Sunday, July 31, 2005

Lawrence of Arabia on insurgency

The Carl von Clausewitz of insurgency is T. E. Lawrence. From an article by James J. Schneider, professor of military theory at the School of Advanced Military Studies, U.S. Command and Gen. Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (pdf here):

". . . Lawrence distilled six fundamental principles of insurgency that even today have remarkable relevance. First, a successful guerrilla movement must have an unassailable base - a base secure not only from direct physical assault, but from attack in other forms as well, including psychological attack. Second, the guerrilla must have a technologically sophisticated enemy. The greater this sophistication, the greater this alien force would rely on forms of communications and logistics that must necessarily present vulnerabilities to the irregular. Third, the enemy must be sufficiently weak in numbers so as to be unable to occupy the disputed territory in depth with a system of interlocking fortified posts. Fourth, the guerrilla must have at least the passive support of the populace, if not its full involvement. By Lawrence's calculation, 'Rebellions can be made by 2 percent active in striking force and 98 percent passively sympathetic.' Fifth, the irregular force must have the fundamental qualities of speed, endurance, presence and logistical independence. Sixth, the irregular must be sufficiently advanced in weaponry to strike at the enemy's logistics and signals vulnerabilities."

Schneider goes on to explain how an insurgency can be defeated. What is remarkable is how closely Lawrence's principles apply to the Americans in Iraq. Most notable is the technologically sophisticated - and dependent - army that, thanks to Rumsfeld's faulty calculations, is of insufficient strength in numbers to secure the territory it must cover.