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Lawrence of Arabia, guiding US Army in Iraq and Afghanistan

Lawrence of Arabia's life and writings still give counterinsurgency experts in the US guidance on how to conduct operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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In a passage from his "Seven Pillars of Wisdom," T.E. Lawrence recounts days spent struggling against illness in the unforgiving deserts of Arabia. As he lay in his tent, "suffering a bodily weakness which made my animal self crawl away and hide till the shame was passed," the man known later as "Lawrence of Arabia" began to appraise the dynamics of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks – breaking down his ideas of guerrilla warfare into a concept that pitted two opposing forces head-on.

The lessons of the Arab revolt, which Lawrence helped start in 1916, continue to reverberate today.

For Lawrence, who died 75 years ago last month, the Turks "were like plants, immobile, firm-rooted, nourished through long-stems to the head," and his own band of Arab irregulars were "an influence, an idea … drifting about like a gas … a vapour blowing where we listed."

In just two years, this perceptive vision of warfare would hand Lawrence a stunning victory.

Ninety-four years may have passed since the British intelligence officer put into practice his theories of campaigning in Arabia, but as the United States pursues its campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is to Lawrence that some of its leading military thinkers turn for inspiration and guidance.


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