Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Some History

In 1217, having successfully united the tribes of the Mongol steppes, conquered the Uighurs, Tangut and the Jurched as well as taken control of the trade routes from the Sung to the Middle East Ghengis Khan decided his days of war were over. Staring his sixth decade in the eyes he dropped anchor and turned from conquest to trade.

Flush with Asian goods, the Khan hankered for the exotic goods that occasionally made their way east to his vast empire from the middle east. Steel, textiles, glass, incense, etc. To the west lay the Empire of Kwarizm and the Turkic sultan Muhammad II. The Khan saw a possible boon in a friendly trade relationship and sent an envoy bearing gifts and a letter of treatise to the sultan who, with some reluctance, agreed.

The subsequent trade caravan sent from the Mongol empire into Kwarizm was intercepted by a particularly greedy governor who quickly decided that the Chinese silk, silver and other valuables were his. He siezed the load and killed the traders.

Upon hearing news that his gesture of goodwill and attempt at fostering friendly trade had ended in such a fashion the Khan sent yet another envoy to the sultan demanding that the offending official be punished. It was here that the sultan Muhammad II made the most unwise decision of his life and effectively doomed his empire. Having received the condemning and demanding order the sultan answered by killing most of the envoy and mutilating the faces of the remaining. These he sent back to the Khan.

In 1219 the Mongols rode west.

In 1221 it's cities destroyed, it's populace harassed and it's former sultan dying in exile the Kwarizm empire was gone.

On September 12 2001 Iranian President Mohammed Khatami expressed a degree of support and solidarity. This expression was kicked aside by the Bush administration. Four months later President Bush would deliver his "Axis of Evil" speech and effectively infuriate both the conservative and reformists Iranian platforms. By 2005 the pro-western Khatami was replaced by popular vote with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and US/Iran relations tailspun from there.

Certainly I'm leaving out some context here. President Clinton and Madeline Albright made a go at reforming US/Iran relations only to be derailed by the Bearded Sages and their ultra-conservative cohorts. But the general principle remains effective: By spurning the Mongols in such a dramatic and violent fashion Muhammad II damned his empire to destruction. By spurning Iran in such a shallow vocal fashion the Bush administration has damned this country to a Catch 22 in which we must gain ground in two theaters of combat and at the same time contain the rhetoric and nuclear intentions of the Iranian regime.

I'm not blind to the fact that an Iranian President is, for all intents and purposes, a popular figurehead whose executive power is limited by the religious foundation that entails the true Iranian structure of governance. I am also not blind to the fact that an Iranian president comes to be through popular vote.

Iran is certainly no Mongol empire and the US isn't even slightly analogous to the Kwarizm empire. But the situation is similar. In a land of post-Westphalia, post World War and current Globalization the ideals of shallow "us and them" reaction in terms of foreign policy are more dangerous than ever. Muhammad II learned his lesson in a very brutal and final fashion. Let's hope we don't.