T.E. Lawrence: Enigma in the Desert

Born today was T.E. Lawrence.

A retrospect his legacy warrants:

A harbinger of Arab Spring?

Or terrorists-inspiring?

"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."

- Winston Churchill

" Perhaps the most well-known figure in the history of nationalist terrorism is Colonel T.E. Lawrence ("of Arabia"), who organized the 1916-1918 insurgency by Arab irregulars against Ottoman Turks."

-Tom O'Connor


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  • One could debate whether terrorism as we know it existed then, as the defining principle seems to be inflicting harm (terror) on civilians without any clear strategic goal.

    In this case, England had the clear strategic goal of overcoming the Ottoman Empire in WWI. One could argue that it wasn't Arab nationalism, because England and France then took control themselves. Both made conflicting territorial promises to various Arab "kings," and England, in the Balfour Declaration, to the Zionists, resulting in the post-1948 strife.

    So, I don't buy what O'Connor is quoted as saying.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, in the little that I know about Lawrence, I strongly agree with you. According to Michael Korda, if Lawrence's Middle East plan had been followed by France and England---who instead betrayed the Arab insurgents and partitioned the area---we would have peace in the Middle East today. Churchill, I believe, was hardly using hyperbole in his assessment of this visionary and indomitable hero.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    All I know is that Churchill's statement squares with the movie, which basically portrayed Lawrence as a white guy in a white sheet on a camel.

    I don't know if Lawrence had a plan, but the territorial allotment after WWI indicated that the British and French conned someone. From what I was told, Britain told the forebear of the Jordanian king that he could have Syria, but the French had it, so the British promised him Transjordan, including parts that conflicted with the Balfour Declaration. The official Jordanian web site backs that up, including saying that they couldn't kick the French out of Damascus, a relative was given the Kingdom of Iraq until deposed, and the Zionists were angered about the 1923 severance of Transjordan from Palestine, because it included potential Jewish territory.

    As to whether anything after WWI would have led to peace, one has to take into account the not only the situation in Iraq but also the website noting that the Sauds and Wahabbis kicked the Hashemites out of Saudi Arabia.

    I'm surprised that the Jordanians are being that honest about their origins, but I guess they are now part of the West, in thinking.

  • 'we would have peace in the Middle East today.'

    Aquinas, your swinging for the fences with that one.

  • In reply to 4zen:

    Not me, it's the opinion of historian Michael Korda in his book "Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia".

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    I wonder if Mr. Korda believes Britain and France are responsible for 1,400 years of Shiite/Sunni warfare?

  • In reply to 4zen:

    I don't have a pipeline to Mr. Korda. But I don't think the exploitation of the Middle East by Western powers helped to achieve an entente between the two sects.

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