History of War

LAWRENCE ‘OF ARABIA’ ON WAR

Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, famously generated ideas where insurgents could defeat a regular army. In reality, at the time, he was dependent on the intervention of much larger air and land forces. Sent to liaise with Arab irregular forces fighting the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, Lawrence is considered the intellectual grandfather of guerrilla warfare. His reputation is legendary, but all of his achievements were limited to the context in which he operated and were never easily transferred to later periods. So are any of his ideas still valid?

Lawrence recognised that the traditional military emphasis was on concentrating maximum force against the strongest element of the enemy, to bring about a decisive battle, and to complete operations in the shortest time in order to avoid the exhaustion of limited resources. Lawrence stood this idea on its head. He minimised the focus on troop numbers and quality of equipment, in favour of pressure on the basic necessities of the enemy (food, water, rest) and even greater stress on the cognitive and psychological. Lawrence tried to use space and time to his advantage, to make his Arab partners elusive by using the depth of

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