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Lawrence of Arabia, Colonel T.E. Lawrence, on Guerrilla Warfare

Lawrence of Arabia, aka Colonel T.E. Lawrence on Guerrilla Warfare

Lawrence wrote The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the bible of Guerrilla warfare.

These wise words apply to the modern world of warfare on many fronts.

‘With man instinctive, anything believed by two or three had a miraculous sanction to which individual ease and life might honestly be sacrificed. To man rational, wars of nationality were as much a cheat as religious wars, and nothing was worth fighting for: nor could fighting, the act of fighting, hold any need of intrinsic value. Life was so deliberately private that no circumstances could justify one man in laying violent hands upon another’s: though a man’s own death was his last free will, a saving grace

a measure of intolerable pain.’ Does anyone heed this warning?

Lawrence wrote about the Arab resistance to Turkish occupation during the 1914-18 war. ‘Suppose the insurgents were an influence, a thing invulnerable, intangible, without front or back, drifting about like a gas? Armies were like plants, immobile as a whole, firm-rooted, nourished through long stems to the head. The Arabs might be a vapour.’ ‘The Turks would have need of a fortified post every four square miles, and a post could not be les than 20 men. The Turks would need 600,000 men to meet the combined ill wills of all the local Arabs. They had only 100,000 soldiers.’

Lawrence anticipated the internet: ‘The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armoury of the modern guerrilla commander. For insurgents ‘battles were a mistake. Napoleon had spoken in angry reaction against the excessive finesse of the 18th century, when men almost forgot that war gave licence to murder.’

‘Rebellion must have an unassailable base..

In the minds of men converted to its creed, it must have a sophisticated alien enemy, in the form of a disciplined army of occupation to small to fulfil the doctrine of acreage: too few to adjust number to dominate the whole area effectively from fortified posts.

It must have a friendly population, not actively friendly, but sympathetic to the point of not betraying rebel movements to the enemy. Rebellions can be made by 2% active in a striking force, and 98% passively sympathetic. Granted mobility, security, time, and doctrine victory will rest with the insurgents, for the algebraic factors are in the end decisive, and against them perfections of means and spirit struggle quite in vain.’

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