Men born with debt


Last week I received my military draft notice.
And to make things perfectly clear, I did not enlist in the military, nor do I have any desire to “serve” my country in this particular capacity.
Draft notices are sent to every able-bodied man over the age of 18 in Mongolia every year, as all men are required to serve a compulsory one-year military service in Mongolia.
People with disabilities or medical conditions, as well as students, men whose children are under the age of two, those living abroad, and those who have a “special” occupation are excused from military service.
Those who do not fall into the above categories, such as myself, are obliged to take a physical examination every year at a given place and time, regardless of their personal or professional schedule. If passed, the military has the right to take candidates away for service.
Given the option, most people in today’s society would not choose to serve. Many men of service age view military service as a waste of a perfectly good year, and most are either in pursuit of higher education or have already formed a family of their own. Losing a year in one’s education and career pursuits in the modern world can set one back a mile, and it is a nightmare for many who receive a draft notice.
If men don’t go through the hassle of physical examination and registration at their local authority, they face monetary penalties. If one chooses not to serve, they are required to pay around five million MNT (an average year’s income).
People find ways to avoid serving these days, such as medical conditions or taking courses at universities. But this shouldn’t have to be.
Mongolia, a democratic nation that values human rights, shouldn’t force its citizens to serve. No matter how politicians and military officials phrase it, they cannot get around the fact that this is blatant extortion, as if men are born with a debt to the country. Why are we obligated to serve in the military during peace time?
A decade ago, the military draft procedure was a mess. Candidates, unwilling or otherwise, would sometimes line up for hours for the mandatory physical and once passed, their heads would be shaven in the next room and they would be loaded onto a truck to be sorted.
Older men like to talk about their military duty and how they were enlisted. Many say that they had no intention of serving but “had to”, because that’s just how it was. But nobody has spoken out about ending conscription.
Not much has changed since then, except that due to a lower budget and overcrowded military units, the military is a bit more lenient about enlisting unwilling candidates. Mongolia’s military budget in 2012 was a little over 108 million MNT, approximately one percent of Mongolia’s GDP.
Still, officials in Mongolia’s armed and defense forces insist that they need more men. They go on and on about the benefits of the military, such as learning discipline and respect, as if these attributes can’t be cultivated in any other professional setting.
Twenty other countries besides Mongolia have conscription terms for one year or less, including Brazil, Austria, and Bolivia.
In the 21st century, mandatory military service in Mongolia (where no military confrontations exist) seems very redundant, and a hassle for people going about their daily lives.
I understand that Mongolia is in a sensitive position when it comes to national security, as we are wedged between two great military powers, China and Russia.
Mongolia’s current active frontline personnel is at around 10 ,000, and reserve forces amount to some 130,000. But even this number is inconsequential when compared to the armed forces of our neighbors, so it is fitting that Mongolia relies more on its diplomatic relations than military forces to secure and strengthen its national security and independence.
The last major arms conflict in Mongolia was the Khalkh Gol battle against Japanese forces in WWII in 1939. Therefore, Mongolia should look to other options to maintain its military power instead of forcing its productive members of society into military service that is of inconsequential benefit to enlistees. Plus, soldiers have to be trained, housed, fed and equipped through state funds.
The President’s “student soldier” program, which allows university students to serve their military duties at intervals during their semester breaks, is ineffective in training sufficient soldiers, and a waste of time for students who could have used the time to gain work experience or further their studies.
Even countries that are in active wars, such as the U.S. and Afghanistan, do not have enforced conscription. Their military forces are comprised of volunteers and contracted forces.
Mongolia’s economic woes far outweigh that of its military troubles, hence men should be educated to become productive members of society, instead of weapons of the state, to fight the country’s most pressing battle: the economic crisis. In the 21st century, men in a democratic society should not be viewed as potential soldiers for the country’s leaders, but as individuals who have the full right to make their own choices and paths in life.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=14315

Posted by on Apr 23 2015. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “Men born with debt”

  1. Mongolia is not unique in its national defence policy in this regard. Its rather sad that the author considers his enlistment as a debt rather than a duty. Economic, political and social development of a sovereign country is necessarily underpinned by its military capability to defend itself and deter foreign aggression. Crimea is a stark reminder that what you cannot protect does not belong to you.

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