Building U.S.-Indonesia Mutual Understanding Since 1994

The Future of United States-Indonesian Relations: Building Mutual Understanding

Most speakers at this wide-ranging review of bilateral relations urged that the United States pay closer attention to Indonesia, not only in view of the new attitudes possible as the two countries begin new political administrations, but also in view of the pressures and opportunities enjoined on the relationship by increased global economic integration and regional terrorist threats.  In the words of moderator Karl Jackson, Director of Southeast Asia Studies at SAIS, “If not now, when; if not SBY, who?”  He called it “the best opportunity in 25 years” to elevate the relationship.

He referred to the successful elections in Indonesia that culminated in the direct election, by a clear mandate of 60 percent of the votes, of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (known as SBY).  Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Marie Huhtala agreed, noting that voter turnout on the runoff presidential election of September 20 was “a whopping 75 percent,” exceeding the U.S. turnout on November 2.  She noted the “dizzying series of changes since the fall of President Suharto in 1998, representing rather amazing progress in the country’s democratization,” and said “we are excited about the future of U.S.-Indonesian relations and we’re determined to do everything we can to see our relationship live up to its full potential.”

Jusuf Wanandi, the co-moderator from CSIS Jakarta, also called for a closer relationship that is now mandated by “strategic changes and a new world order to come.”

Attitudes in the U.S. Congress

Some speakers, however, reminded listeners that many of the same old problems remain, despite efforts on both sides.  While there is increased interest in Indonesia on the part of the U.S. executive and in some quarters in the Congress, there has not really been any change in attitudes of key members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, who have not shown any interest in removing the conditions placed on relations with the Indonesian military.  Larry Niksch of the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, said that Congress has preempted U.S. security policy from the executive branch, in the case of Indonesia, since 1991, when concerns for violations of human rights became an issue in Congress after the Santa Cruz massacres in East Timor, in which members of the Indonesian military were accused of killing civilians gathered for a burial ceremony.   While there is increased interest in many areas of ongoing Indonesian reforms, he said there is “nevertheless in Congress a broad negative view of the army” as the perpetrator of “widespread human rights abuses.” The Indonesian army is viewed in Congress as a “state within a state,” with an “absence of accountability, an absence of civilian control.”  The army is seen as directly involved in militia groups such as those that were active in East Timor, and, more recently, groups such as Laskar Jihad that were involved in communal violence in Maluku, he said.

New Administration in Indonesia

Several speakers suggested that it may be too early to tell how effective the new Indonesian administration will be.  Jusuf Wanandi said that SBY is “weak” (because of his party’s small representation in parliament and because of his reputed caution) and Michael Morfit of Development Alternatives Inc. commented that the new cabinet lineup is less than impressive and that the role of some of the economic reformers is unclear.  He said that “real decisions” would be needed in the near future, in areas such as fuel subsidies, a long-term and expensive drain on the budget.

Despite the urgency with which some speakers viewed the moment, and the dramatic progress that Indonesia has made in the past five years, a dramatic breakthrough in relations seems less likely, reviewing the speakers’ presentations, than “small steps” toward closer ties, as one speaker put it.  These include, as listed by Huhtala, $25 million this year in U.S. monetary and technical assistance to the 2004 elections, signing this year of an agreement with the government of Indonesia for a 5-year program that will provide a total of $468 million for basic education, water, nutrition and the environment, and signing of a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement in 1996.

Both Indonesian and American speakers voiced particular concern over maritime security, which Huhtala described as an “urgent challenge…. We stand ready to assist Indonesia in ways that we will decide jointly, and we encourage the growing cooperation among Indonesia and its neighbors in this important field,” she said.  Larry Niksch said that congressional antipathy toward the Indonesian army does not extend to all the military, and other speakers cited projects of various U.S. agencies to support Indonesia’s maritime security services.

Remarks from individual speakers, with some questions and answers with the audience, follow.

Jusuf Wanandi, CSIS Jakarta

Outlook for Bilateral Relations

Wanandi described changes in “the region, in world order and in both countries” which present opportunities for a closer relationship.  “Lee Kwan Yew [former Singapore prime minister] was wrong when he said that developing nations cannot implement democracy,” Wanandi said.  The Indonesian elections of 2004 prove that Indonesia is a real democracy.  In the United States, he said, “everything changed after 9/11.  We in Indonesia must recognize the magnitude of that change.”  The region has changed because of the threat of trans-national terrorism and because of the threat of a nuclear North Korea and the temptation of neighbor nations to acquire the same capability.  “Nuclear proliferation in Northeast Asia is a matter of survival to us,” he said.  “We need a U.S. presence in the area.”

He did not minimize the threat of Islamist terrorism, although the number of terrorists is small.  Of 200 million Muslims, he estimated that a small number may have trained in Afghanistan.  “If the result is 500 terrorists, that’s too many,” he said.  “We have 35,000 pesantren,” he added.  “Maybe only 15 are turning out terrorists, but we don’t know.  Our intelligence is not good.”

Larry Niksch, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress

Perception of Indonesia in the U.S. Congress

Niksch described attitudes in Congress that can be considered current, as he referred to “interviews with key congressional staffers in the past few days.”

“The ‘Leahy Amendment’ should really be called the ‘McConnell Amendment,’” he said, referring to restrictions on military to military relations that go back to 1992 and are found in the Foreign Operations Appropriations bills since that year.  Senator McConnell is chairman of the Foreign Operations subcommittee of the Appropriations committee and Senator Leahy is the ranking minority member.  Both senators share “close views,” Niksch said.  “Their staffs work closely together.”

But the current restrictions represent more than the views of two men, Niksch said.  “These attitudes reflect an expanding role for human rights policies over the past 25 years, and originated with the challenge of liberal Democrats to the Kissinger view of foreign policy.”  Also, in the 1990s the emergence of Christian conservatives in the Republican party resulted in more stress on moralistic issues, he said.  “We receive inquiries about the treatment of Christians in Indonesia.  We must review not only reports of human rights conditions in various countries prepared by the State Department, but now also its reports on religious rights,” he added.  The State Department is required by Congress to compile reports on human rights and religious rights worldwide each year.

“There may be more flexibility elsewhere in Congress but there is no interest in challenging the Senate Appropriations committee until they see broad changes in Indonesia,” he said.  The Indonesia Caucus, established in the House of Representatives by Rep. Dan Burton (R, IN), has not focused on policy, he said.  It is reluctant to get involved in controversial issues.

Some steps toward relaxing restrictions on military-to-military relations have been “thwarted” by “negative changes” in Indonesia, he said, so that a step forward seemed to be followed by two steps backward.  Thus, in 2000, a Pentagon plan for joint training with the navy was carried out in July, but in August a UN worker was killed in West Timor.  In 2002 there was an agreement between the House and the Senate for a small IMET program [International Military Education and Training, a U.S. program for military officers from friendly nations].  This plan was cancelled after the killing of two Americans and one Indonesian in Timika, Papua.  In 2004 Congress was disappointed by the acquittals in Indonesian courts of military officers accused of human rights violations in 1999 in East Timor.

As a result, conditions that must be met before arms sales, joint training or IMET training may resume have been in place, and have even expanded, since 1992.  They now include accountability and punishment for crimes committed in East Timor 1999, steps by the government and TNI (the military) to end human rights abuses throughout Indonesia, and transparency and audit reports of the military’s budget, among others.

However, U.S. policy has changed significantly since 9/11, Niksch said, and Congress has approved military programs that relate to regional security.  Congress has approved programs for the Indonesian police (which was separated from the military in 2000), and he said there is “an opportunity now in the current budget for some inclusion” of E-IMET [“Expanded” IMET refers to training in civil-military relations and peacekeeping but not all military skills].  And, he said, there is support for $6 million in aid to the Regional Maritime Security Initiative in Southeast Asia, “on the presumption that the navy is not involved in human rights abuses as is the army.”

Timika Killings

The killings must be resolved, Niksch said.  The indictment of Antonious Wamang will not satisfy the Appropriations Committee.  Wamang, who was indicted after a long but eventually cooperative investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Indonesian police, has not been arrested.  “There is [still] a suspicion of military involvement,” Niksch said.

(Marie Huhtala also referred to Timika in her remarks, saying in response to a question “There are many unresolved questions about the role of the military in Papua.”  In the Timika case she noted that “one person has been indicted but has not been turned over.  Obviously he did not act alone.”  She said she was “especially puzzled that Antonious Wambang appeared on Australian television and said he did it and was willing to turn himself over to us, but nothing has happened.”)

Role of the Pentagon, Remembering Kopassus

Niksch placed some of the blame of congressional intransigence on the Pentagon (and offered a glimpse into intra-administration hostility).  He offered the “observation” that the Pentagon and PACOM (the Pacific Command) have tried to make “end runs” around the Appropriations Committee by devising programs that would be funded from accounts other than “foreign operations.”  He said there is no dialogue between the U.S. military and the Appropriations committee.  “The Pentagon and PACOM need to acknowledge their mistakes” in the 1980s and 1990s when they gave “red carpet treatment to Prabowo, and held joint training with Kopassus…. If one researches any incident, Kopassus emerges as the prime instigator,” he said.  (General Prabowo, commander of the TNI elite strike force Kopassus, was dismissed from the military after the 1998 riots that culminated in Suharto’s resignation.)

Niksch said that not every condition must be met but there “has to be some movement” regarding human rights abuses and an increase of civilian control over the military.  He predicted that relations will resume “in small steps,” starting with a limited IMET program.

Karl Jackson, SAIS

The Real Unfinished Agenda: To Establish Democracy and Prosperity

Jackson made a strong case for closer ties with Indonesia in the U.S. strategic interest.  He acknowledged there were good reasons in the 1990s to cancel Indonesia’s eligibility for IMET, but said “We should not allow abuses of the past to prevent us from dealing with the future.”  He said the “robust democratic reforms” since 1998 were a “miracle of sorts” in view of the chaotic economic development of the early independence years and the political repression of the Suharto years.  He said the elections of 2004 meant that “democratic forces have disciplined the government; popular sovereignty has arrived.  People rejected elite sovereignty and effected a change of regime without outside interference.  From the U.S. point of view, Indonesia and Thailand are only seen “through the prism of terrorism” since 9/11.  Both Indonesia and Thailand thought they could avoid the international spread of terrorism; now Indonesia realizes that terrorism will be a long-term problem and that a few hundred terrorists can cause havoc.

From both sides, now is the moment, he said, for a “leap forward” in the relationship.  What are we waiting for, he implied, saying “If not SBY, who; if not now, when?”  The time has come for vision to take significant steps to help establish democracy and prosperity, the ultimate goals.  “History will condemn us if we miss this chance,” he said.

He proposed a bold program of $200 million in extra aid (over five years) to support Indonesia’s education system; and using the U.S. pledge to leverage greater contributions from other international sources, specifically mentioning Japan.  Higher education needs intense help.  Referring to remarks of Indonesia’s director general for higher education, who said at a Washington conference that only 5,000 Indonesians hold Ph.D. degrees, Jackson said

“Five thousand Ph.D.s are not enough to staff the government.”

Indonesia must also take significant steps to gain international respect, he said.  He recommended as an example “special courts to try all claims connected with foreign investments.  “Until there is radical reform you cannot mention Indonesia on Wall Street,” he said.

Q:  We have heard the public opinion polls in Indonesia that show a sharp decline in the numbers who have a favorable impression of the U.S.  What is your comment?

A (Jusuf Wanandi): Favorable ratings have dropped from 75 percent three years ago to 13 percent in the most recent poll.  The trend is not healthy.  The U.S. lacks effective public diplomacy to explain its policies.  The U.S. should explain what 9/11 really means to the U.S. psyche.  Second, style is really important in presenting your case; third, some policies need to be improved.  This means the Israel-Palestine conflict.  Years ago, Palestine was considered simply a resettlement problem.  Now there is a self-identification of Muslims (because of CNN, i.e. worldwide communications) with Palestine and a sense that now all Muslims are abused.

Q: Will SBY really address the issues that are at the heart of Congressional objections, namely the human rights abuses and the perception of the TNI as independent of the state?

A (Niksch): If SBY could really accomplish something in Aceh, and put life into the autonomy laws, Indonesia would gain respect in Congress.  So far these are only paper laws.  The parliament (DPR) must step up and exercise some oversight.  There are opportunities for initial steps.

Q:  The criticism of the Pentagon “out flanking” Congress is misplaced.  The IMET program is a State Department program.  The folks in Congress don’t understand the positive developments in Indonesia.  Nor are military to military relations a barometer of the relationship as a whole.  The U.S. provides $126 million in aid to Indonesia this year.  The disputed IMET program would total only $400,000.

A (Jusuf): In any case, U.S. credibility on the human rights issues is limited.  Guantanamo does not set a good example.  We must realize there are two governments in the U.S.  – the executive branch and Congress.  We must deal with both.

Q:  Is there a possible U.S. role in settling the Aceh and Papua situations?

A (Niksch) The special autonomy law for Papua has never been really promoted.  The U.S. must use influence and quiet diplomacy to urge the government to put this law into effect.  U.S. policies don’t place much weight on genuine federalism.  The failure of U.S. policies in the Philippines was in not promoting a genuine federal structure.  Programs aimed at provincial and local governments are especially important to autonomy.

Michael Morfit, Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI)

What’s Wrong with Muddling Through?

Referring to a USINDO-DAI conference on October 21 regarding the economic agenda for the new government, Michael Morfit posed a series of questions whose answers might indicate the policy effectiveness of the new Indonesian administration.

“The real question is whether the new team can deliver,” he said.  “On the day after the new cabinet was announced, reactions in Jakarta ranged from politely skeptical to dismayed,” he said.  “No one would guess how the policy process will take place.”   Talk of an Economic Policy Council has faded, he said.  Various commissions are in limbo.  It is unclear what the role of Sri Mulyani and Bappenas will be.  (Sri Mulyani was named head of the economic planning body.)

Other questions: What is the role of parliament?  Morfit referred to the turmoil in parliament between the “nationalist” faction and the “people’s” faction, self-named party groupings that were at the time competing to control the agenda.  SBY’s lack of a strong party base puts him at a disadvantage.

Similarly, an increasingly decentralized government puts into question the role of local governments in setting taxation agendas.  At the same time, “growing sophistication” of Islamic political parties are now shifting from an agenda of establishing national shari’a law to advance agendas at local levels by establishing forms of Islamic law that are “clearly unconstitutional” yet are not being challenged, he said.

But, he said, why are we disappointed when Indonesia is “just as muddled as we are?  Indonesia is famous for ‘muddling through,’ and maybe that will be good enough,” he said.

A questioner commented that Morfit did not mention Vice President Jusuf Kalla, a successful businessman from South Sulawesi and the person who was assumed will be the point man on economic policy.  If his views are “ill informed,” the questioner said, it could be “disadvantageous” to the country, referring to comments by Kalla during the election campaign that were seen to be anti-Chinese.

Indonesia’s Leadership and ASEAN’s Future: the U.S. Should Play a Role

Hadi Soesastro, CSIS Jakarta

Hadi Soesastro reviewed the many recent initiatives to create stronger economic ties within the Southeast Asian region and, more broadly, an Asian community; trends that he said are building.  He called it “critical” that the United States be engaged in Asian regional cooperation.  He argued that Indonesia is the “natural leader” of the Southeast Asian community and should resume the leadership role it has neglected since the economic crisis of 1997-98.  Excerpts from the text of his remarks follow.

The regional dimension of bilateral Indonesia-US relations provides an opening for further improvement of that relationship. On its part, the US has launched the Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative (EAI) as a vehicle for strengthening trade and investment relations with Southeast Asian nations. This Initiative involves developing TIFAs (Trade and Investment Agreements) and FTAs (Free Trade Agreements) with individual ASEAN countries.  The significance of the Initiative might go beyond trade and economic relations to strengthen political and strategic relations with the region.

On the ASEAN side it is believed that efforts to promote regional cooperation in the wider East Asian and Asia Pacific region are critical to engage the US in the region. APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) and East Asian regionalism (ASEAN + 3—China, Japan and Korea) indeed should be seen as contributing to strengthening trans-Pacific relations, specifically relations between Asian countries and the US.

In each of these regional arrangement the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plays an important role. At the time of APEC’s inception in the mid-1990s ASEAN was to be its co-pilot, and ASEAN is in the driver’s seat of the ASEAN + 3 process, which is largely seen as the embryo of East Asian regionalism.

Thus, ASEAN is important to Asian regional arrangements and critical to promoting the region’s relations with the United States. The question is: “Does ASEAN have a future?”

Indonesia’s Leadership

The prevailing wisdom is that Indonesia is the natural leader of ASEAN, formed in 1967. Being the largest country in the region provides Indonesia with a predominant position. However, it is perhaps the historical factor that is more important.

Indonesia’s leadership in ASEAN has been mainly in the political field. Its efforts to develop ASEAN demonstrate its willingness to participate in a regional structure. Indonesia sees this as the most credible way to gain the confidence of its neighbors. In fact, within this regional structure Indonesia has never thrown its weight around. Its political leadership has not been exercised through an assertive posture, dictating the region’s policies. It has been exercised in terms of crafting consensus on many issues.

Indonesia has not exercised an economic leadership in ASEAN as it does not regard itself as a regional economic power. In the first 25 years of its existence, ASEAN’s many economic cooperation programs have been disappointing. It was the changed external environment of the early 1990s that brought about significant change in ASEAN economic cooperation. ASEAN leaders agreed to pursue regional economic integration through the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA). Indonesia’s agreement was critical, but Thailand’s diplomatic efforts made that possible. Indonesia that until then was dubbed as “Mr. No” for always tending to say “no” to various economic integration plans suddenly changed its policy. It became “Mr. Go” when agreeing to “go ahead” with AFTA in 1992.

The financial crisis of 1997/1998 virtually put an end to Indonesia’s active regional involvement. Indonesia was the hardest hit by the crisis. Although ASEAN economic ministers rightly decided that the ASEAN economies must continue with their open economic policies in order to be able to overcome the crisis, nevertheless political leadership in the region turned inwards. The Suharto government, having been in place for 32 years, fell. It was replaced by a transition government under Habibie, who was not interested in ASEAN. His successor, Abdurrahman Wahid, wanted to promote a Western Pacific Forum, involving Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, and Australia, rather than ASEAN.

Megawati was initially also not interested in ASEAN. However, since Indonesia was to host the ASEAN Summit in 2003, she accepted the suggestion that Indonesia should again provide leadership. ASEAN was losing its diplomatic clout in the international arena and it had lost its attractiveness to global investors. The foreign policy community in Indonesia thought that Indonesia’s “comparative advantage” lay in providing political rather than economic leadership. It began to air the idea of an ASEAN Security Community to strengthen the region’s cohesion. This was aimed at both enhancing regional peace and security and restoring ASEAN’s diplomatic power.

ASEAN’s Future

Indonesia’s challenge today is to provide leadership to realize the ASEAN Community. The new president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, should take this as Indonesia’s responsibility. Perhaps this will not happen within the first two years of his presidency, which will be dominated by domestic matters. Indonesia cannot confine its leadership role only to the realization of the ASC, but also needs to seriously promote the AEC and ASCC as well.

Its leadership will again have to be expressed in terms of building regional consensus. This kind of leadership should be distinguished from that aspired by Singapore or Thailand, whose approach is not the building of a new regional consensus but to move faster than the others and in doing so hope to force others to follow them. This is the basis for the “2+X” formula that they introduced in ASEAN. This approach is risky. It risks weakening ASEAN’s solidarity, which in fact, is ASEAN’s greatest asset. If Indonesia cannot provide the kind of leadership by building regional consensus, it should perhaps refrain from taking the leadership task. If this were the case, ASEAN’s future would be in great jeopardy.

Catherin Dalpino, Georgetown University

America’s Role in Southeast Asia: A New Paradigm is Urgent

Catherin Dalpino reviewed her report on the U.S. role in Southeast Asia, a contribution to a major study of The Asia Foundation on U.S.-Asia relations.  The United States has swung has swung from an intense interest in Southeast Asia during the Cold War to haphazard neglect in recent years, she said.  She argues that the U.S. lacks a coherent view of the region as a whole, and espouses bilateral policies (e.g. trade initiatives) that, while seemingly unobjectionable, favor some countries and fail to consider transnational issues.

She cites important developments over the past decade that have transformed the regional dynamic and that call for “a new paradigm” in U.S. policy thinking.  These developments include the economic crisis of 1997/98, whose full consequences are “yet to be understood.” The crisis stimulated a renewed interest in regionalism, a rising antagonism toward global (read: Western) economic influences, and the emergence of China as a leader in the area.  The increasing role of China drew little attention from U.S. policymakers over the decade of the 1990s until its emergence as a major player in the area since the economic crisis.  Some U.S. analysts view this emergence with some alarm and do not understand why their suspicions are not shared in the region.

The events of 9/11 brought the “most profound and abrupt shift in U.S. relations with Southeast Asia.”  The war on terrorism has resulted in cooperative efforts with some Southeast Asian countries and brought those with majority or significant Muslim populations to the forefront of U.S. interests.  A fourth trend of the past decade is the rise of antagonism toward U.S. policies among domestic populations, making cooperative efforts more difficult and causing democratic leaders in these countries to distance themselves from the U.S., especially in election seasons.

She cites two “stalemates” in the area dating back to the early 1990s that have totally outlived their relevance.  These are the isolation of Myanmar and the frozen military relationship with Indonesia.  In both cases sanctions are in place based on demands for conditions that must be met before relationships may proceed.  In neither case have sanctions produced results.  She called Myanmar a “lesson on the limits of leverage.”  The U.S. thought to enlist first Western Europe, then Japan, then ASEAN, to put pressure of Myanmar, but these efforts were ineffectual or met with no response.  The only real leverage lies with China and India, she said, and in either case it is doubtful that pressure will be applied.  The result is a “geopolitical checkmate,” she said, compounded by the “human psychology” problem of backtracking once sanctions are in place.

In Indonesia, the prohibition against U.S. cooperation with the Indonesian military has made the new generation in the armed forces less able to interact with Western military officers on a range of defense issues, arguably working against broader U.S. objectives.

She recommends that the U.S. give greater attention to issues that invite regional cooperation, such as the transnational threats of terrorism, drug and human trafficking, the spread of HIV-AIDS, arms smuggling, and develop policies that lend themselves to joint efforts.  In similar vein, she recommends a more multilateral approach toward Southeast Asia and coordinated bilateral policies.  The U.S. should engage more with APEC and should work toward establishing an annual U.S.-ASEAN summit at the margins of annual APEC meetings.  The regional approach is especially applicable to the threat to maritime security, in response to an initiative that “should come from Southeast Asia.”

Dalpino’s  report can be found in “America’s Role in Asia” on the Asia Foundation website

Marie Huhtala, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State

The Future of U.S.-Indonesian Relations: Building Mutual Understanding

The full text of Secretary Huhtala’s remarks can be found on USINDO’s website

Secretary Huhtala spoke of a positive U.S.-Indonesian relationship, citing the dramatic accomplishments of Indonesia since 1998 and of increased U.S. aid in a wide variety of areas, as well as the considerable U.S. investment in that country and interest in conditions that would invite further investment.  She cited the interest in bilateral trade in the signing of a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement.

In “areas of disagreement” however she cited issues that prevent a closer relationship, including U.S. desire for “negotiated settlements” in Aceh and Papua, civilian control over the military, justice for those murdered in Timika in 2002, and justice for the crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999.  She said the U.S. hopes for the day when full military to military relations can resumed and said that IMET is in the interests of both countries.

In response to a question she said “this new president of Indonesia is in a position to move” issues forward, and “we want to be responsive.”

The Newmont Case

In response to a question about charges of pollution by Newmont Mining Corporation Huhtala said “the story is not clear.  There are new revelations from Newmont all the time.  It is not clear they were complying with local law from the beginning.  There is still work to be done on this case.”

[Newmont (headquartered in Denver) operates a gold mining operation in Sulawesi.  The corporation has been accused by local officials and NGOs of contaminating Buyat Bay, located near the mining area.  Newmont has denied the charges.]

Panel of Experts to Review U.S.-Indonesian Defense Relations

John Haseman, former U.S. Defense Attache in Jakarta

Internal Stability and Civil Security

John Haseman said Indonesia is fortunate that it faces no traditional external threat, although it does face a daunting range of non-traditional transnational threats.  He said the greatest threat to Indonesia’s internal stability is posed by separatist rebellions in Aceh and Papua, saying the rebellions in these two provinces are important to the United States because of extensive investment of U.S. companies in extraction industries (ExxonMobil in Aceh, Freeport in Papua) “as well as because it is in nobody’s interest that Indonesia’s territorial integrity be disturbed.”  He suggested that President SBY, having taken a leading role in efforts toward a cease fire in Aceh during the Megawati presidency, is well positioned to resume these efforts as president, noting that “many people in Aceh and Papua” voted for him.

Turning to the military, he said the TNI has important missions in internal security assigned by Indonesia’s parliament, in particular counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism.  There is no questioning the need for better trained and led soldiers and police.  The TNI, he said, is much changed from the TNI that was rightly and widely criticized during the 1990s.  It gave up its seats in parliament, scrapped the dwi-fungsi doctrine (a doctrine during the Suharto years that provided for an official role in political affairs) and no longer takes part in day-to-day political affairs.  It requires its officers to retire before taking civilian government posts.  The TNI was neutral in the legislative and presidential elections of 1999 and 2004.

Mr. Juwono Sudarsono, the new defense minister, accepted the job for the second time at least in part because he will have more authority to move toward civilian control of the military, Haseman said.  He has already told the services that the Department of Defense will control military arms purchases [the military made its own deals in the past], and parliament has mandated that the military businesses be turned over to civilian control within five years.  “But a military that is forced to get two-thirds of its funding from its own resources is not truly under government control.  Not until Indonesia has a decent taxation system – many years away – can the military get all of its funding from the government budget,” Haseman said.

U.S. sanctions on the military include prohibition of sales of lethal weapons, dating from 1999, and denial of Indonesian participation in military education programs in the U.S. (IMET) dating from 1992.  Both actions were triggered by charges of Indonesian military abuses in East Timor.  Haseman’s argument is that “Indonesia is no longer the abusive autocracy of the Soeharto years and the TNI is not the same force that congressional restrictions seek to punish.”

Today, he said, he was told “unanimously” by military contacts in Jakarta of the need to resume the full IMET program.  “We are becoming an inbred military.  We must start all over again to train our young officers as well as our more senior officers,” he reported being told by a retired military officer in the reform camp.  As for equipment, he reported that “virtually all of the U.S. aircraft fleets are inoperable because of a lack of spare parts and maintenance problems.  When I was in Jakarta for the armed forces day parade the star of the show was not the F-16, but a Russian Sukhoi.”  Indonesia has a high priority requirement for improved airlift and sealift capability, both to secure its huge maritime expanse and to move troops to react to natural disasters and outbreaks of communal conflict.

A broad view of U.S. interests would support ways to help improve TNI’s performance, he said.

William Wise, The George Washington University


Reviewing the developments regarding Jemaah Islamiyah, widely identified as behind the bombings in Bali in 2002, the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in 2003 and at the Australian embassy in Jakarta in 2004, Wise reported that extensive police investigations have resulted in 200 arrests and 100 convictions.  He said the organization has thus been greatly damaged but may in some respects be more dangerous because the “loosely connected” and “small groups” that remain present more difficult targets and may in fact be operating without the approval of higher authorities.

He applauded President SBY for including counter-terrorism among the top priorities of his administration, and added that SBY had directed the police to arrest two suspects accused of the Marriott bombing within the first one hundred days of his administration.  He credited Indonesia’s good progress in democratization in laying a “key foundation for deterring terrorism.”

Nevertheless, he cited institutional obstacles to counter-terrorist success.  These included a weak legal environment [Indonesia has no internal security law that would allow preventive detention of suspects], lack of public support [Indonesian voters did not list security as a pressing concern in recent polls], and problems of security cooperation, coordination and intelligence [Indonesian intelligence is regarded as inadequate; one speaker reported that security personnel read the reports of the International Crisis Group for information].

Bronson Percival, Center for Naval Analysis

Maritime Security: An Urgent and Neglected Threat

Percival presented compelling arguments that a terrorist attack in the Strait of Malacca would be a crippling blow to world trade and to the security of Southeast Asia.  Moreover, he pointed out that al Qaeda and its regional affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah, have demonstrated their interest in maritime attacks, citing al Qaeda bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 and the attack on the Limburg oil tanker off the Yemeni coast in 2002.  An advanced al Qaeda plan to attack warships in the Strait of Gibraltar was discovered in mid-2002, he reported, and investigations and interrogations of JI members have uncovered its plans for suicide attacks on visiting ships in Singapore as well as other maritime actions.

Despite this evidence and the vulnerability of maritime routes, very little has been done to counter this threat, he said.  Among the reasons are the “crowded field of priorities” and because piracy is an “old and familiar problem.”  Although piracy and terrorism are unrelated (the actors probably have no connections) the number of piracy incidents, probably underreported, indicate that malefactors have little difficulty in accosting maritime traffic.  It is a problem Indonesia has learned to live with.

Indonesia’s part of the Strait of Malacca constitutes only a tiny percentage of Indonesia’s extensive waters, in and across which illegal fishing and smuggling routinely take place, at a cost of several billion dollars to the national treasury.

Another pressing issue is how to redistribute Indonesia’s maritime security responsibilities among the many agencies that claim competing jurisdictions, including the Indonesian Navy, Sea Communications, Marine Police as well as maritime security units in some provinces.  Defense Minister Sudarsono has spoken of rebalancing Indonesian armed forces to better suit the country’s “geographic space,” possibly implying that policy planners place more emphasis on security in the waters of this vast archipelago than heretofore.

International Players

There is keen interest by other countries that will be affected by threats to the Strait of Malacca and other international traffic lanes, but so far a real coordinated effort is in its infancy, Percival reported.  Indonesia and Malaysia have conducted joint patrols.  The Japanese Coast Guard has conducted joint training exercises with Southeast Asian states for the past four years.  The United States has initiated a Regional Maritime Security Initiative (RMSI) with focused plans to encourage the formation of a coalition of littoral states to combat piracy and terrorism in the Strait of Malacca.  But little has been accomplished yet.  Various grant programs are in place from the United States to various Indonesian maritime agencies, but these do not address the magnitude of the problem.

Eddie Lachica, former Asia Wall Street Journal Reporter

Conclusions: Failures of the State?

Panelist Eddie Lachica concluded by saying “Stark changes in the security environment are forcing both the United States and Indonesia to rethink their positions.  Lee Hamiliton and George Shultz, in a Washington Post op-ed, have made a strong, bipartisan case for supporting the stability and prosperity of this democratic Muslim-majority state.  President Yudhoyono for his part appears ready to look beyond the conventional strictures of non-alignment and to consider strategic partnerships with other countries based on issues of common concern.  This is a rare opportunity to enhance our security relationship with Indonesia.”

Referring to the main obstacle for closer relations, he addressed the human rights concerns of nongovernmental organizations and the U.S. Congress.  “We should be prepared to rethink the way we champion human rights.  Are they better served by isolating the Indonesian military (as our IMET policy effectively does) or by restoring its exposure to American democratic values?   Are we overlooking the fact that the abuses committed by underpaid, ill-equipped, under-trained soldiers are possibly the collective failure of the state and not just that of these individual soldiers?”

Q:  In a parliament that is, for the first time, without any military members, how does one explain the bruising struggle over selecting the new Armed Forces Commander?  And what does that mean for the chances of success for the reform efforts of the new defense minister?

A (Haseman):  The TNI commander, General Sutarto, resigned just before Megawati’s term expired.  It was atrocious timing.  Traditionally a standing service commander is promoted to the post of overall commander, but the navy and air force incumbents were over retirement age.  She appointed Army Commander Ryamizard Ryacudu to the post but the new parliament is arguing over whether to confirm him.  It’s really about who has real power in parliament.  Probably Ryamizard will serve for a short time and be succeeded by the new army commander.

Q: Does the low priority for maritime counter-terrorism perhaps have something to do with the fact that it’s much more lucrative to collect “user fees” for illegal fishing and smuggling?

A:  “User fees” are estimated at US$2-4 billion for illegal fishing and $4-5 billion for illegal logging.  The total drain on the Indonesian economy is estimated as much as $23 billion per year.

Barbara Harvey, USINDO Advisor, and Goenawan Mohamad, Director of the Institute for the Free Flow of Information

How We Speak to Each Other

It has been well reported that favorable opinion of the United States by Asians has declined in recent years.  This rising antipathy is certainly due to policy differences, but it is also due to the recent style of U.S. diplomacy.  Aside from policy questions, the “style” of the U.S. in conducting foreign affairs can play a significant role in forming attitudes toward the U.S. in other countries.

Barbara Harvey illustrated the case for Indonesia.  Strong Indonesian cultural values are expressed in well-known adjectives that describe personality, and by extension, national character.

Halus is the word for smooth, and kasar means ‘rough,’ a pejorative adjective in the Indonesian language.  To be confrontational is kasar to an Indonesian, but to an American it is simply being candid.  An Indonesian will avoid making or receiving criticism, but it is possible to raise contentious issues if done in a smooth and courteous manner, Harvey said.  As an example, Harvey said, if one asks a question one should wait politely for the answer, and then really listen.  Americans are perceived as not listening, of announcing things unilaterally.

Sombong, another well-known and undesirable character trait, is someone who is arrogant and self-important.  This adjective might be applied to the U.S. concept of preventive war, of the current U.S. visa policy, of the very historically important notion of American exceptionalism.  The opposite and desirable trait is ikhlas, meaning sincere, self-sacrificing or selfless.   Hypocrisy is definitely not ikhlas, and hypocrisy is the Indonesian view of U.S. policy in the Middle East, U.S. denials that war on terrorism is war on Islam, and the criticism of human rights organizations about Indonesia while the low level military personnel convicted of human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib received sentences as lenient as those convicted in East Timor trials.  Moreover, the American culture of consumption and pleasure does not meet the ideal of sacrifice and self-denial implied in ikhlas, she said.

On the positive side, Harvey said that Indonesians seems to most value the traits of friendliness and openness they identify with Americans.  This is an important part of the American image, she said.

Goenawan Mohamad recalled that U.S. relations with Indonesian Muslims were good during the Cold War of the 1950s when both shared anti-Communist views.  After the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran in the 1980, Indonesian Muslims appealed to Iranian Muslims for moderation.  What has caused the growing anti-Americanism?

He suggested that the reasons include the “delayed impact” of the Iranian revolution of 1979, when religious clerics overthrew the Shah who was supported by the United States; the “confluence” of anti-Suharto and anti-American sentiment, in which the United States was again seen as close to the former dictator; and the “Islamicization of the Palestine problem.”  Formerly, Palestine was considered a nationalist problem by Indonesians; now it is an Islamist problem.

In addition, he said, the language used by both sides creates mutual frustration.  “‘Where are the moderate Muslims,’ you ask, while we could ask ‘Where are the moderate Christians?’  We are concerned that the views of the Christian right in America can affect foreign policy,” he said.

However, he said “I can understand why Americans do not understand Indonesia.  There is no historical link between the countries.”  And, he added, both countries are so diverse, and most people are so parochial, that it’s usually difficult to figure out people from another part of your own country, let alone another nation in another part of the world.

Edward Masters, USINDO CoChair

The U.S. National Commission on Policy Toward Indonesia: One Year Later

Masters reported on developments since the high level commission report was issued one year ago.  The commission recommended increased aid to Indonesia, especially in the field of education.  Before publication of the report, Masters said that commission members briefed the U.S. executive branch, both houses of Congress including the Foreign Operations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, the media, and a wide range of people in Jakarta including the top ministers.

“We are told that our report was influential in convincing President Bush to pledge $157 million in aid to Indonesian education when he met Megawati last December,” Masters said.  “This is not enough,” he continued, “and it is not new money.  But it is a start, and puts the president on record as supporting Indonesian education.”

Subsequently, the Indonesian embassy hosted a conference in April 2004 of higher education officials from the two countries.  The conferees agreed to continue to work together in promoting centers of excellence in Indonesia, in twinning university-to-university arrangements, increased efforts in English-language training in Indonesia, and other joint project.  At the conference Professor Karl Jackson offered a bold proposal to use U.S. money as a leverage to other international donors in a major project to upgrade Indonesian higher education.  Meanwhile, some exchange visits are occurring as a result of the first conference, and a second conference is scheduled in Jakarta in March 2005.