16. Far From Swamping Their Enemies With Superior Numbers, the Mongols Won Despite Being Outnumbered
The Mongols relied on superior strategy, tactics, training, discipline, and speed. Contra the mistaken perception of their massive “hordes”, the Mongols won despite being numerical underdogs because they were professionals, and extremely good at the business of war. They consistently beat bigger opponents by leveraging their own strengths, while ruthlessly exploiting the weaknesses of their enemies. Adding up all the preceding, the result was the most effective, efficient, and terrifying military machine that the world had ever known. And it all began with Genghis Khan, born Temujin (1162 – 1227). With diplomatic maneuvering, backed by force when warranted, Temujin took over the Mongol clans, one at a time.
He ruthlessly eradicated tribal distinctions by exterminating the nobility, and combined the commoners into a single Mongol tribe, united by their personal loyalty to him. He then took on the rival Tatar tribe, defeated them, and executed all males taller than a wagon’s axle. By 1206, Temujin had destroyed all Steppe rivals, and united feuding tribes into a Mongol nation. That year, he called for a grand assembly, and revealed his vision, endorsed by shamans, that the heavens had ordained that he rule all under the sky. The Mongols proclaimed him “Genghis Khan“, meaning Universal Ruler.