Chronicling a Filthy 4,000-Year-Old Habit

One of the century's finest military historians surveys warfare as mankind's mystery, temptation and oldest drama

Genghis Khan sat with his Mongol comrades-in-arms debating the question, What is life's sweetest pleasure? One man ventured that it surely was falconry. Genghis Khan -- who was not Genghis Khan for nothing -- answered, "You are mistaken. Man's greatest good fortune is to chase and defeat his enemy, seize his total possessions, leave his married women weeping and wailing, ride his gelding, and use the bodies of his women as a nightshirt . . ."

The Khan's agenda -- war and atrocity -- is still pursued, although with less candor about the pleasure involved: some tribal or nationalist rationale ("Greater...

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