For Want of a Book
By streiff Posted in User Blogs — Comments (6) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
Promoted from the Diaries.
Lessons of Arabia
In this episode, the Washington Post's star defense reporter discovers T. E. Lawrence wrote a book but is too lazy to read it and uses the DVD as a substitute to teach the US military a thing or two about tactics and doctrine.
Over the years I'd tried several times to read T.E. Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom," a great memoir of World War I in the Middle East. Each time I faltered and put the book down, put off by Lawrence's obscure vocabulary, baroque style and equally twisted personality [...]
A few days later, outside Najaf, I saw Lawrence's book in a new light, as an account of Arab guerrillas attacking the supply lines of a modern, conventional Western military. That was what I had just experienced -- from the wrong end of the gun -- 80 years after Lawrence wrote [...]
Let me emphatically state here that I am not likening the cause of the Iraqi insurgents to that of Arab rebels against the Turks. I was reading this as a tactical manual of military operations against another military, not of terrorist attacks on civilians [...]
Read on . . .
The last paragraph alone is a flag that Ricks is a reporter who barely hits dilettante on the knowledgeometer. If you have read Seven Pillars of Wisdom it is obvious that if you are not comparing the Iraqi insurgents to Faisal's army and us to the Turks then there is no basis for the article. The book isn't a tactical manual and has nothing uniquely tactical to say that hasn't been said much better by Mao, Giap, and many others. The book speaks to two subjects: operational art and leading irregulars. Once you move beyond those subjects then Lawrence is describing specific tactics for a specific place (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria) at a specific time (1917-18).
In fact, it is far from clear that the insurgents are following the tactics of the Arab army under Lawrence.
In those terms, the tactics employed by Lawrence and his Arab tribesmen were strikingly similar to those used against U.S. forces today in Iraq. American truck convoys constantly come under attack, sometimes by rocket-propelled grenades but most often by anonymous roadside bombs [...] Lawrence wasn't interested in direct confrontations with the Turkish military. Rather, he strove to avoid the set-piece slugfests...such as the recent battle in Fallujah (comment: who does he think was defending Falluja?). He relentlessly chipped away at the railroad that supplied Turkish forces deployed deep in what is now Jordan and Saudi Arabia, dropping rail bridges and blowing up locomotives.
This statement is pretty much contrary to the facts. While there are a lot of attacks by IED it is just not the case that that is the enemy's preferred means of attack. Just the opposite is true. Whenever the enemy can field a military force of even a few men they engage in military operations. Usually to their detriment. They try desperately to establish sanctuaries (Falluja, Ramadi, Samarra, Baquba and various neighborhoods in Baghdad and Mosul). Whenever a town appears to be safe for insurgents they can't resist patrolling the streets, creating a nuisance, and congregating. And when the town comes under attack some few leaders may flee but the lion's share of the followers try to defend their turf. In Falluja the number of killed insurgents is approximately 2,000 with over 1,200 captured. If anything, the evidence indicates that IEDs are set by common criminals for cash. Nothing I have seen indicates that any significant attacks have been made against the road and bridge network in Iraq.
His rebellion, he wrote, faced "a sophisticated alien enemy, disposed as an army of occupation in an area greater than could be dominated effectively from fortified posts." Meanwhile, his side was supported by "a friendly population, of which some two in the hundred were active, and the rest quietly sympathetic to the point of not betraying the movements of the minority."
The problems, the message [from Zarqawi] says, are the result of losing the insurgent safe haven of Fallujah to U.S. troops. It says the insurgency was hampered as checkpoints and raids spread "to every city and road." Communications broke down as insurgents were forced to spread out through the country.
The arrest of some of their military experts, more "spies willing to help the enemy," and a dwindling supply of arms also added to the organizational breakdown, it reads.
And so we end up with his bottom line. The US military can barely tell its butt from a hot rock, however, Ricks, who has never spent a nanosecond in the military, can make a cogent analysis from misreading a book that none of those morons in uniform have ever heard of.
As I read that, I thought with regret that if the U.S. military had done more thinking and less fighting in Iraq in 2003, we probably would be in a better position there today [...] Whether they will learn Lawrence's lessons remains to be seen.
There you have it folks. Again proving my point: the people in the military are just stupid.