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Iraqi insurgents have frustrated U.S. forces using tactics traced to Lawrence of Arabia

If anyone can claim credit for inventing the improvised explosive device, it's Lawrence of Arabia.

When insurgents in Iraq use IEDs to attack armored vehicles and disrupt U.S. supply lines, they are taking a page from the less-advanced tactics of T.E. Lawrence, the British adventurer who pioneered guerrilla warfare during the 1916-18 Arab revolt against Turkish rule. His main lesson for insurgents: If you're facing a bigger and better-armed adversary, don't engage him directly.

Lawrence introduced many innovations to modern guerrilla wars, but perhaps his most effective technique was the use of mines to disrupt Turkish trains and supply convoys. "We had proved that a well-laid mine would fire; and that a well-laid mine was difficult even for its maker to discover," he wrote in his 1922 memoir, "Seven Pillars of Wisdom." "Mines were the best weapon yet discovered to make the regular working of their trains costly and uncertain for our Turkish enemy."

Today, Iraqi insurgents are using more powerful explosives and sophisticated methods to detonate their IEDs, but the basic purpose is the same as it was in Lawrence's time: to inflict casualties and damage the morale of a militarily superior enemy.

IEDs have been the leading cause of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq, accounting for more than half of those killed since February of last year. Overall, 724 U.S. troops have been killed by IEDs since the American invasion in March 2003.

As U.S. casualties mounted, the Pentagon created an IED Task Force in 2004 to find technological solutions and to better protect U.S. troops. Last year, military officials spent about $1.2 billion on counter-IED measures, and this year they plan to spend $3.5 billion.