Friday, November 20, 2009

Americans are not Mongols, you fool.

Nader Fergeny is both correct and inaccurate in his analysis of U.S. intervention in the Middle East, especially as it relates to Iraq. He claims that the Americans are the Mongols of the 21st century. While it is true that we are an outside invader that has taken control of the heart of the Middle East and ‘conquered’ Iraq’s capital of Baghdad. However, there are stark differences to these two invaders. The Mongols come to conquer the Middle East because of its vast wealth and position in the world as a crossroads between East and West. The cities in the region, namely Cairo and Baghdad, were presumably the most wealthy and influential of the time. Today this is not true by a long shot, these are not centers of world economy or policy even if they have large populations they eminence is but a shadow of the past. At this point some might argue that the wealth that we are after is access to the oil market but I would ask that person, is your gas any cheaper today that it was before the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan or the 2003 invasion of Iraq? Out interests and foreign policy in the region does include oil but we do not wish to take it as our own like colonizing powers in the past would have done. We have a threefold policy in the Middle East: 1- security of Israel 2- containment of radical Islamic Terrorism 3- access to oil. These goals have been largely unchanged for decades, only the substitution of containment of radical Islam for the containment of Communism is different.

Back to the Mongol comparison, the success of the Mongol invasion was based on their superior military tactics. Ok, checkmark for the US led invasion of the region; however, the method of achieving victory could not be more different. The Mongols attempted the wholesale slaughter of the Middle Eastern cities population and was largely successful in urban areas. The U.S. stands on high moral grounds in that we do not promote large scale civilian casualties. They do happen but when we are at fault the people responsible are held accountable. This does not happen in authoritarian regimes.


  1. I agree that Fergeny's comparison between the US and the Mongol horde is somewhat justified, but is still offends me. To compare the US campaign in the Middle East to conquering, pillaging Mongols is a vast overstatement. Our goal isn't empire but increased democracy, and human rights, especially for minorities and women. The US is trying to secure our own safety from terrorism, and as David points out, we are not trying to massacre civilians. Though I will admit that the US is not standing on high moral ground, as David argues. We are not as morally superior as we'd like to think. Consider our interest in access oil, our own safety, and our human rights abuses (Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib as two examples). We cannot condemn the Middle East without first considering our own shortcomings.

  2. While I agree with both of you (David and Colleen) that the comparison Fergeny makes between the US and the Mongol Empire is quite extreme, I have to say that this is probably the view that many nations around the world hold about us. Historically western nations have looked out for themselves and have possessed an elitist and egocentrentic view of the world. Based on that I think many nations question that we really are trying to help instill democratic principles and advocate human rights in the Middle East. While traveling abroad, I witnessed firsthand how much people really hate the US and I honestly believe after reading Fergeny's comparison that internationally we are viewed in this light.

  3. right, Americans certainly aren't the Mongol Empire for the 21st Century ( There is definitely no comparison between two empires that have or had great influence over most of the world. Also, America clearly holds the moral high ground, since we would never commit large scale massacres of civilians ( or torture anyone. Well, maybe the torture would exist, but those responsible would certainly be held accountable ( Well, at least we would never hold some kind of theory that that's all ok because we are better than everyone else (

    Of course we as Americans don't want to be thought of as Mongols...but there are reasons we aren't the only ones allowed to make conclusions about ourselves. Maybe a better title would be "Americans are a lot more like Mongols than we would like to admit, you fool"