The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Lessons from Lawrence of Arabia

In ruminating on the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E. Lawrence's second book on the war in the desert, I've thought of some other lessons besides the two pages I underlined 5 years ago that bother me when thinking about what we are doing in Iraq.

I will try to incorporate all of the recent and these new ideas into an essay. But here is a heads up on what I've been thinking.

Politics Matters–Especially in the Middle East, our own political requirements we desire to bring about, the political demands of the terrorist that we need to deny them, and the political needs of the Iraqis, in particular, but also all Arabs and Muslims, need to be fulfilled. Are we serving our allies in Iraq and working for their political future, or are our objectives in the current policy only about what we want to happen. Nationalism, Arab nationalism being the unique creation of Lawrence himself, is a strong force and has been for the past 52 years since the fall of the monarchies of Farooq in Egypt and of Feisel in Iraq around 1954. It has almost always been badly led by their own leaders and poorly entertained as a serious concern by the US government. The Iraqis and everyone in the Muslim rim, which is the location of our so-called clash of civilizations, have a right to the four freedoms, open, responsive and responsible, and sovereign self-government in their nations. I don't see us drawing that connection between our own political policy and the military policy stemming from it on the ground in the Middle East. WE ARE NOT MAKING VITAL CONNECTIONS WITH THESE STRONG, EMOTIONAL, ---REAL---, INSTINCTS of the people over there.

Economics Determines Strategy--Despite a quite significant technological edge with our military, we are finding that our resources, especially the human element forgotten in Rumsfeld's "transformation," is a finite resource, more fragile than we thought after Desert Storm, but in the same sort of way in terms of morale, continuity, training, and equipment that we experienced in Vietnam. Economics of our own force (economy of force), the economic impact of a war on our financial security, and the economic prize over which we have been struggling for in the Middle East since 1944-5, have dictated in a lot of ways what we have been capable and not capable of doing. As far as a lesson from Lawrence, the limited economic buy-offs and the cost of military support that Great Britain ended up giving to the Arab revolt ended up paying bonus dividends in terms of what was accomplished. Are we following the same prudent strategy, or are we being unnecessarily parsimonious with what we have been doing. This area deserves further study.

Social Networks--Nothing, not our own chain of command, not convincing town mayors or tribal and clan chiefs in Iraq--nothing gets done outside of the person-to-person pathways. In war, as in business and politics and general, who one knows largely determines how much is going to be achieved. In Lawrence’s war, the British could order something done, but othing in the Middle East, and this is instructive in our current war against the terrorist, gets done without talking it over and using persuasion (whether logic, self-interest or bribes--just like in America) to secure consent and cooperation. Are we exploiting the social networks well enough in Iraq? I don't know. But I do know convincing people to stop supporting insurgents won't happen by killing people or imprisoning them. It will only happen through convincing, conviction, and the free-will cooperation of those involved.

Finally, Culture is Key-- WWII wasn’t a victory in the spring and summer of 1945, nor for that matter did World War I end, then, let alone in 1918. The Axis were defeated militarily but it was not a true victory for the allies until Germany and Japan turned their cultures from autocratic militarism to liberal democracy. We shouldn't expect this "long war" to end until both our culture and theirs come to some sort of balance of interest, a mutual understanding, the formation of a symbiotic system where we both recognize that Christianity and Islam must coexist. That means we might have to change and they definitely will have to. Without that cultural peace pact, there is no end.

Well, these are some thoughts. I've been going over a lot of past half written material for my essay. I'll see how it all fits together.


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