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T. E. Lawrence to Sir Hugh Trenchard


Karachi

May 1 1928.

THE R.A.F.

[50 lines omitted] Please make no mistake here. I've enlisted twice in the British Army, and twice in the Air Force. I've seen from the inside the Turkish and Arab armies, and something of the Navy. The R.A.F. is streets finer, in morale and brains and eagerness, than the lot of them. In ten years it's become the best Service. Agreed it is not perfect. It never will be. We grumble - over trifles, mainly customs of dress which you've inherited from the older services. [60 lines omitted]

THE WAHABI BUSINESS

I'm sorry for the Beduin, high-spirited, ignorant animals, led astray by fanatics. Religious theories are the devil, when they are ridden too hard, and begin to dictate conduct.

An accommodation between Ibn Saud and Feisal could be arranged, but would not cure your trouble, at the moment. I don't think they are the main people, or the parties with the initiative. Ibn Saud was a fine company-commander, who's a bit out of his depth with a battalion. He's trying to bestride two worlds, the desert and the towns. It has never been done so far, except episodically. Feisal wanted to attempt it, in 1918: and I broke him away, then, from the nomads, roughly. I don't believe you can yet unite, or federate, or crush into one tyranny even, any two Arabic-speaking districts; yet. Ibn Saud can only recover the Mteir and Ateiba by forgetting the towns, or by using the towns to crush them. By the first course he loses his revenue. He's too indebted to the tribes, and I hope too decent a fellow, to do the second. If you squeeze him he may try to do it; and will then, I think, break himself - to your loss, for he is our one real asset in his kingdom.

The fellow you need to influence is Feisal el Dueish, or whoever is the driving force behind the raiders. If I were at Ur, my instinct would be to walk without notice into his headquarters. He'd not likely kill an unarmed, solitary man (Arabs are very curious-minded) and in two days guesting I could give him horizons beyond the Brethren. He would make a wonderful border-warden, if he once got out of the ruck. Men of decision are rare in the Desert and in London.

I beg of you not to order your Political Officer to execute this suggestion straight away: or Feisal may execute your P.Os. Such performances require a manner to carry them off. I've done it four times, or is it five? A windy business. It's only my primary instinct. To change it into a plan would require local knowledge, of the situation's details, and the local casualties, and temper. In the East, if you have your ear right close to the ground, you hear everything that's happening, and a great deal more. The selective ear tunes out the false news, and that's the difference between good politics and bad. [6 lines omitted]

Of course there's no danger in the Shamiya situation: it's a nuisance only. It should not be expensive, unless you try to meet like with like. Beduin on camels will make a meal of any civilised camel-corps: or of infantry in the open: or of cavalry anyhow. Nor does a static defence of a line avail. You need an elastic defence, in depth of at least 100 miles. Explored tracks for cars, threading this belt, approved landing-grounds, sited pillboxes of blockhouses, occupied occasionally and then fed and linked by armoured cars, and supervised from the air. Care will open almost the whole desert to motor traffic, and petrol is the tactical key to the situation. I could defend all E. Transjordan with a fist-full of armoured cars, and trained crews. [70 lines omitted]

Source: DG 598-600
Checked: dn/
Last revised: 27 February 2006


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