“Peacekeeping is not a soldier’s job, but only soldiers can do it.”
Dag Hammarskjöld, secretary general of the United Nations, 1953-61
Indonesia’s expanding participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations is not often thought of in the context of the ongoing military modernization of its Armed Forces. This essay attempts to present the issue of the ongoing modernization of the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) in a different light. The TNI is beginning to realize reforms in all aspects and branches of the institution that have been long planned for and advocated. As the TNI continues to push through these reforms, both political and material, it is useful to demonstrate the benefits a robust peacekeeping operations program has to TNI modernization and reform.
Before his departure from office in 2014, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono set a long-term target of 10,000 deployed peacekeepers and an increase of 4,000 in the medium term, with the goal to place Indonesia within the top 10 countries that contribute peacekeepers, which it has since achieved. As the current president, Joko Widodo, consolidates his hold on domestic issues, it is hoped he will continue this emphasis on peacekeeping participation. This essay is timely, as the ninth rotation of a mechanized infantry battalion, uniquely called the Kontingen Garuda (Konga) XXIII-I, has recently returned to Indonesia from a one-year deployment as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil). More than just an exercise in international prestige, peacekeeping operations bring real benefits for modernization efforts within the Indonesian military, in the form of active deterrence and doctrinal development. However, these are as yet incidental and can be taken further advantage of if better understood.