Genghis Khan – Beyond his Brutality

My oldest son and I attended a traveling Genghis Khan museum exhibit on Sunday which is on our city for a few months. He is fascinated by Khan and his legacy that brought his Mongols to the doorsteps of Europe and conquered most of Asia, including China. He listens to a podcast with an avid and knowledgeable historian about Khan.

Khan first consolidated the nomadic tribes of Mongolia who tended to fight amongst themselves. He then turned his sights on other lands and was quite brutal in his quest. Yet, the story that cements his rule is he was a great leader that understood merit hiring over nepotism and allowed certain freedoms. More on this later.

The Mongols were a formidable fighting force for three principal reasons. They were superior horsemen where the entire battalion would attack on horseback overwhelming superior numbers. And, what amazed me is each rider would travel with two to three horses. Their army could move 75 miles in contrast to an opponent’s ten.

They were prolific archers with self-made and unusually shaped bows, which could shoot as far as 350 yards, much longer than other bows. And, they could shoot them accurately off horseback, even backwards. Often, the Mongols would pretend to retreat to lure their foes out and then reverse course and attack.

Finally, Khan organized them into a fighting force in numbers of ten. Each battalion had multiple groups of ten, who picked their own leader. And, the group of ten would be punished as a group for the failures of the one. These tens would be multiplied to a battalion of a thousand or ten thousand, which would be a potent and organized force.

Once a group was conquered, after certain leaders would be killed, the subordinate troops would swear allegiance and fight with the Mongols. They would not rule as harshly as they conquered, as they wanted the civilians to support the conquering enemy and new leadership. Plus, there were several governing principles that last to this day.

  • Religious freedom was provided where people would worship their religion of choice. Several religions were readily available even in the capitol city.
  • Civil service officials came from a wide swath of people based on merit. So, civil service officials were more proficient than if they were hired on relationships..
  • Diplomatic immunity was afforded any envoy traveling from another kingdom to visit. Kings do not kill envoys was a stated rule.
  • People could move around with some limits as a passport system offered organized travel. One passport we saw had three languages on it.
  • Environmental mandates were given for communities to protect their water sources.
  • Taxation was often lowered on the conquered lands and exemptions afforded teachers and religious figures.
  • Communication and organization were key. Some say Khan brought an organized purpose to previous rivals to fight together. The same held true in his governance.

These principles can be found in many societies today. The empire lasted for several hundred years, but what caused its retrenchment, in my view, are the vast distances to govern, but also the infighting of the Khan siblings and offspring. HIs grandson Kublai Khan was the last of the great Khan leaders, so after his demise, the empire started a slow wane.

If this exhibit comes to your city, I would encourage you to go see it. I am certain their are people more knowledgeable than me who can offer more specifics about the Mongolian empire, its rise, its governance and its decline. I would welcome any and all comments, especially if I am off base.

 

Example of how the media promotes conflict

In my business career, I became accustomed to the US regulatory process. Congress would pass laws and the Department of Labor (DOL), IRS, EEOC, etc. would pass regulations to administer the laws. And, they used to be reported as such. The DOL released proposed regulations today, e.g.

Now, to promote conflict, these departments are rolled up into one category – the Obama Administration. This likely started before with George W. Bush, but to me it is done to represent that the President must be extending his powers. When, in fact, it is these departments doing what they have always done, nothing more or less.

The process works usually like this. A department will propose new or revised regulations to address a new law or an outdated one. There will be a formal comment period where feedback is sought. Then, the proposed regulations will be revised and another comment period may occur. Then, the regulations will be released.

To their credit, the departments do listen to feedback. And, sometimes if the pushback is so severe, they will be pulled and redone. Back in the early 1990s, there were some regulations passed that were so-God awful (called Section 89 to regulate non-discrimination in healthcare benefits), they were pulled.

While regulations come in all shapes and sizes, I want to take the chance to mention my favorite regulations issued by the IRS. I call them the Mea Culpa regulations, but they are better known as the Voluntary Compliance Program. In essence, if an employer discovers an error in compliance, it can remedy the problem and approach the IRS with its solution. They would pay a set small fine from a menu of choices and demonstrate how they fixed the problem. Often, it would be restoring lost benefits or financial restitution to affected employees. This happens more than you would think, but it is a great example when government gets it right.

So, the next time you hear reference to the Obama administration doing something. Let’s not jump to conclusions. It may just shoddy reporting on a mundane task. Continue reading