I asked if he'd consider expanding on his comment, which I found fascinating.
Yes, he would.
In the meantime, here's what he has to say on his blog:
Lawrence's Algebra of Asymetrical WarThanks, P.M.!!!
I left a comment at Private Buffoon mentioning T. E. Lawrence's equation for revolt against an outside power. He's asked me to write a guest post for his site. Which I am honored to supply.
Russ has had a few posts explaining how great powers lose small wars. The term for this type of warfare is referred to as asymetrical, ie how did Hannibal lose the Second Punic War when he constantly defeated the Romans? How did England lose America? How did the U.S. lose in Vietnam?
T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) figured it out and wrote it down in his book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Wonderfully available on the web free of charge. Public domain is soooo nice.
Here is his equation:Then I figured out how many men they (Turks) would need to sit on all this ground, to save it from our attack-in-depth, sedition putting up er head in every unoccupied one off those hundred thousand square miles. I knew the Turkish Army exactly, and even allowing for their recent extension of faculty by aeroplanes and guns and armoured trains (which made the earth a smaller battlefield) still it seemed they would have need of a fortified post every four square miles, and post could not be less than twenty men. If so they would need six hundred thousand men to meet the ill-wills of all the Arab peoples, combined with all the active hostility of a few zealots.He goes on to explain that to win the war they didn't need to kill Turks, only thier materials. Tear up the rail lines, make them have to constantly repair and replace what was destroyed and eventually the monetary cost would make them leave.
How many zealots could we have? At present we had fifty thousand, sufficient for the day. It seemed the assets in this element of war were ours... The Turks were stupid, the Germans behind them dogmatical. They would believe that rebellion was absolute like war, and deal with it on the analogy of war. Analogy in human things was fudge, anyhow; and war upon rebellion was messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife.
Golly Gee does that sound like what's happening to us in Iraq and Afghanistan?
FYI: using the "20 men every 4 square miles" rule equates to a force in Afghanistan of about 1.25Mn!
Given modern communication systems, improved war-making technology, etc., suppose Lawrence's estimate could be halved: that's still more than 600K troops.
... and this seems close to the troop/area ratio Shinseki had in mind for Iraq when he proposed a force of "several hundred thousand" needed to pacify the country following the invasion (taking "several" to mean 3-5... middle = 400K).
So... when was the last time you heard anyone propose sending 500K additional troops to Afghanistan?
When do you think you WILL hear anyone propose sending 500K additional troops to Afghanistan?
... one more thing.
Buried in the Lawrence quotation is following gem:
The Turks were stupid, the Germans behind them dogmatical. They would believe that rebellion was absolute like war, and deal with it on the analogy of war.Why does this sound so familiar?