A chapter on Mongolian peacekeeping, jointly written with Dr. Thomas Bruneau, is published in the The Routledge Handbook of Civil-Military Relations (2012). The chapter examines Mongolia’s explicit reorientation of its military from territorial defense, although that is formally still a purpose of the armed forces, to peacekeeping operations. Here is a quick synopsis of the chapter.
In the past two decades, Mongolian military was employed for external peacekeeping missions and domestic law enforcement as well as humanitarian missions, which were real tests for Mongolia’s fledgling democratic institutions. Mongolians have, for example, utilized the peacekeeping role in elaborating their “Third Neighbor” strategy to maintain the maximum amount of independence from their gigantic, nuclear – armed, neighbors by strengthening its ties with Western democracies. There are adjustments taking place, and a fairly wide awareness of the need for updating and adjusting the legal and institutional bases of civil-military relations.
The Mongolian case demonstrated that peacekeeping could reveal interesting dynamics of civil-military relations in a new democracy. First, in a delicate geo-strategic environment, Mongolian political leaders projected peacekeeping as a way to advance its foreign policy goals of achieving bilateral relations with the West and increasing Mongolia’s international profile. Second, peacekeeping was perceived by military leaders to justify the existence of a small military and to consolidate civil-military relations. Third, foreign military training assistance and increased engagements with Western militaries consolidated a new identity for the Mongolian military, which respects democratic civilian control and stands out as the most reformed security institution, whilst many other institutions are wrestling their past legacies and new challenges such as corruption and ineffectiveness.
Despite raising concerns in Moscow and Beijing, Mongolia’s military engagement with the West was necessary for the military to overcome transitional challenges and to adapt new Western military standards and ideas. Mongolia’s current prestige as a forthcoming troop contributor for peacekeeping missions would be impossible without the US military assistance. Without deployments to Iraq, Mongolia’s peacekeeping commitment would have waned in early 2000. The deployments to Iraq brought a momentum for Mongolian peacekeeping efforts and introduced Mongolia’s military to the UN DPKO and other institutions. While militaries are withdrawing from Afghanistan, Mongolia is increasing its contribution to both the UN and coalition missions in Afghanistan.
Over two decades, Mongolia transformed its Soviet-style military into a modern, deployable peacekeeping military. A potential road map could be developed based on Mongolia’s experience since the process occurred within the newly institutionalized framework of democratic civil-military relations. In spite of these minor (fixable) institutional lessons-unlearned, one of the best lessons learned is that the Mongolian military was kept out of politics and economics during transition. A quick consensus reached between political and military leaders on future roles of the military during the transition made them as impartial constructive actors – not destructive ones. Mongolia’s lessons may help the West recalibrate its assistance towards development of the peacekeeping capability.