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Saturday, November 6, 2021

Ignoring Genghis Khan–The Happy Face Idealism Of The Political Left

Genghis Khan was a charismatic and fearsome figure.  He and his armies were known for their cruelty and barbarity, and the sight of them advancing across the battlefield in a storm of dust, the earth shaking with the thunder of 50,000 hooves, was enough to send enemies into retreat. The thought alone of this terrible, bloodthirsty, and mighty warrior was enough to rout enemy armies. Genghis Khan was a man of absolute will and power, a frightening presence of power and vengeance.  He was a horseman of the Apocalypse.

There have been many successful armies in the world.  Julius Caesar, Scipio Africanus, Pompey the Great, and Marcus Agrippa were as brilliant generals as Genghis Khan, and brought Roman organization, discipline, and management to the battle.  They won because of superior ability, armaments, and military thinking; yet it was Genghis Khan who, with an almost untamed savagery, conquered the world.  At its height the Mongol Empire extended from far eastern China to the Danube, the biggest empire the world has ever seen. 

Image result for map of the mongol empire

Genghis Khan was a brilliant strategist, canny politician who through tact, intimidation, and offers of great spoils, enticed the warlike Turkic tribes to join his armies, nearly doubling their strength.  However, it was not only the might of his imposing armies, nor his ability to manage, discipline, and control such a large and diverse military force; nor even his tactical acumen and understanding of calculated risk which assured victory.  It was his indomitable, absolute, unalloyed will. 

Khan had no qualms, moral reservations, or ethical hesitancy.  Wars were for winning, civilians were complicit enemies, and total annihilation of any opposition was his modus belli. Not only would defeated populations be without the wherewithal to mount a resistance or counterattack, they would never dare to incite the bloody, murderous, savage wrath of the conqueror.

William Tecumseh Sherman understood this lesson well, and rode through South Carolina, the first state to secede from the union and fire the first shots against the North, intent on destroying every building, every crop, every monument, and every byway of the state to teach it an unforgettable lesson – the South will never rise again.

Image result for images wm tecumseh sherman

A century later Israeli Defense Forces followed the lessons of Sherman and Genghis Khan.  Attacks on the State of Israel would be met not only with reprisal, but with the full might of its military power.  It’s retaliation would  be complete, disproportionate, and annihilating.  The integrity and survival of the State of Israel would never, ever be compromised, and any action to assure its safety would be justified.

Today’s political progressives choose to ignore Genghis Khan as an anomaly, a one-time phenomenon, a primitive throwback to the Stone Age.  There are no lessons to be taken from him, they say, except for his irrelevance to our newly aware, profoundly moral, utopian age.  Social progress will be assured through dialogue, diplomacy, and good will.  

Progressives are undeterred by the brutality of ISIS, an amoral incarnation of Genghis Khan.  ISIS declared their intention to create a radical Islamic caliphate that would extend far beyond its narrow Middle Eastern lands.  ISIS was implacable, determined, and unbowed by any appeal to human dignity, compassion, or moral justice.  They were just as brutally savage as the armies of Genghis Khan, just as willful, and just as sure of victory.

Image result for images ISIS guerrillas

Yes, say progressives, but ISIS was defeated by the forces of right, extinguished, eliminated from the world’s stage.  A smudge on history’s archives.  What these progressives choose to ignore was the frightening will and determination of ISIS – and by extension any human group - to act violently with brutal territorial aggression.   Worse, they chose to ignore irreducible, permanent, and inexhaustible human nature – a nature which is one of unmediated self-interest, self-defense, and territorial ambition; the nature of babies, children, adolescents, and adults; and by extension of tribes, communities, regions, and nations.

No amount of hopeful, wishful thinking, moral enterprise, or righteousness will purge, expunge, and relegate these human energies.  The only time in recorded human history that peace ruled the world was during the Pax Romana, a two hundred year period during which no serious armed threat was mounted against the Roman Empire. Of course this empire, extending impressively from east to west, although only half the size of conquered Mongol territories, was secured through military victory.  Compliance with Roman rule – the key to peace – was assured through brilliant civilian leadership, canny threat-and-reward diplomacy, and impressive administration and management.

For the rest of our 10,000 years, violence, brutality, conquest, and bloody empire have been the rule; and the acquisition, maintenance, and extension of power at all levels of human society is still our modus operandi.

Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were no anomalies, no steps out of historical line.  They were the inheritors of Genghis Khan and his impressive modern exponents.  It is only vanity, historical ignorance, and incredible idealism which closes the blinds on the Twentieth Century.  It is inevitable that men like these will return.

Image result for images stalin

The question, of course, is just where does this unlikely optimism come from? If history cannot provide the answers, then on what foundation can it possibly lie? It is even more surprising since today’s liberal political philosophy is based on the failed promises of Marx and Lenin, and the manipulative social reforms of 20th century communists who insisted wrongly that the state could indeed engineer goodness and social equality.

Some historians have suggested that American political liberalism is the stepchild of the Oneida colony and the Utopian, naturalist movement of the 19th century and the influence of Rousseau and American naturalists.  Utopianism of course had earlier European roots and the works of Francis Bacon and Sir Thomas More were influential in suggesting that idealism was not fantasy, but an actionable notion.   Most other historians conclude that the liberal fascination with socialism as the fairest, kindest, most compassionate political system is behind today’s progressivism.  A belief in idealism is itself idealistic, but progressives never admit to being caught in a tautology.

Conservatives on the other hand, accept human nature for what it is and do not shy away from its competitive aggressiveness which, they say, is the real engine of progress. Competitive, free enterprise, has created wealth, opportunity, and distinction not only in America but in China and India, two formerly impoverished nations which, once they had jettisoned old Soviet-style command economies quickly became world economic players.

Yes, conservatives say, this aggressive, territorial, self-interested human nature will be the cause of future armed conflict between interest groups, regions, and nations; but that is as it has always been.  Arming rather than disarming is the only reasonable, historical move in a hostile world.  Wars will inevitably happen, and victory should always be the goal.

Conservatives are content with the legacy of Genghis Khan and have no issue with the Crusades, the Persian Empire, the Seleucids, or Gao.  Europe, China, Japan, and India were at constant war for centuries, and while there were winners and losers, there was no moral consequence.  History was simply reconfigured. 

Image result for images crusades

All of which is to explain conservatives’ bemusement at progressive utopianism, an ill-conceived, ahistorical, idealistic political philosophy.  There is no doubt, these conservatives conclude, that the current reformist hysteria will die down, progressivism will go the way of socialism and communism, and America will return unabashedly and unashamedly to its Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian principles.

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