The Anonymous Widower

Lawrence of Afghanistan

The Times today has an article about T. E. Lawrence, who as well as his efforts in Arabia, served in the RAF as Aircraftman Shaw in Afghanistan. We should listen to what he said.

Here is an extract from the article.

With the help of Hollywood, he would become a legend, Lawrence of Arabia, but today he might more aptly be termed Lawrence of Afghanistan: he understood more clearly than any of his contemporaries (and many of our own) the futility of trying to bomb an insurgency into peace; he put into action the tactics of modern guerrilla warfare; and he pioneered the improvised explosive device (IED), the most important weapon of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Britain Lawrence is revered as a figure of romance, the camel-mounted scholar-warrior in flowing robes, but his reputation comes tinged with a distinctly British embarrassment. Lawrence was stupendously strange: a diminutive, ruthless, obsessive, sexually repressed oddity, who spent his life striving for attention, and then rejected it.

What is too often forgotten in the mythologising (and debunking) of Lawrence is his enduring legacy as a military strategist of genius and cold-eyed guerrilla leader.

I like one particular statement.

Lawrence believed that “winning hearts and minds” (a term that would have made him snort) could only be achieved by education or cash, and never by coercion. “The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armoury of the modern commander,” he wrote. The Arab rebellion was fought with new British tactics, and bought with new British gold.

The trouble is the Americans used to think that the only good Indian was a dead one and their thinking hasn’t changed much to reflect the modern age.

Every politician and military man, from the highest general to the lowest private, should read Ben MacIntyre’s article and then be tested on it.

My father was a printer and one of the most interesting things I saw in Belarus was this battlefield printing press from the Second World War.

Battlefield Printing Press, Minsk

The Russians and Belarussians obviously know their T. E. Lawrence and it served them well, when they turned the Nazis in 1941.

I share two things with Lawrence;stature and birthday.

December 21, 2010 - Posted by | World | , , ,


  1. Have been to Wadi Rum…the hideaway in Jordan.

    The memorial to Lawrence…looks uncannily like Peter O’Toole…

    If you havent read the 7 Book Pillars of Wisdom…you should. Not easy reading..but well worth it..

    I have a photograph of the real 7 Pillars as my screen saver here at work….

    Comment by Apricot | December 22, 2010 | Reply

  2. Remember Orde Wingate was related to Lawrence.

    Comment by AnonW | December 22, 2010 | Reply

  3. Laurence was a great man even though he has been described as being odd and maybe ecentric , who of us are perfect anyway. The military should take a leaf out of his book. I would love to get a chance to see his memoral in Middle East in Wadi RumM I will get a copy of his book.

    Comment by Lea | December 23, 2010 | Reply

  4. I agree totally Lea. All great military commanders seem to have been a bit eccentric. Look at Montgomery, Wingate, Mountbatten and Nelson. And that’s just a few of the British. The only one who appeared to be totally normal, but one of the great commanders, was the victor of Quiberon Bay, Lord Hawke. He was a great thinker, who won that battle by supreme logistics and then the most amazing courageous chase along the French coast. He was offered a funeral in St. Paul’s, but chose to be buried alongside his wife in a Hampshire village church. His legacy is great in that he effectively wrote the book on naval tactics. His World War 2 equivalent would be A B Cunningham.

    Apricot, have you got any pictures?

    Comment by AnonW | December 24, 2010 | Reply

  5. […] tend to forget the lessons of history.  I would also hope that they also read the thoughts of Airchaftsman Shaw. 52.245212 […]

    Pingback by US Troops Turn to a Tricycle « The Anonymous Widower | January 11, 2011 | Reply

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