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Thread: TE Lawrence: a merged thread

  1. #81
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    Amateur/Professional/Whatever?

    Starbuck: Burke's Lawrence piece was very good.

    I particularly liked:

    While experts in the ivory tower of academia may debate whether or not the military is best suited to restore civil and social services to a city after capture, the argument is moot. In many instances, such as Damascus the military may be the only organization around with the manpower and equipment to restore civic order.
    There was a very unique group of Brits "walking around" the Middle East in the mid-1910's. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell are the two known in our histories.

    They were studying societies, histories, architecture, structure of organizations...

    I was amazed in the Burke article to not see any reference to Bell, who shared many a camel ride with Lawrence throughout that period. The two, as I understood it, were two branches of the same tree, and were constantly cross-fertilizing the Arab Nationalist Ideal, one coming from Egypt to Damascus, and the other coming through Basra and Mosul to the same spot.

    As far as I know, the corresponding westerners that were "walking around" the Middle East (at different, but recent times) were Ryan Crocker and Rory Stewart. Neither was really successful in the military, but, like Lawrence as a practical matter, were really external influencers of the military.

    I take a little discomfort with the military analyst's idea of correlating Lawrence/Bell with Petreaus/Nagl for a lot of reasons, but particularly because what Lawrence and Bell knew was social/cultural/organizational, which was adapted to military, while Petreaus/Nagl were military who, at most, learned enough social/cultural/organizational insights to play them for military purposes (often short-term ones).

    The gap is most evident in the failings in Iraq to understand how to manage the civilian structure and systems, and in Afghanistan to grasp the anti-foreign aspect that is deep rooted and confounds our efforts.

    Lawrence was a welcome chameleon in the Arab insurgency against the beastly and inept Turks, but was adamant and protective of their aspirations for self-rule.

    I find that authors like William Dalrymple, who are Lawrence-like in their immersion in Northern Indian post-colonial society provide a very important set of insights into much of what Lawrence and Bell were studying and using.

    Eating soup with a knife is a great symbol, in my mind, of the continuing failed effort to learn just enough to coopt a few people to temporarily join OUR side, but with little real comprehension of where enduring success lies.

    The above quote is right on that a military can and should be capable of effective public administration when needed. We have not yet demonstrated that capacity.

    Heck, even Lawrence could have just paid out some graft (Clear-Hold-Bribe) along the way and have travelled far but accomplished nothing.

    Even with that, he and Bell's fixation with Arab Nationalism proved to be, in the best light, a premature aspiration, and in the worst light, the seeds of much of what led to future problems.

    Maybe they just didn't build enough "capacity" before they left?

    Clearly, aiming the right folks to the right challenges is the path to success (at the risk of being too much of a Toynbeeist).

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    Found this in "Ottoman Administration of Iraq, 1890-1908" By Gökhan Çetinsaya:

    “In your humble servant’s opinion, no idea has ever circulated in central government, other than the forcible repression and devastation of the Arabs. And they (the Arabs) have never been viewed as potential friends…The Arabs are not savage, but they fear and hate us.
    Abdullatif Suphi Pasa to Sultan Abdulaziz, 1864”
    Cetinsaya's Introduction uses this 1864 report as a frontispiece to explain the internal politics of the Ottoman Empire to its Arab territories, as they struggled to reform the struggling empire.

    This stuff that Lawrence was feeding on was the air that Arabs breathed for generations: Hatred of the Turks.

    How does this parallel our efforts in Kabul? Substituting Pashtuns for Arabs?

    Which side are we on?

    Is Lawrence's approach more useful to us or to Mullah Omar?

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    While experts in the ivory tower of academia may debate whether or not the military is best suited to restore civil and social services to a city after capture, the argument is moot. In many instances, such as Damascus the military may be the only organization around with the manpower and equipment to restore civic order.
    This is not the debate. Those of us focussed on informing practice are well aware that Military Power can and should be used to restore order. That is restore and maintain it, so as a political entity can exploit it.
    Martial Law works. Ask Allenby! - not Lawrence!
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
    There was a very unique group of Brits "walking around" the Middle East in the mid-1910's. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell are the two known in our histories.
    They were not unique. There were hundereds (possibly 1000+) of British Civil Servant and Army officers in the Mid-East who spoke Arabic and in many cases much better than Lawrence.
    Lawrence was a welcome chameleon in the Arab insurgency against the beastly and inept Turks, but was adamant and protective of their aspirations for self-rule.
    Lawrence was a Britisher Officer tasked with getting the Arabs to defeat the Ottoman Empire on behalf of the British. When he started to speak for the Arabs, he was basically guilty if a mis-conduct and should have been charged and dismissed. Only his self started publicity machine prevented that happening.

    What most people don't get is that the old-school British Army is not proud of Lawrence. What you see today is the flow down of 1960's Liberal hero-worship. He contributed very little of use and probably did more damage with his dreaming that good. Of course what sells books is saying "Hero." Last time I counted there were 11 Lawrence Biographies.
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    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen
    ...They were not unique. There were hundereds (possibly 1000+) of British Civil Servant and Army officers in the Mid-East who spoke Arabic and in many cases much better than Lawrence....
    Priya Satia's Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain's Covert Empire in the Middle East provides excellent insight into the depth and nature of penetration of Brits in the Middle East during that period; not just civil servants and Army officers, but also academics and private citizens.

    However, as a focused read on the subject, it has its faults and does not provide as much value as either Empires of Intelligence: Security Services and Colonial Disorder after 1914 or Military Intelligence and the Arab Revolt: The First Modern Intelligence War.

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    Wilf,

    I appreciate where you are coming from in regard to Lawrence. I can see where the British military establishment would have problems with the self-promotion, etc.

    As a point of comparison though, I am curious how they feel about an officer who had a similar mission of building local militia to defeat a rebel insurrection. One of the great villains of U.S. military history is Colonel Banastre Tarleton for his operations in the Carolinas. How does the "old-school British Army" judge him?? Obviously the American bias casts him as a war criminal of the highest order. I would expect more favorable treatment at home, but I am curious.
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    Default Lawrence was conducting UW

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
    How does this parallel our efforts in Kabul? Substituting Pashtuns for Arabs?

    Which side are we on?

    Is Lawrence's approach more useful to us or to Mullah Omar?
    So, we took the Lawrence approach when we sided with the Northern Alliance; to take the Lawrence approach today would be to side with Mullah Omar and the Taliban.

    I would argue that our goals in AFPAK today are far different than British goals in the Middle East 100 years ago. For them, picking a side made sense. For the U.S. I recommend a more neutral approach is the best; as we have no desire to establish our dominion over the region, do we?

    Our problem is that our words, and perhaps intent say: "We're here to help,"
    but our actions, as guided by a COIN manual derived from such colonial ventures, say "We're here to establish a government that we approve of."

    We're conflicted, and the results of that inner conflict speak for themselves.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Wilf:

    Couldn't have said it better myself.

    Military power should set the conditions (security) and logistics for civilian operations.

    Lawrence (and Bell) became too enthralled with love and admiration of the Arabs wrapped in a western sensibility about national self-determination and premature aspirations of the dream state of an Arab Nation.

    Bob:

    C'mon. We ARE picking sides.

    Where you draw distinctions as to what we are not doing, it begs the question of why, if that is a well-trodden path to success, we are not following it.

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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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    Stanley, as the great Karl might have said, evasiveness is merely an extension of obfuscation by other methods.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    a.) Yes, soldiers have to understand their weapons performance and capabilities. So what? Lawrence is just coming to a realisation that most professional officers knew already.

    b.) Comparing Haig, with Belisarius is an exercise in futility and shows an very poor understanding of the considerable challenges that Haig faced.

    T.E. Lawrence was as much a charlatan and fraud as Liddell-Hart, albeit a possibly brave one. Why give any credence to a discussion of men poorly informed on the subject?
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

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    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Default In Re: Wilf

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    a.) Yes, soldiers have to understand their weapons performance and capabilities. So what? Lawrence is just coming to a realisation that most professional officers knew already.

    b.) Comparing Haig, with Belisarius is an exercise in futility and shows an very poor understanding of the considerable challenges that Haig faced.

    T.E. Lawrence was as much a charlatan and fraud as Liddell-Hart, albeit a possibly brave one. Why give any credence to a discussion of men poorly informed on the subject?
    Some things are eternal... when I read the thread title... I immediately thought WILF will have a few pithy thoughts to share on this topic... low and behold, the most recent post was indeed from WILF... and none to my surprise reflected nearly exactly what I had presupposed...

    I suppose that makes me a SWC junkie

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    Tactics seem to be rather constant as well - the difference seems to be largely about the tools and weapons used.

    Cannae is still a valid blueprint for encirclement battles, and Epaminondas introduced the Schwerpunkt into tactics with his oblique order.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post
    Stanley, as the great Karl might have said, evasiveness is merely an extension of obfuscation by other methods.
    methods other than what?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Tactics seem to be rather constant as well - the difference seems to be largely about the tools and weapons used.

    Cannae is still a valid blueprint for encirclement battles, and Epaminondas introduced the Schwerpunkt into tactics with his oblique order.
    Indeed, just like ambushes in the Battle of Lake Trasimene or Battle of the Teutoburg Forest are still valid examples of the core tactical principles of an ambush. Even the Stone/Copper Age offers us pretty good examples of raids and ambushes.

    IIRC, the "Art of War" has IMHO an apt quote:

    There are no more than five musical notes, yet the variations in the five notes cannot all be heard.

    There are no more than five basic colors, yet the variations in the five colors cannot all be seen.

    There are no more than five basic flavors, yet the variations in the five flavors cannot all be tasted. ?
    Today one might say that the political aims, strategy and METT-TC drive the tactical combination making every engagement singular.

    It is also interesting to see how the basic tactical organisation of ancient warfare into Vanguard, Rearguard, Center, Right Wing, Left Wing have been used at smaller and smaller unit scale.

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    I apologize ahead of time for two posts; I managed to exceed the maximum character count for single post.

    Quote Originally Posted by stanleywinthrop View Post
    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.
    Honestly, that is part of the reason I wanted to see people's responses to it here.

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    T.E. Lawrence was as much a charlatan and fraud as Liddell-Hart, albeit a possibly brave one. Why give any credence to a discussion of men poorly informed on the subject?
    I may not post here much, but I do read quite a bit and--like another poster said--I expected you to respond. I am glad you did, and I appreciate your thoughts on the matter. However, I will take issue with your argument.

    First, you mischaracterize Lawrence and Liddell Hart. Whatever we may think about the veracity of their various claims or their theories about warfare, both men were hardly "poorly informed." Liddell Hart spent the better part of the twentieth-century writing and thinking war, so however wrong, deceitful, or whatever else he may be, he is not "poorly informed." Lawrence wrote this letter after not only his experience in the Arab Revolt but also his time as an advisor to Churchill. Again, whatever else he may be, he is not "poorly informed." Secondly, even if they are wrong about strategy or deceitful, both Lawrence and Liddell Hart warrant study, because they both continue to have significant influence on military thinking for better or ill. Ignoring them--especially in Lawrence's case, give his post-9/11 re-appearance in military rhetoric--will not make them go away.

    I understand that you do not like these two men; that is fine, but an ad hominem attack does not offer anything new to the conversation. What do you think about this idea that strategy is something eternal and tactics is something ever-changing? Agree? Disagree?

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    b.) Comparing Haig, with Belisarius is an exercise in futility and shows an very poor understanding of the considerable challenges that Haig faced.
    Third, he is not comparing the two; he is contrasting them. By writing that "[a] general can learn as much from Belisarius as from Haig," it is clear that he is stressing their differences, not their similarities.[1] It is important to note, also, that there is no evidence in the letter that the contrast reflects negatively on Haig. So far, I cannot find any other references to Haig in his letters, so I am not sure what he thought of the man. (For my thoughts on Haig, see below.)

    Lastly, you are missing what I believe to be the most interesting point of the letter: that not only can an ancient strategist be as useful as a (at least for Lawrence) contemporary one, but also that strategy as a discourse is not some march of progress in which contemporary strategists have more to offer by virtue of either the retrospection of history or the benefit of technology. Instead, tactics for Lawrence seems to depend absolutely on place, time, and technology. If anyone disagrees with this reading, I have reproduced the whole letter for context below:

    Dear L-H

    I have read this [Liddell Hart's The Ghost of Napoleon] twice, once to get its idea, and once with my pencil in hand. It has been a queer experience--like going back, in memory, to school--for by myself (though with far less knowledge, and hesitatingly) I had trodden all this road before the war. It is a very good little book: modest, witty and convincing. You realize, of course, that you are swinging the pendulum, and that by 1960 it will have swung too far!

    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.

    I can't write an introduction: none is necessary. Your sub-title should be 'a tract for the times.'

    Yours,

    TES[2]
    I have have highlighted to passages above, because Lawrence seems to be arguing against a general thrust of Liddell Hart's theories: that Germany lost in World War I because of "old" thinking (particularly its devotion to Clausewitz) and that "new" thinking (specifically Liddell Hart himself) would win wars. In fairness, I have not read Ghosts of Napoleon, because I cannot find a copy at the moment, but this is how others have characterized his argument.[3] I do not agree with either premise, but, as the kids say, "it is what it is." If Liddell Hart is saying that the British had been too slavishly devoted to "old" strategy, Lawrence is warning Liddell Hart that future military thinkers may ignore valuable "old" thinkers in favor of the "new" at their own peril. This is the "pendulum" that Lawrence is discussing. Instead, Lawrence seems to take the stand that there is no 'progress of ideas' when it comes to strategy, that across time and intellectual traditions there is a universal value. A "new" idea is not more valuable by virtual of its "newness." At the very least, Lawrence's suggested subtitle--"A Tract for the Times"--would seem to delimit Liddell Hart's theory to a specific point in history and to offset any sweeping generalization that 'new' will forever be better.

    This issue that "new" is not necessarily better seems obvious, but it is worth thinking about the ascendency of Revolution in Military Affairs, first in the Soviet Union and later in the United States.[4] Indeed, the date that Lawrence names, 1960, as this tipping point of the pendulum coincides roughly with RMA's emergence in the Soviet Union.[5] While it may be a stretch to link Lawrence and RMA, he most definitely predicted the perils of a time in the future when people's obsession with the new and newness would cloud military thinking.

    [Continued below...]
    Last edited by Erich G. Simmers; 02-08-2011 at 05:34 PM.
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    What I find fascinating is that someone such as Lawrence who was obsessed with speed and technology whether it was motorcycles, armor, airplanes, or boats would be so measured in his approach to technology. In fact, Lawrence had been from a very cautious about the limits of airpower. He wrote in 1923 letter to A. P. Wavell:

    "Bombing tribes is ineffective. I fancy that air-power may be effective against elaborate armies: but against irregulars it has no more than moral value. The Turks had plenty [of] machines, & used them freely against us--and never hurt us till the last phase, when we had brought 1000 of regulars on the raid against Deraa. Guerrilla tactics are a complete muffing of air-force.[6]
    At the time, Lawrence's contemporaries were raving about "air-control methods" and bombing "the natives" into submission throughout Iraq and India. To reiterate my previous point about Lawrence's worth, this is another lesson that not only his contemporaries but also folks like Ullman and Wade should have thought about before they imagined their "new" means of warfare.[7]

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    a.) Yes, soldiers have to understand their weapons performance and capabilities. So what? Lawrence is just coming to a realisation that most professional officers knew already.
    Following on what I have already stated, Lawrence seems to be arguing that--as you say--"weapons performance and capabilities" is something apart from and subservient to strategy and that is properly located on a tactical level. That, for me, is a pretty significant "so what," because--even after almost a decade of fighting insurgents--there are many who think that the answer to asymmetric threats whether it be near-peer competitors or insurgents will be some whiz-bang stealth airburst something-or-other to win the day. Moreover, there is a real value to the mindset that--whether it is a complex global insurgency or designing a better mousetrap--one, someone else may have considered the problem, and two, that person may have had a better solution even though they did not have the advantage of being born in your century and couldn't leverage Google, a Blackberry, an XM25, a JSF, or whatever fancy-pants tech that the future holds. The mind will forever be the greatest weapon, and many who came before did a better job honing that weapon.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Tactics seem to be rather constant as well - the difference seems to be largely about the tools and weapons used.

    Cannae is still a valid blueprint for encirclement battles, and Epaminondas introduced the Schwerpunkt into tactics with his oblique order.
    I was thinking along those lines as well, but I haven't quite made up my mind. (See my discussion of technology and tactics above.)

    Off-Topic:

    I, however, am no great fan of Haig. In my opinion, his greatest challenge was his own absolute lack of imagination and the existential burden of wasting hundreds of thousands of lives on an outmoded strategy that had been proven ineffective over a period of years. Let's contrast General Sir Herbert Plumer and Field Marshal Douglas Haig.

    On June 7, 1917, General Plumer had utilized British miners to tunnel under key points of the German lines and planted high explosives. Ten-thousand Germands were killed instantly, and 7,000 panicked and were captured. As Paul Fussell writes, "Nine British divisions and seventy-two tanks attacked straightway on a ten-mile front. At the relatively low cost of 16,000 casualties they occupied Vimy Ridge."[8] The attack showed ingenuity and a willingness to divert from tactics that had produced an extremely costly stalemate for the duration of the war.

    Even after this, Haig persisted with the same tactics. On July 31, 1917, British forces under the command of Haig attacked toward Passchendaele in what would be known as the Third Battle of Ypres. Direct frontal attack followed a prolonged artillery barrage. Fussell writes, "The bombardment churned up the ground; rain fell and turned the dirt to mud. I the mud the British assaulted until the attack finally attenuated three and a half months later. Price: 370,000 British dead and wounded and sick and frozen to death. Thousands literally drowned in the mud. It was a repose of the Somme, but worse."[9] I understand that Haig still has his defenders, but I have a hard time conceiving anyone, in good conscience, defending his strategy. To wit, I am not arguing he did not use armor properly or understand the machine gun; I am arguing that his strategy won out not because of its brilliance but because the German army had exhausted itself advances of 1918 and that he paid far too high a cost for that Pyrrhic victory.

    Very respectfully,

    Erich

    -------

    [1]. Lawrence, 473.

    [2]. Ibid.

    [3]. See John J. Mearsheimer, Liddell Hart and the Weight of History (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988), 49-50.

    [4]. See Frederick W. Kagan, Finding the Target: The Transformation of American Military Policy (New York: Encounter Books, 2006), ix-xix.

    [5]. Ibid, xi.

    [6]. Lawrence, 238-239.

    [7]. See Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade, Shock And Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance (National Defense University, 1996).

    [8]. Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 14-16.

    [9]. Ibid, 16.
    Last edited by Erich G. Simmers; 02-08-2011 at 05:47 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    T.E. Lawrence was as much a charlatan and fraud as Liddell-Hart, albeit a possibly brave one.
    And, as a final aside, much of the Lawrence bashing is unfounded. Seven Pillars of Wisdom is stylized autobiography in line with what many of Lawrence's Modernist contemporaries were writing. As such, there are distortions--many of which are either openly acknowledged by Lawrence himself. However, history supports the vast majority of his role in and account of the Arab Revolt. In A Prince of Our Disorder, John E. Mack disputed many of the claims of his more critical autobiographers and found almost universal support from the men with which he served:

    The subscriber's edition of Seven Pillars, of which about two hundred copies were printed in 1929, was sent to thirty officers who served in the Revolt, including such men as Allenby, Joyce, Newcombe, Young, Peake, Stirling, and Winterton. Copies were widely circulated and read by many others who had firsthand knowledge of the events of the Revolt. […] Neither Sterling nor any other of these men every questioned the veracity of Lawrence's account. Concerning the attack and seizure of Aqaba by land, for example--the single exploit of the campaigns for which Lawrence is best known--he has been accused of undeservedly claiming credit for its strategy. Suleiman Mousa in particular states that "the plan for capturing Aqaba was devices by Faisal and Auda in Wejh." But for Colonel Edouard Bremond, the leader of the French mission (who resented Lawrence), confirms that the plan was discussed in conference before 'Awdah abu-Tayyi joined in the Revolt…[1]
    Mack similarly pokes holes in Richard Aldington's 1955 book Lawrence of Arabia: A Biographical Inquiry, which--frankly--is very lame in its criticism. Most notably, he outs Lawrence's parents who were not married when he was conceived and claims that (paraphrasing very slightly) Lawrence liked being raped in Deraa when he was in Turkish captivity. The book was almost universally panned by the men who were there with Lawrence. Many wrote responses to the book:

    When Aldington attacked Lawrence as a charlatan and a fraud he aroused most intensely the ire of Lawrence's fellow officers. The angry reaction of Captain L. H. Gilman, who commanded an armored-car battery in close association with Lawrence until near the end of the campaign, is typical… […] Gilman then proceeds to refute Aldington on specific matters of which he had firsthand knowledge, such as Lawrence's presence and courage in operations against the Hijaz railroad that Aldington had denied.[2]
    I can go on citing first-hand accounts of Lawrence in Mack's book, but I will assume that the word of the soldiers who fought with him will be good enough…

    (I would have included that in my early manifesto, but most of my books are still boxed up from a move.)

    -------

    [1]. John E. Mack, The Prince of Our Disorder (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1976), 177-178.

    [2]. Ibid, 278.
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    Lawrence was a strange guy. Among his contradictions was his talent for "backing into the limelight," being self-promoting and self-effacing at the same time. His fame started with the American journalist Lowell Thomas and his stage show shortly after the war. To my way of thinking Lawrence's accomplishments shouldn't be categorically dismissed but at the same time they shouldn't be taken completely at face value either.

    Whenever an outsider to the military serves in a war and later claims to have been a rare genuis casting pearls before the swine of the regular officer corps the institution usually closes ranks against him. The rumors about Lawrence's sexuality have also made him something of a hero among non-military types who for the most part have never served in uniform but still believe themselves to be intellectually superior to the dullards of the professional officer caste.

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    Erich:

    Like Hacksaw, we were all waiting for Wilf's response, which doesn't need reprinting. His personal accomplishments may warrant the status of Hero, like with Charles Lindbergh, but I wouldn't waste much time on either's political advice.

    My problem with Lawrence and Bell is not military, but political. They were deep believers, of not primary promoters of the very poorly conceived notion of a great Arab Nation which was like jumping from crawling to Moon Landing in an afternoon.

    Remembering that, as much as these Arabists loved the notions of Arab history, the Arab culture/politics of old had been devastated by Mongols in the 1200's, followed by Ottomans who, for the most part, may have been worse as bad for Arabs as the Mongols. These folks that Lawrence and Ms. Bell were working with had a long way to go just to establish "some" countries, and certainly not their Dream Palace.

    The continuing gap between the concept of the Caliphate and its reality is, in fact, the broad diversity of the Arab and Muslim world. The breadth and acceptance of Islam by so many diverse peoples is, for political/governance types, a built-in limitation.

    No surprise about Lawrence's disdain for air power against desert peoples. Look at the Bomber Harris experiences in Northern Iraq.

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