Bill Hupp wrote:We know that steppe peoples and horse bow armies do well when they have good leadership and that it is hard to sustain over long periods of time (maybe that is true about all ancient and medieval nations.)
Just as a warning, it is important to separate strategic success ("do well" as a nation) from tactical success ("do well" in a battle).
Rome is often the subject of that confusion, with advocates of Rome giving them advantages in battles through command points or some other mechanism. But there is no evidence that Rome was more likely to win a battle than anyone else -- Rome conquered the world because of economic and population and cultural factors that had nothing to do with its army. Sometimes the evidence is to the contrary -- that Roman armies should suffer penalties to make them worse. Rome lost battle after battle to Carthage in Italy in the 2nd Punic, and the only way they avoided getting crushed was because Hannibal had no siege train, and Rome could afford to create a totally new army to replace a destroyed army in Italy every single year, and STILL field several other armies in other arenas (Gaul, Spain, and eventually Carthage). Rome's survival, and Carthage's destruction, has nothing to do with Rome's army abilities, and everything to do with the fact they could field four times as many armies as Carthage.
Similar myopia is often applied to the Mongols, focusing on a few battles they won decisively in the West. In China they had a long, hard slog (strategically speaking) to beat the Song Chinese, a result they only achieved in 1279 after more than 20 years of concerted effort. And that's in spite of the Song Chinese having an absolutely atrocious internal military leadership system, where military success was rewarded with being murdered and the military were reviled and disdained by the elite and their bureaucracy. Don't get me wrong -- the Mongols had brilliant organization. But the evidence of their brilliant organization supports their strategic organization, not their tactical organization. Their logistics, their long-distance communication, their resupply, their pre-battle scouting, their pre-battle maneuvers to draw an enemy over days and days of pursuit to fight at a chosen position, and so on.
Sure, the Mongols beat the Khwarizmians, Georgians, Cumans, Tanguts, and various Turks. But there's a similarity between those victories and Julius Caesar beating various Gallic tribes in his victory tour of Gaul -- none of those were contests between two equal nations, fighting with equal armies, in spite of Caesar's self-serving propaganda. Going back to the Mongols, in all the cases aforementioned the Mongols were the 800lb gorilla of the Steppes at that time, long after their absorption of the Jian, the Liao, the Xia. They were much bigger and meaner than anyone else, and everyone knew the result of getting into a wrestling match with them. The Khwarizmians had no choice, were forced to fight, and won as many battles as they lost, but couldn't afford to lose a major battle, and when they did, that was the end of them.