Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, April 17, 2022

How Lawrence Defeated the Turks in Arabia

Most wars are wars of contact…ours should be a war of detachment. We were to contain the enemy by the silent threat of a vast unknown desert…

T.E Lawrence 

Lawrence with Arab Irregulars

I found this nice clear evolution of  T.E. Lawrence's strategy in the Arab Revolt in the publication Small Wars Journal. The full article (HERE) was written by brothers  Capt Basil Aboul-Enein, USAF and Commander Youssef Aboul-Enein, U.S Navy.

Lawrence ends his thesis summarizing rebel warfare as “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.” The common dispositions in Lawrence‟s work seem to list the following requirements for a successful guerilla campaign: an unassailable physical or emotional base; a relatively friendly local population; mobility, flexibility and endurance; the ability to inflict damage on the enemy‟s ability of communication; and, lastly, an enemy too few in number to successfully occupy the territory of concern. . . 

According to historian Lawrence James, Lawrence did not invent the concept of the Arab guerrilla war, although after the war he provided it with an elaborate intellectual justification in terms of military theory. The idea of utilizing Arab irregulars as guerrillas was originated before the start of the revolt. Major Bray, an Indian officer who had served in Hejaz, Sir William Robertson, the chief of the Imperial General Staff, and Austen Chamberlain, Secretary of State for India, discussed the idea in November 1916. Robertson opened the exchange stating, “I hear you are one of those fellows who think the Arab is no damn good at all?” “No sir, I think that you cannot expect them, in their present state of organization, to hold trenches against disciplined troops, but as guerrilla fighters they will be splendid.” 

If Clausewitz‟s formulation is a classic expression of guerrilla tactics as part of modern warfare, T.E. Lawrence is often credited with the first theoretical contribution to understanding guerrilla warfare as a political movement furthered through unconventional tactics rather than as a military tactic supplementary to conventional warfare. According to Lt Col Frederick Wilkins, Lawrence “almost converted the tactics of guerrilla warfare into a science and claimed that no enemy could occupy a country employing guerrilla warfare unless every acre of land could be occupied with troops.” 

He elaborates, “in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Lawrence explained the plan that eventually defeated the Turks in Arabia. In the Turkish Army, materiel was scarce and precious, men more plentiful than equipment…the aim should be to destroy not the army but the materiel. Eventually, 35,000 Turkish causalities resulted from the new change in methods, but they were incidental to the attack on enemy material. The plan was to convince the Turks they could not stay, rather than to drive them out. The Turkish position gradually became impossible in Arabia. Garrisons withered and the effectiveness of the Turkish field force was largely on paper as the necessity for feeding the scattered units placed a heavy drain on the already burdened enemy supply system.”

Source:  "A Theoretical Exploration of Lawrence of Arabia’s Inner Meanings on Guerrilla Warfare," Basil Aboul-Enein and Youssef Aboul-Enein, 2011, reprinted at, 2011

No comments:

Post a Comment