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Discarding the Mongol Way of War: A Geostrategic Analysis of the Mongol Expeditions to Conquer Japan


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The Yuan Dynasty (1271 to 1368) commissioned two expeditions to Japan in 1274 and 1281. These limited-liability campaigns aimed to subjugate the insular island nation as a vassal to the Yuan Dynasty, a khanate of the Mongol Empire. Despite the great resource potential of Japan, its subjugation was not a vital security interest for the dynasty. As a result, the expeditions were not aligned with the dynasty's strategic imperatives which included maintaining its territorial integrity, enforcing regional stability, and protecting the legitimacy of Kubilai's claim as khan of the Mongol Empire. These strategic priorities necessitated the investment of the preponderance of the dynasty's critical financial, material, and human capital resources in the pursuance of vital national interests rather than the peripheral interests associated with the expeditions to Japan. These strategic resource allocation decisions, coupled with the unique requirements of governing a massive agrarian population in China, deprived the expeditions of the warfighting capabilities required to employ the Mongol way of war. As a result, Yuan Dynasty's war against Japan ended in abject failure.



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