Essay May 2009

Essay May 2009-36
The British were helping the Arabs in their uprising, and the initial focus was Medina, the city at the end of a long railroad that the Turks had built, running south from Damascus and down through the Hejaz desert.The Turks had amassed a large force in Medina, and the British leadership wanted Lawrence to gather the Arabs and destroy the Turkish garrison there, before the Turks could threaten the entire region.

The typical Bedouin soldier carried no more than a rifle, a hundred rounds of ammunition, forty-five pounds of flour, and a pint of drinking water, which meant that he could travel as much as a hundred and ten miles a day across the desert, even in summer.

“Our cards were speed and time, not hitting power,” Lawrence wrote.

The shift, to his mind, is one of kind, not just of degree. “You know, when you get on a plane and your bag doesn’t, they actually know right away that it’s not there.

But no one tells you, and a big part of that is that they don’t have all their information in one place.

When they finally arrived at Aqaba, Lawrence’s band of several hundred warriors killed or captured twelve hundred Turks, and lost only two men.

The Turks simply did not think that their opponent would be mad enough to come at them from the desert. David can beat Goliath by substituting effort for ability—and substituting effort for ability turns out to be a winning formula for underdogs in all walks of life, including little blond-haired girls on the basketball court.Ranadivé knew that if they played the conventional way—if they let their opponents dribble the ball up the court without opposition—they would almost certainly lose to the girls for whom basketball was a passion. “I mean, my father had never played basketball before.”David’s victory over Goliath, in the Biblical account, is held to be an anomaly. The Goliaths, he found, won in 71.5 per cent of the cases. Arreguín-Toft was analyzing conflicts in which one side was at least ten times as powerful—in terms of armed might and population—as its opponent, and even in those lopsided contests the underdog won almost a third of the time.Ranadivé came to America as a seventeen-year-old, with fifty dollars in his pocket. His second principle, then, was that his team would play a real full-court press, every game, all the time. In the Biblical story of David and Goliath, David initially put on a coat of mail and a brass helmet and girded himself with a sword: he prepared to wage a conventional battle of swords against Goliath. “I cannot walk in these, for I am unused to it,” he said (in Robert Alter’s translation), and picked up those five smooth stones.If a businessman waits until the end of the month to collect and count his receipts, he’s “batch processing.” There is a gap between the events in the company—sales—and his understanding of those events. The information on which a trader based his decisions was scattered across a number of databases.The trader would collect information from here and there, collate and analyze it, and then make a trade. Ranadivé views this move from batch to real time as a sort of holy mission.There are passenger systems that know where the passenger is.There are aircraft and maintenance systems that track where the plane is and what kind of shape it’s in.But when Lawrence looked at his ragtag band of Bedouin fighters he realized that a direct attack on Medina would never succeed. The Turks sat in Medina “on the defensive, immobile.” There were so many of them, consuming so much food and fuel and water, that they could hardly make a major move across the desert.Instead of attacking the Turks at their point of strength, Lawrence reasoned, he ought to attack them where they were weak—along the vast, largely unguarded length of railway line that was their connection to Damascus.Lawrence’s masterstroke was an assault on the port town of Aqaba.The Turks expected an attack from British ships patrolling the waters of the Gulf of Aqaba to the west.


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