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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default The Lessons Of Lawrence

    Moderator's Note: 8th January 2015 I have merged two SWJ Blog threads into this one. In January 2014 four others threads found, mainly SWJ Blog were merged in. The theme of each thread on a quick review was: can we learn from the past today?

    4 March Long Island Newsday - Iraqi Insurgents Learning from Lawrence.

    If anyone can claim credit for inventing the improvised explosive device, it's Lawrence of Arabia.

    When insurgents in Iraq use IEDs to attack armored vehicles and disrupt U.S. supply lines, they are taking a page from the less-advanced tactics of T.E. Lawrence, the British adventurer who pioneered guerrilla warfare during the 1916-18 Arab revolt against Turkish rule. His main lesson for insurgents: If you're facing a bigger and better-armed adversary, don't engage him directly.

    Lawrence introduced many innovations to modern guerrilla wars, but perhaps his most effective technique was the use of mines to disrupt Turkish trains and supply convoys. "We had proved that a well-laid mine would fire; and that a well-laid mine was difficult even for its maker to discover," he wrote in his 1922 memoir, "Seven Pillars of Wisdom." "Mines were the best weapon yet discovered to make the regular working of their trains costly and uncertain for our Turkish enemy."...

    [Lawrence] once famously said that suppressing a rebellion "is messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife."

    In his memoir, Lawrence argued that a native insurgency that is mobile and has natural cover and support from the population would always wear down a foreign occupier. "Granted mobility, security, time, and doctrine, victory will rest with the insurgents," he wrote...

    As the Arabs' British liaison, Lawrence quickly became the military architect of the rebellion. He led small groups of fighters on raids against Turkish convoys and taught his guerrillas to plant mines underneath bridges and railroad tracks. "My pupils practiced the art of mining afterwards by themselves, and taught others," he wrote in "Seven Pillars."...

    Lawrence's book has inspired many modern insurgent leaders. Vo Nguyen Giap, the Vietnamese general who fought the French colonization of Vietnam in the 1950s, once told a French adversary: "My fighting gospel is T.E. Lawrence's 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom.' I am never without it."

    While Iraqi insurgents are applying the military tactics developed by Lawrence, they are ignoring his political lessons. They have disregarded the principles - of Lawrence and others - that guided most rebellions of the 20th century: Try to win broad public support; create a political wing; present an alternative system of governing, and build international legitimacy. This insurgency also has no charismatic leader, no clear chain of command and not even a cohesive ideology.

    Lawrence argued that, in order to succeed, insurgents must have at least passive support from the local population. "Rebellions can be made by 2 percent actively in the striking force and 98 percent passively sympathetic," he wrote.

    Since a wave of car bombings began in August 2003, Iraqi insurgents have shown a willingness to kill civilians indiscriminately. With each new bombing that targeted a market, a mosque or a wedding party, the guerrillas lost another chance to win Iraqi hearts and minds.

    Some segments of the insurgency are hoping to foment a sectarian war that would lead to the partitioning of Iraq into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish regions.

    "In Iraq, the insurgents are deliberately killing large numbers of civilians," said Kamil Tawil, a Lebanese historian and expert on militant movements. "And that is turning a large segment of the population against them."...
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-08-2016 at 01:51 PM. Reason: Add Mod's Note

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    Lawrence's book has inspired many modern insurgent leader
    Add the IRA to his list of offspring. There is Lawrence throughout the old relic.

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    Default Amazing man, but

    Lawrence of Arabia was one of the most amazing men that the West has ever produced. However, like Clausewitz, not all of his ideas are applicable to every situation in the world. The author notes that the Iraqi Insurgents have neglected Lawrence's political ideas, and he assumes that since the insurgents are targeting civilians indiscriminately that they'll fail. Yet the facts on the ground tend to counter this argument. While the attacks do turn some segments of the population against the insurgents, for the most part (with a few exceptions) they still have freedom of movement throughout Iraq, and still control several areas within Iraq. If the acts are explicable to the Iraqi people, then they will continue to achieve effects. We can't blindly apply what I call Western logic to other cultures.

    Admittedly the Iraqi insurgents appear to be their own worst enemy when we view them through our eyes and doctrine, and they have even apparently been counseled by AQ leadership on their indiscriminate mayhem, but none the less they're still effective. Why? This is the question we really need to answer.

    Also, there are several insurgent groups in Iraq, and each one has a different agenda. In some cases indiscriminate targeting of population helps them achieve their goals. They don’t want a peaceful Iraq in the near term, but rather Civil War. Others like the AQI, want to use Iraq to destabilize the Middle East to help achieve their objectives, so Lawrence’s arguments in this case may not apply.

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    Council Member Stratiotes's Avatar
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    Default

    I have to agree with you on the targetting of non-combatants and the effect in Iraq. I think we could alter our understanding of the concept and say not so much that targetting civilians turns the public against the attacker - I think it more often just turns the public against whoever is seen as the party in charge.

    Instead of thinking of insurgents, think instead of a natural disaster - like Katrine for instance. When destruction comes to the people they blame not the weather but the administration in Washington, DC. The destruction is obviously not their fault but the people are understandibly angry and want to lash out so they lash out at the most convenient target - and one they feel is responsible for their well-being.

    It is not necessarily the one who does the attacking that loses credibility - it is the one you think is responsible for your well being who gets the blame. That may not be right but that's the way it is.

    We talked in another thread a while back about legitimacy - who is the legitimate power? Insurgents have an advantage in that they do not have to prove they are the legitimate authority - they only have to challenge the legimitacy of the current authority. That's why they can target non-combatants and still gain while the authorities cannot. In both cases, it weakens the legitimacy of the current authority. It is much easier to challenge the status quo than it is to offer an actual alternative.
    Mark
    Discuss at: The Irregulars Visit at: UW Review
    "The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." - G. K. Chesterton

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    Default Well put

    Stratiotes,

    Your comments were interesting and well put. Do you know if there is a name for the theory or hypothesis you articulated about who gets the blame? This is definitely worthy of further discussion and hopefully we can find some way to mitigate the impact of this syndrome. Perhaps not, but we have to at least calculate the impact of it before we go in.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default TE Lawrence, "Evolution of a Revolt"

    Latest history lesson:

    Then I estimated how many posts they would need to contain this attack in depth, sedition putting up her head in every unoccupied one of these hundred thousand square miles. I knew the Turkish Army inside and out, and allowing for its recent extension of faculty by guns and aeroplanes and armoured trains, still it seemed it would have need of a fortified post every four square miles, and a post could not be less than twenty men. The Turks would need six hundred thousand men to meet the combined ill wills of all the local Arab people. They had one hundred thousand men available... The Turk was stupid and would believe that rebellion was absolute, like war, and deal with it on the analogy of absolute warfare. Analogy is fudge, anyhow, and to make war upon rebellion is messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife.


    This history lesson is both old and new. Old in that I am again offering T.E. Lawrence's Evolution of a Revolt, a paper I used in a history lesson back in 2003 when the application of the term "insurgency" in Iraq was under debate. New in that it bears looking at with the benefit of three years hindsight. The Combat Studies Institute offers this paper as a reprint (see the link below).

    LAWRENCE AS AN ICON

    Remember when you read this paper, that T.E. Lawrence was not the typical British officer of his day. Indeed he was not the typical Britain of his day. But much has been made of Lawrence as the prototype foreign area officer/unconventional warfare genius of his day. He was in many ways just that, a genius who found it difficult to fit into his own society and ultimately failed to fit into his adopted Arab world.

    EVOLUTION OF A REVOLT

    So why do I offer "Evolution of a Revolt" again? Simply that it remains a remarkable template for insurgent strategy in Iraq and even Afghanistan, one based on insights from a successful rebel/insurgent who unhinged the Turkish occupation of the Middle East.

    CONVENTIONAL AND THE UNCONVENTIONAL

    As was almost inevitable in view of the general course of military thinking since Napoleon, we all looked only to the regulars to win the war. We were obsessed by the dictum of Foch that the ethic of modern war is to seek for the enemy's army, his centre of power, and destroy it in battle. Irregulars would not attack positions and so they seemed to us incapable of forcing a decision.
    In this analysis, Lawrence broke away from what he describes as the trap of conventional thinking. Indeed, Lawrence admits that at first he and the other British and Arab leaders found themselves mired in that same trap, trying to use the irregular Arab forces to defend conventionally, when he had already realized they could not attack conventionally.

    CONTINUED EXISTENCE EQUALS CONTINUED THREAT

    ...the books gave me the aim in war quite pat, "the destruction of the organized forces of the enemy" by "the one process battle." Victory could only be purchased by blood. This was a hard saying for us, as the Arabs had no organized forces, and so a Turkish Foch would have no aim: and the Arabs would not endure casualties, so that an Arab Clausewitz could not buy his victory.
    Lawrence realized that penning the Turks in Medina and allowing limited use of their rail supply lines essentially achieved the aim of the Arab Revolt years before WWI ended. A foe confined to base is a foe contained and possibly defeated. Indeed such confinement whether self-inflicted or enforced by an enemy surrenders not only "99 per cent" of the terrain but all of the population that resides on that terrain.

    MEDIA WAR FOR HEARTS AND MINDS

    It was the ethical in war, and the process on which we mainly depended for victory on the Arab front. The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armoury of the modern commander, and we, being amateures in the art of command, began our war in the atmosphere of the twentieth century, and thought of our weapons without prejudice, not distinguishing one from another socially.
    "The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armoury of the modern commander"hopefully jumps out at anyone reading the above paragraph. Lawrence states that the importance of the word as a weapon was more readily apparent to him as an amateur than his professional counterparts. Translate "printing press" to information operations and then ask yourself have we really changed that much from the days of T.E. Lawrence: have we truly grasped the primacy of IO in winning a population during counter-insurgency operations (COIN)? I believe that we have, although not as rapidly as we should have.

    LAWRENCE'S REQUIREMENTS FOR SUCCESS

    Finally in looking at this paper I urge you to read it through to the end for Lawrence reserved his most important messages for the final page. There Lawrence offers his requirements for a successful revolt (insurgency). And before those who would dismiss revolt as something different from insurgency, Lawrence uses the term insurgent to make his points.

    AN UNASSAILABLE BASE

    It seemed that rebellion must have an unassailable base, something guarded not merely from attack, but from the fear of it: such a base as we had in the Red Sea Ports, the desert, or in the minds of the men we converted to our creed.


    Much has been written since WWII especially on Algeria and Indochina (Vietnam) on the subject of COIN. And gratefully much of that writing has resurfaced and been incorporated in discussions on COIN in Iraq, Afghanistan, or the greater COIN effort called the Global War on Terror. Nearly all of those writings have postulated that a successful insurgency must have a sanctuary or base beyond the reach of counter insurgent forces. Lawrence writing this paper in 1920 correctly points out that the ultimate sanctuary of the insurgent is inside the minds of the insurgents and their supporters.

    AN ALIEN ENEMY LIMITED IN NUMBERS

    It must have a sophisticated alien enemy, in the form of a disciplined army of occupation too small to fulfill the doctrine of acreage: too few to adjust number to space, in order to dominate the whole area effectively from fortified posts.
    Lawrence choice of words--or at least as I interpret his writing--was careful. This short quote reflects that care; the numbers issue is obvious and has been well debated in terms of OIF and more recently OEF. But look at the concept of an "alien" enemy. At first glance, one might--wrongly--assume all enemies are alien. Certainly in the case of an occupying force that is usually the case. But in a COIN environment, not all enemies are alien; in this short paper, Lawrence highlights the use of Arab members of the Turkish Army who defected to the rebel cause. In a larger sense, though, Lawrence was speaking of an enemy that remains alien or alienates itself from the population.

    DEFINING A FRIENDLY POPULATION

    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 per cent. active in a striking force, and 98 per cent. passively sympathetic.
    COIN theory keys on the role of the population as the objective of COIN operations and strategy. Dr. Kalev Sepp in his "Best Practices in COIN" article for Military Review rightly highlights this factor. French Colonel (now deceased) David Galula similarly points out the pivotal role of the population in COIN. Lawrence offers the insight that a passive population is a population essentially friendly to the insurgents.

    MILITARY CAPABILITIES OF THE INSURGENTS

    The few active rebels must have the qualities of speed and endurance, ubiquity and independence of arteries of supply. They must have the technical equipment to destroy or paralyze the enemy's organized communications, for irregular war is fairly Willisen's definition of strategy, "the study of communication" in its extreme degree, of attack where the enemy is not.
    Lawrence's campaign against the Turkish rail net was not to cut them as lines of communications, but to make the Turks feel the pinch of lost supplies and infrastructure. In this paper he essentially identifies material as a Turk center of gravity, stating that the Turks cared about lost equipment--especially rail--much more than losses in soldiers. The Arabs on the other could not sustain casualties and Lawrence sought to hurt the Turks by targeting their rail LOCs, not their strong points. In many ways the enemy's use of improvised explosive devices has repeated this strategy while changing its target to Coalition soldiers.

    INSURGENCY IN 50 WORDS

    In fifty words: Granted mobility, security (in the form of denying targets to the enemy), time, and doctrine (the idea to convert every subject to friendliness), victory will rest with the insurgents, for the algebraical factors are in the end decisive, and against them perfections of means and spirit struggle quite in vain.
    Ypu can read or download this paper at CSI .

    Best
    Tom
    Last edited by Tom Odom; 11-16-2006 at 04:56 PM.

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    Default Thank you

    Great read and analysis.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Lawrence and his Message - by Robert Bateman @ the SWJ Blog

    I thought Robert Bateman's latest blog had some good insights - it is all too often that we take what sounds like a good piece of advice from its proper context and apply it liberally to whatever ails us.

    However, I think he basically uses the same the same type of bias in his closing paragraph:

    From Blog:

    If Lawrence were still around, working as a strategist for the Iranians, for example, he would certainly be advocating this position. After all, so long as the greater part of the land combat power of the United States is consumed in attempting to squelch violence in Iraq, those forces cannot be used elsewhere. He would, as he did along the Hejaz railway, recommend calibrated support to agitated elements inside Iraq. His advice to his higher command would be that they never allow the pressure to drop so much that we withdraw after declaring a victory, nor raising the pressure so high that we actually quit the place. Iraq, through the eyes of Lawrence, is our Medina.
    I think its wrong to assume Lawrence would try and advocate the same position as though the political context of his time could be laid down upon the current one. The Iraqis are not the Bedu, Iraq is not Arabia as Lawrence knew it. The Americans are not the Ottomans or the Germans. Iran is Iran, and the political context of today is different for a number of reasons. Iran may or may not view its interests as keeping a large U.S. presence in Iraq, from our standpoint we are strengthening Iran's neighbor who also happens to have been a formidable enemy in the not too distant past. Our presence there and our commitment to regional allies could also be seen as standing in the way of Iran extending its influence.

    I think a legitimate argument could be made that if Iran continues to foment distrust against its Arab neighbors across the Gulf, and if it continues to threaten Israel, and if it continues to support terrorism, and if it continues to support proxies, and if it continues to pursue a nuclear program that seems geared toward nuclear armament, then it will create a political context that put it at odds in the region and possibly with regard to much of the West.

    If Iraq gains strength militarily, economically and politically (and I believe it will) - it alters the context further. With its oil revenue, Iraq stands to be a different state then it was under Saddam. Its a combination of its how it is reforming (yes it is slow, and it is violent - political transformation usually is) and its economic potential that stand to make it among the most powerful states in the region. Its alliance with the United States - and yes I call them an ally, and the process which have grown its institutions will make it a formidable regional player.

    My point is the same one that Robert Bateman used in developing the argument - context matters. The conditions and all the possibilities must be considered. I'm not so sure that:

    His advice to his higher command would be that they never allow the pressure to drop so much that we withdraw after declaring a victory, nor raising the pressure so high that we actually quit the place. Iraq, through the eyes of Lawrence, is our Medina.
    is sound advice to Iranian leadership, we are not just sitting idly by allowing ourselves to be strategically fixed - there is more to our end then extracting ourself from Iraq. There is also the question of crossing a threshold you did not intend to cross by upping the ante with regard to "keeping up the pressure" and triggering an event you did not anticipate, or wish to happen, after all, this an environment where chance often influences policy in unanticipated ways.

    Best, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 04-28-2008 at 11:52 AM.

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    Default Here's...

    ... the link.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Good post, Rob.

    "Iraq, through the eyes of Lawrence, is our Medina."
    Cool. Except the issue is how we see it. Besides, Lawrence is dead...

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Lawrence and The Evolution of a Revolt

    As a historical metaphor. Rob, I have used Lawrence twice in the past 5 years to illustrate what was happening with the insurgency in Iraq via my history lessons.

    The problem with Bateman's sourcing is that he would have been on much safer ground had he done the same. Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a turgid, wandering, and very much self-promotying memoir that has been effectively challenged with regards to accuracy.

    You can read a better essay by Lawrence here at The Evolution of Revolt

    My last use of this essay is introduced in the attachment.

    Tom
    Attached Files Attached Files

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    Default Am I missing something?

    While I know little about Lawrence beyond a bit of general knowledge, Bateman’s post and that film the conclusion – if not the route taken to get there - seems valid.
    The conclusion being this part from Rob’s original post.
    After all, so long as the greater part of the land combat power of the United States is consumed in attempting to squelch violence in Iraq, those forces cannot be used elsewhere.
    Many of you have significant military backgrounds and I have none but it seems to me looking at it from the position of an Iranian military strategist this would make perfect sense.
    That it would be in Iran’s interests to keep the US forces occupied elsewhere would seem obvious. The one recent occurrence most likely to influence their thinking would have been the NIE report - which knocked the wind out of some of the more hawkish sails and so will have reduced their fear of attack. As seen from an Iranian standpoint up until the NIE report a quick clean Phase III to Phase IV transition – a la Rumsfeld, Feith & friends – would have left the US with troops free to deal with another axis-of-evil target. A little aid to those in a position to keep those forces otherwise engaged would seem to be a cost effective solution.
    Faced with a similar problem in Afghanistan the US supplied the insurgents in the same way – training, weapons. As they were militarily and diplomatically fire proof they were unconcerned about the source of supply being traced back to them, they also supplied MANPADs. One suspects that a traceable supply of man-portable anti-amour or air-defence would, in this context, be enough to provoke an attack on Iran.

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    Default Understanding Lawrence's Article 15

    Understanding Lawrence's Article 15

    Entry Excerpt:

    Do not try to do too much with your own hands. 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.”
    - T.E. Lawrence, Twenty Seven Articles, Article 15

    T.E. Lawrence’s quote has become quite possibly the most over-used quotation by the U.S. Army in recent memory. Nearly every military presentation regarding our recent conflicts has some form of it embedded in the text. Nearly all U.S. military officers can parrot it with rote precision. However, application of Lawrence’s wisdom in the field remains spotty. One doesn’t have to look far to find accounts of U.S. soldiers and advisors emulating Larry the Cable Guy’s “Git r’ Dun” philosophy to prevent failure in Iraqi (or Afghan) forces. Sometimes this is required, but too often our own hubris and self-perception as the all-knowing American military overcomes the wisdom of listening to the host nation.

    I learned this lesson the hard way in Tal Afar, Iraq. From March-May 2006, my company engaged in a difficult struggle for control of the Hai al Sa’ad neighborhood in the northwest part of the city.



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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default TE Lawrence - gathering the threads

    On reflection there are several threads on TE Lawrence and it would make sense to combine them - prompted by the new book on him.
    davidbfpo

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    Default

    Been a while since I dropped by the Council. (Sorry to my old SWC pals for being absent) I had an essay on Lawrence in early '09 to add as well:

    http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/jou.../183-burke.pdf

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    Default NYT Book Review: Arabian Knight

    NYT Book Review: Arabian Knight

    Entry Excerpt:

    Arabian Knight - New York Times book review of Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia by Michael Korda. NYT review by Ben Macintyre. BLUF: "Most treatments of Lawrence’s life can be divided into debunkings and hagiographies. Hero by Michael Korda, as the title implies, is closer to the latter category."



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    Default Book Review: Hero...Lawrence of Arabia

    Book Review: Hero...Lawrence of Arabia

    Entry Excerpt:

    Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia

    by Michael Korda.

    Published by HarperCollins, New York. 784 pages, 2010.

    Reviewed by Commander Youssef Aboul-Enein, MSC, USN

    Understanding the complex and contradictory political arrangements of the Middle East can be best understood by reading the biography of T. E. Lawrence. In addition, no total understanding of guerilla and irregular warfare tactics will be complete without a study of this British officer, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. There have been movies, documentaries, and many books about Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Initially, I was concerned about the title of Michael Korda’s new book on T. E. Lawrence. Hero gives the impression of delving into the mythology of the person, and not their complexities. I am glad to have not been dissuaded, and delved into the 702 pages of text, and found an important biography of Lawrence.....



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    Default Lawrence: "strategy is eternal...tactics is the ever-changing language"

    Hello, folks.

    I was doing some research for my dissertation when a came across a 1933 letter from T. E. Lawrence to B. H. Liddell Hart. Lawrence is commenting on Liddel Hart's book The Ghost of Napoleon when he writes something I hadn't seen quoted anywhere else, which intrigued me:

    So far as I can see strategy is eternal, & the same and true: but tactics is the ever-changing language through which it speaks. A general can learn as much from Belisarius as from Haig--but not a soldier. Soldiers have to know their means.*
    First, I started wondering, "Do I agree with those characterizations of strategy and tactics? What about this comment 'soldiers have to know their means?'" Secondly, the contrast of Belisarius and Haig struck me. As the editor of the collection, Malcolm Brown, points out, Belisarius used "hit-and-run tactics" with minimal losses and Haig used "massed forces at high cost."** I have never been high on Haig, so I can't tell if Lawrence intends this as an ironic comment or not.

    At any rate, I wanted to throw the quote out and see what members of the council thought about it. Anything strike you? Agree? Disagree? What say you, SWC?

    * - T. E. Lawrence, T. E. Lawrence: The Selected Letters, edited by Malcolm Brown (New York: W. W. Norton, 1989), 473.

    ** - Ibid, 473n.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-08-2011 at 08:09 AM.
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    Judging by how much clausewitz gets qouted in awe on this board, I'd have to say that more posters will agree with it than they will actually admit.

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    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Stanley, as the great Karl might have said, evasiveness is merely an extension of obfuscation by other methods.

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