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Thomas Edward Lawrence (T. E.) (1888 – 1935)


Better known as T E Lawrence or Lawrence of Arabia; for a brief time he also used the name T E Shaw.
Nine-tenths of tactics are certain, and taught in books: but the irrational tenth is like the kingfisher flashing across the pool, and that is the test of generals. It can only be ensured by instinct, sharpened by thought practising the stroke so often that at the crisis it is as natural as a reflex.
Lawrence quotes
Some Englishmen, of whom Kitchener was chief, believed that a rebellion of Arabs against Turks would enable England, while fighting Germany, simultaneously to defeat Turkey. Their knowledge of the nature and power and country of the Arabic-speaking peoples made them think that the issue of such a rebellion would be happy: and indicated its character and method. So they allowed it to begin...
Lawrence
The world looks with some awe upon a man who appears unconcernedly indifferent to home, money, comfort, rank, or even power and fame. The world feels not without a certain apprehension, that here is some one outside its jurisdiction; someone before whom its allurements may be spread in vain; some one strangely enfranchised, untamed, untrammelled by convention, moving independent of the ordinary currents of human action.




With two thousand years of examples behind us, we have no excuses when fighting for not fighting well.
All the revision in the world will not save a bad first draft: for the architecture of the thing comes, or fails to come, in the first conception, and revision only affects the detail and ornament, alas!
There is no other man I know who could have achieved what Lawrence did. As for taking undue credit for himself, my own personal experience with Lawrence is that he was utterly unconcerned whether any kudos was awarded him or not.
To have news value is to have a tin can tied to one’s tail.
The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armoury of the modern commander...
Lawrence
I deem him one of the greatest beings alive in our time... We shall never see his like again. His name will live in history. It will live in the annals of war... It will live in the legends of Arabia.
I'm re-reading it with a slow deliberate carelessness.
At this moment, somewhere in London, hiding from feminine admirers, reporters, book publishers, autograph collections, and every species of hero worship, is a young man whose name will go down in history along with those of Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, Lord Clive, "Chinese" Gordon, and other legendary heroes of Great Britain's glorious past.




It seemed that rebellion must have an unassailable base, something guarded not merely from attack, but from the fear of it: such a base as we had in the Red Sea Parts, the desert, or in the minds of the men we converted to our 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. The few active rebels must have the qualities of speed and endurance, ubiquity and independence of arteries of supply. They must have the technical equipment to destroy or paralyse the enemy’s organized communications, for irregular war is fairly Willisen’s definition of strategy, “the study of communication” in its extreme degree, of attack where the enemy is not.
The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are today not far from a disaster.
Lawrence quotes
An opinion can be argued with; a conviction is best shot. The logical end of a war of creeds is the final destruction of one, and Salammbo is the classical text-book instance.
The sword was odd. The Arab Movement was one: Feisal another (his name means a flashing sword): then there is the excluded notion, Garden of Eden touch: and the division meaning, like the sword in the bed of mixed sleeping, from the Morte d'Arthur. I don't know which was in your mind, but they all came to me — and the sword also means clean-ness, and death.
The Beduin could not look for God within him: he was too sure that he was within God. He could not conceive anything which was or was not God, Who alone was great; yet there was a homeliness, an everyday-ness of this climatic Arab God, who was their eating and their fighting and their lusting, the commonest of their thoughts, their familiar resource and companion, in a way impossible to those whose God is so wistfully veiled from them by despair of their carnal unworthiness of Him and by the decorum of formal worship. Arabs felt no incongruity in bringing God into the weaknesses and appetites of their least creditable causes. He was the most familiar of their words; and indeed we lost much eloquence when making Him the shortest and ugliest of our monosyllables.
This creed of the desert seemed inexpressible in words, and indeed in thought. It was easily felt as an influence, and those who went into the desert long enough to forget its open spaces and its emptiness were inevitably thrust upon God as the only refuge and rhythm of being. The Bedawi might be a nominal Sunni, or a nominal Wahabi, or anything else in the Semitic compass, and he would take it very lightly, a little in the manner of the watchmen at Zion's gate who drank beer and laughed in Zion because they were Zionists. Each individual nomad had his revealed religion, not oral or traditional or expressed, but instinctive in himself; and so we got all the Semitic creeds with (in character and essence) a stress on the emptiness of the world and the fullness of God; and according to the power and opportunity of the believer was the expression of them.
With hindsight, it is easy to see why a slim, self-effacing Englishman named Thomas Edward Lawrence became one of this century's most ballyhooed celebrities. Out of the appalling carnage of World War I — the mud-caked anonymity of the trenches, the hail of mechanized death that spewed from machine guns and fell from airplanes — there emerged a lone Romantic, framed heroically against the clean desert sands of Arabia. U.S. journalist Lowell Thomas was the first to recognize that Lawrence's wartime work — organizing disparate Arab tribes into armed revolt against the occupying Turks, allies of Germany — had pop-myth possibilities. Thomas' publicity essentially created the figure known as Lawrence of Arabia, but others contributed to the saga. Robert Graves wrote a life of Lawrence that appeared in 1927, when its subject was only 39. Lawrence told his own story in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which was published shortly after his death from a motorcycle accident in 1935.
Since then, the Lawrence legend has thrived through a steady stream of biographies and memoirs. ... He would be easier to understand if he were simply larger than life or what his detractors claimed: a self-aggrandizing charlatan. But he took no pleasure in his notoriety; he ran from it. The Selected Letters adds another interpretation to an already overwrought tale. The age demanded a hero, Lawrence qualified, and the 20th century then got what it deserved: a loner, an ascetic, a man who might have been happier as a medieval monk than as the public cynosure he became. No paragon in his own eyes, Lawrence nonetheless remains a haunting presence in the contemporary consciousness, an indissoluble mixture of weaknesses and strength.
The Wahabis, followers of a fanatical Moslem heresy, had imposed their strict rules on easy and civilized Kasim. In Kasim there was but little coffee-hospitality, much prayer and fasting, no tobacco, no artistic dalliance with women, no silk clothes, no gold and silver head-ropes or ornaments. Everything was forcibly pious or forcibly puritanical.
It was a natural phenomenon, this periodic rise at intervals of little more than a century, of ascetic creeds in Central Arabia. Always the votaries found their neighbours' beliefs cluttered with inessential things, which became impious in the hot imagination of their preachers. Again and again they had arisen, had taken possession, soul and body, of the tribes, and had dashed themselves to pieces on the urban Semites, merchants and concupiscent men of the world. About their comfortable possessions the new creeds ebbed and flowed like the tides or the changing seasons, each movement with the seeds of early death in its excess of Tightness. Doubtless they must recur so long as the causes — sun, moon, wind, acting in the emptiness of open spaces, weigh without check on the unhurried and uncumbered minds of the desert-dwellers.
All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.
A disgusting little thing.


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