 pm  
Anonymous Ira said...

Pretty worthwhile info, thank you for the article.
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Anonymous Philip said...

To my mind everybody have to glance at this.
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Anonymous Christopher said...

For my part every person ought to go through it.
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