Lawrence was describing the arabs of the early 20th century, all the way back to antiquity. And he may as well have been describing modern arabs. The recent raids for hostages by Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel, are prototypical arab tribal raids, a throwback to prehistoric raiding cultures.
At one time, arabs in the Mecca/Medina area made progress toward civilisation, by moving away from raids and blood feuds--the tribal ethic--toward trade and laws. Then came Muhammad, who forced the return to tribal blood feuds, raids for slaves, and other primitive tribal customs. But Muhammad wanted to lead one great tribe--the Umma. He wanted to bring primitive arab barbarism to the entire world, under the banner of a religion custom-made for that purpose, Islam.
Ancient tribal societies, especially nomadic societies, which frequently came upon other societies, were warrior societies. Warfare was a part of their culture. Men wanted to be good at it for the sake of their people and to be respected.Source.
Men exercised their skills as warriors by raiding. Raiding happened among tribal people .... Beyond raiding, battles among tribal people were fought. People have gone to war believing that sickness of disease among them was caused by a member or members of another society having cast an evil spell on them...... In the twentieth century the Yanomami of Brazil went to war believing that an evil spirit had been cast upon them - wars for retribution or punishment. Or tribal people went to war merely because tribe had come upon tribe. We have knowledge of tribe coming upon tribe in Eastern Africa, the men of each side in ranks, posturing with their weapons and making threatening gestures, with their women watching from the sidelines, cheering them on.
The nature of war changed when tribes on the move saw advantage in holding ground and exploiting those they came upon. This happened after settled people were successful enough in agriculture to have surplus enough for conquerors to tax. With this, empire was born. A local ruler, if he survived conquest, might become a tool of the conqueror, collecting taxes and controlling the locals for the conquerors.
Wars for empire were wars for wealth. Power was the instrument for wealth and also a means of protecting oneself. In the earliest age of empire -- which included the time of the Sumerians -- the idea arose that if one did not conquer he would be conquered. A competition for power had erupted. Wars were common because a would be conqueror perceived others as weaker. And warring was accepted. Civilization had arrived but the world was still fragmented. Each conqueror had his own god - the ancient Hebrews included - and a conqueror spoke of his conquests as the conquest of his god. He saw his god as more powerful than the god of rival peoples. There was no recognized political body with rules as to which power should rule where. In such a world there were many ready to go to battle to settle petty disputes. War was often chosen over negotiation and compromise. There was fear of becoming a slave or annihilation, and there was still an inclination to see those of the other side as not worthy of the kind of trust and friendship that made agreements work.
It was not an age when people of different groupings were looked upon as equal. It was not a democratic age. It was, instead, the age described in the Old Testament, an age when authority was created and demonstrated through violence.
Muhammad wanted to place the entire world under the banner of Allah, the conqueror's god. Since Islam was born of primitive arab tribal customs, these customs would eventually rule any world that Allah's fighters conquered.
It seems clear that Muhammed became the leader of the Muslim Arabs because his personal qualities and feats as a religious, military, political, legislative, and judicial leader proved to his followers that he was the charismatic leader that he claimed to be. It is very doubtful, however, that he would have been at all successful had he not respected to an absolute degree the internal structure and independence of the tribe and its leadership. Even his own personal followers, the Muhajirun, were accepted into the Medinan tribal system as members of an individual tribe responsible directly to himself. The geneological principle obviously prevailed since their being Muhajirun never meant that they ceased to be Quraysh. Also the idea generally prevailed that the successors to the Caliphate had to be Quraysh. This failure of the early community and of Muhammed himself to overcome tribal structures other than in the terms outlined gave rise to impossible problems with the subsequent conversion of great masses of people, culturally superior to the Arab clansmen, by means of clientship. This was not due to the lack of a universal religious outlook on the part of Muhammed or his followers, but rather to the inability of the Arab mind, including that of Muhammed, to think of society other than in terms of tribal structures.
So Muhammad led the arabs of Mecca and Medina from a more enlightened culture back into the primitive barbarism of arab tribal blood feud/slaving culture. Then he permanently fossilized this primitivism into the Islamic religion so that no one could be muslim without submitting to the primitive barbarism of ancient tribal raiding/slaving culture.
This is an ongoing horrific crime against over a billion people of the modern world, a crime that threatens the future of western civilisation and the human race itself. For if the civilised world can find no way to deal with an ascendant primitivism that arms itself with weapons of mass death, massive slaughter and destruction is inevitable.