'Rebellions can be made by 2 per cent active and 98 per cent passively sympathetic'
By Robert Fisk
"Back in 1929, Lawrence of Arabia wrote the entry for "Guerrilla" in the 14th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It is a chilling read - and here I thank one of my favourite readers, Peter Metcalfe of Stevenage, for sending me TE's remarkable article - because it contains so ghastly a message to the American armies in Iraq.
Writing of the Arab resistance to Turkish occupation in the 1914-18 war, he asks of the insurgents (in Iraq and elsewhere): "... suppose they were an influence, a thing invulnerable, intangible, without front or back, drifting about like a gas? Armies were like plants, immobile as a whole, firm-rooted, nourished through long stems to the head. The Arabs might be a vapour..."
How typical of Lawrence to use the horror of gas warfare as a metaphor for insurgency. To control the land they occupied, he continued, the Turks "would have need of a fortified post every four square miles, and a post could not be less than 20 men. The Turks would need 600,000 men to meet the combined ill wills of all the local Arab people. They had 100,000 men available."
Now who does that remind you of? The "fortified post every four square miles" is the ghostly future echo of George W Bush's absurd "surge". The Americans need 600,000 men to meet the combined ill will of the Iraqi people, and they have only 150,000 available. Donald Rumsfeld, the architect of "war lite" is responsible for that. Yet still these rascals get away with it......
"Rebellion must have an unassailable base ...
In the minds of men converted to its creed. It must have a sophisticated alien enemy, in the form of a disciplined army of occupation too small to fulfil the doctrine of acreage: too few to adjust number to space, in order to dominate the whole area effectively from fortified posts.
"It must have a friendly population, not actively friendly, but sympathetic to the point of not betraying rebel movements to the enemy. Rebellions can be made by 2 per cent active in a striking force, and 98 per cent passively sympathetic ... Granted mobility, security ... time, and doctrine ... victory will rest with the insurgents, for the algebraical factors are in the end decisive, and against them perfections of means and spirit struggle quite in vain."
Has the US General David Petraeus read this? Has Bush? Have any of the tired American columnists whose anti-Arab bias is wobbling close to racism, bothered to study this wisdom?.....
So we are going to have yet another war in the Middle East, this time against Hamas - democratically elected, of course, but only as a result of what Pipes calls "the Bush administration's heedless rush to Palestinian elections"? It's good to see that the late Tony Blair is already being dubbed a "savant". But shouldn't Pipes, too, read Lawrence? For insurgency is a more powerful "vapour" than that which comes from the mouths of illusionists."