Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Why Mongolia Matters

As I mentioned yesterday, my wife and I spent our summer vacation this year in Mongolia, a trip I’d recommend to anyone. The Mongols are friendly, the air is clean, and there is much to see for anyone interested in history, religion, or nature. (The only thing Mongolia lacks is a good beach.) If ever there was a country that lost the lottery on neighbors, it was Mongolia, sandwiched between a sometimes hostile, bullying Russia and an even more bullying China. I am reminded of that apt headline in The Onion in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Georgia: “U.S. Advises Allies not to Border Russia.”

Indeed, while we were there, people were complaining about Russia playing hardball with fuel sales, sending the price of gasoline skyrocketing, and the price of food and all other goods along with it. While Mongolia has some gas deposits of its own (nothing compared to its coal resources), it has trouble developing it as neither China nor Russia wish Mongolia to be energy independent.

The Mongolian government is actively reaching out for friends who might respect its independence as both its neighbors play hardball. It has courted both Australia and South Korea. Alas, while Mongolians are friendly and pro-American, they recognize they cannot rely on the United States as a friend. President Obama does not treat allies well, and so many realists find it sophisticated to bash allies in order to cultivate enemies.

Such attitudes represent strategic blindness. In 1911, Mongolia declared itself independent from China, a move the Chinese did not recognize. Mongolia turned to the outside, including to the United States, for help. Despite all of Woodrow Wilson’s talk of self-determination, he refused to provide much in the way of even moral support for Mongolia, and so the Chinese tried to reoccupy the country in 1919. With friendship spurned with the West, the Mongols turned to the only friend who would have them: Bolshevik Russia. Mongolia hence became only the second communist republic. It was, like the others, a brutal dictatorship and provided the Soviet Union with a forward airfield abandoned only in 1992.

What realists fail to realize when they make dispassionate cost and benefit calculations, is that there is an intrinsic benefit to friendship and alliance, but that such a benefit cannot be realized if the United States fails to embrace friendship for friendship’s sake. What may appear inconvenient now may become a critical asset down the road, if only the American foreign policy elite would be farsighted.


Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.