T. E. LAWRENCE: AMERICAN STRATEGIST
By Dr. Daniel Pipes
He focuses on Lawrence's 2,800-word summary of lessons learned in war, published in The Arab Bulletin, August 20, 1917, and bearing the supremely modest title, "Twenty-Seven Articles." In it, Lawrence offers his "personal conclusions, arrived at gradually while [he] worked in the Hejaz and now put on paper as stalking horses for beginners in the Arab armies." He adds that the rules "are meant to apply only to Bedu [Bedouin]; townspeople or Syrians require totally different treatment." His advice includes such insights as "Win and keep the confidence of your leader," "Be shy of too close relations with the subordinates," and "Cling tight to your sense of humour."
Wyatt-Brown explains the recent role of this slight, archaic document:
"The chief reform under Petraeus's orders was in the conduct of officers and soldiers toward Iraqi leaders and civilians and in making armed alliances with Sunnis willing to break with Al-Qa'ida. … Petraeus soon recognized that the Iraqi power structure was rooted in tribal politics. Policies had to accommodate that Middle Eastern arrangement. … He adopted a major cornerstone of Lawrence's understanding of guerilla warfare. In the Army War College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Petraeus, David Kilcullen, and other strategists tirelessly worked out the new strategy, with Lawrence's observations providing a helpful point of departure."
"Like Lawrence himself, Petraeus used lavish distributions of money as the lubricant of good relations with the Iraqi tribesmen. He also adhered to Lawrence's dictum, 'Do not try to do too much with your own hands,' even if you can perform the mission better than the native forces. The general recast it as 'the host nation doing something tolerably is normally better than us doing it well.'"
"Twenty-Seven Articles," writes Wyatt-Brown, "has become something of a bible for current American military experts dealing with the problems of occupying and controlling" Iraq. Indeed,
"Petraeus himself was willing to credit Lawrence for helping him develop his counter-insurgency ideas. The general pointed out in an article in Military Review that Lawrence had given this advice: 'It is their war, and you are to help them, not win it for them,' a notion, Petraeus declared, as 'relevant in the 21st century as it was in his own time in the Middle East during World War I."
Wyatt-Brown sees the Lawrence-inspired shift as hugely consequential, perhaps saving "an enormous number of American and Iraqi lives." Ironically, "Lawrence's insights, though far less prominent, were more significant in [the American] Middle Eastern engagement than they had been in his own day."
He credits Lawrence's deep insights into tribal culture to several factors: "years of training in the study of the Near East, its history, and its traditions," learning colloquial Arabic, visiting the region in 1909 and traveling over 1,100 miles mostly by foot. These interests, Wyatt-Brown concludes, "grew out of his unconventional love of the Bedouins and their habitat."
(1) Traveling "over 1,100 miles, mostly by foot" in the Middle East constitutes an enviable education in itself.
(2) Great strategists sometimes have unusual, even eccentric backgrounds.
(3) The most difficult thing for a Westerner to learn about the Middle East – even more so than the Arabic language – is the abiding role of tribal culture. For a recent study, see Culture and Conflict in the Middle East (Prometheus) by Philip Carl Salzman, a book I have highly recommended.
(4) Military technology changed so much over the past century that contemporary warfare appears completely unlike World War I. But the human dimension hardly changed; thus does a Clausewitz or a Lawrence retain his importance.
The Middle East & the Problem of Iraq
Page Two Page One
The Problem of Rogue States:
Iraq as a Case History
Middle East -- Arabs, Arab States,
& Their Middle Eastern Neighbors
Islamism & Jihadism -- The Threat of Radical Islam
Page Three Page Two Page One
International Politics & World Disorder:
War, Peace, & Geopolitics in the Real World:
Foreign Affairs & U.S. National Security
Page Two Page One
Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.
Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization
Islamist International Terrorism &
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Counterterrorism & U.S. National Security
U.S. National Security Strategy
Dr. Daniel Pipes, a Ph.D. in Islamic History (Harvard University, 1978), is Founder and Director of the Middle East Forum, Founder of Campus Watch, Taube Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, a signatory of the Project for the New American Century, a former board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace, a former adjunct scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a Golden Circle supporter of the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon, a former member of the U.S. Department of Defense Special Task Force on Terrorism and Technology, and a former lecturer at the U.S. Naval War College, Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Pipes was the Director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute from 1986 to 1993.
Author or co-author of eighteen books, Dr. Pipes is a regular columnist for Front Page Magazine, the New York Sun, and the Jerusalem Post. His analyses of world trends and of forces and developments in the Middle East have appeared in numerous North American newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He frequently appears on American network television, as well as at universities and think tanks, to discuss the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamist threat to the U.S.A. and the West. He also has appeared on BBC and Al Jazeera, and has lectured in approximately twenty-five countries.
Dr. Pipes is a Polish-American Jew whose parents fled Poland in 1939, immigrated to the U.S.A., and assimilated well into
American society and culture. His father is Richard Pipes, an American historian specializing in Russian and Soviet history
and serving as Professor of History at Harvard University from 1950 until his retirement in 1996. During the Cold War, the
worldview of Richard Pipes was strongly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist.
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