Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Colonel T.E. Lawrence wrote the definitive bible of guerrilla warfare during his WW I exploits in the Arabian desert.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom was written by Colonel T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) in 1926. Lord Kitchener, the British War Minister believed the Arab revolt against the Turkish Ottoman Empire could help the First World War effort in the Middle East.

The Arabs

The Arabs were devoted to freedom. The land was as large as India. Arab virtues lay in mobility and intelligence. The Hejaz war in 1917 was conducted against the Turkish Army railway linking Damascus with Medina. Lawrence and the Arab tribes attacked the railway, tying down thousands of Turkish troops in the inhospitable desert terrain. Aqaba port was taken from the landward side and was achieved unsupported by the British. A smaller Arab force captured a large Turkish garrison. Lawrence wrote the text book of guerrilla warfare which is applicable today, 100 years later. The Turks aim was geographical, the Arabs fought for freedom.

Arab Army takes Damascus

The Arab Army advanced East of the Dead Sea, along the 2,000-metre plateau. The Arabs selected a curved section of railway for mine laying, the hills provided an ambush site and a field of fire for machine guns. The Arabs tied down many thousands of Turks in maintaining the rail line for supply trains. Lawrence directed their main effort at the junction of the Jerusalem-Haifa-Damascus-Medina railways.

Lawrence arranged for Feisal to enter Damascus first. Feisal took over the Turkish Army hospital, water pumps, and an intact electricity supply. Barrow, the British Army commander, marched in and saluted the Arab Army flag. Syrians had their de facto Government which endured two years. David Lean’s film, Lawrence of Arabia, depicted Arab chaos in Damascus which is patently untrue. The 1916 Sykes-Picot Treaty ensuring the carve-up of freed Arab lands troubled Lawrence. Lawrence’s detailed descriptions identify ambush sites a century later. The Arabs could mount camels loaded with food supplies for a six week journey in the space of 30 minutes. Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence delivers a living account of life with the Arabs, providing relevant information about the Middle East in the present day.

Lawrence’s tactics in Afghanistan

The US Army applied Lawrence’s concepts in Afghanistan: the army must be familiar with counterinsurgency; Afghanistan is won or lost by each village or valley; US ground forces plan counterinsurgency campaigns by meeting with the governor, military and police chiefs and villagers; aid packages are delivered prior to attack and troops are rotated frequently so that locals genuinely engage with them, local populations are provided with humanitarian construction works as per Lawrence’s 1926 book.

Higher casualties are expected with ground support sorties restricted. US General Petraeus expects the surge of troops in Afghanistan to succeed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *