Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Mongols

"[The Mongols] were strictly cavalry: on the average, each soldier had
five horses. When it came time to advance, they spread out across the
steppes to ensure that animals could graze, and they milked their
mares along the way. Mostly they moved fast: in the span of
twenty-five years, the Mongols conquered more lands and people than
the Romans did in four centuries.

In Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, the historian Jack
Weatherford describes the Mongol strategies and their impact on other
cultures. Some Mongol characteristics are surprising -- for all their
fearsome reputation, they were remarkably squeamish about the sight of
blood. They despised hand-to-hand combat; bows and arrows were the
preferred weapons. In battle, they liked to keep their distance, and
they became so skilled at siege warfare that they essentially rendered
walled cities obsolete. Diplomacy was another strong suit. Genghis
Khan banned torture and looting, believing them to be
counterproductive, and he established the concept of diplomatic
immunity. He granted religious freedom to the lands he conquered. His
genius was essentially one of recruitment: he was willing to accept
anybody with skills to offer."

From Peter Hessler, Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm
to Factory (Kindle edition, 2010), 17% into the book.