Editor: I fear the muted din echoing in the distance is emanating once more from the drums of war being beat by those urging America’s military involvement in the mid-East. With this in mind it seemed an opportune moment to revisit an article I wrote which was printed elsewhere a few years ago. The message is still pertinent today, and perhaps even more so in view of the fact we still find ourselves bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan with no real satisfactory conclusion in sight.
In my letter I cautioned against ignoring the lessons of history when making decisions, especially when those decisions involve military commitment. In order to add emphasis and lend authority to my message I quoted a chillingly prescient article written by Col. T.E. Lawrence. It was sent from Arabia and subsequently published in the London Times in 1920.
Quoting the author he wrote, “The people of England have been led in Iraq into a trap from which it is hard to escape with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. Today, we are not far from disaster.”
The writer then went on to explain the difficulty of trying to impose western style democracy on nations to whom the concept itself was foreign, and which in many instances violated their religious beliefs. Taking liberty here, it is my contention he was including in this admonition all Arab and Muslim nations.
Resuming the quote he went on to argue, “How long will we permit millions of pounds, thousands of troops and tens of thousands of Arabs to be sacrificed on behalf of a colonial administration which can benefit nobody but its administration?”
It is fair to say in view of what has transpired in the past few years that “Lawrence of Arabia” knew that of which he spoke. Unfortunately, we (Americans) have turned a deaf ear to his message, or for that matter to the messages of anyone proffering similar arguments in protest of our actions. Will we ever learn to listen, or more importantly, listen to learn?