192. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Irwin)0

Dear Jack : Thank you for your letter of March 28, 1959, commenting on the future of the United States military assistance program in Indonesia.1 The Department of course shares the gratification expressed by the Department of Defense at recent improvements in United States-Indonesian relations, stemming in substantial part from the military assistance program.

We also agree that hard and continuing thought should be given to the future of the program. However, we believe it preferable that Mr. Knight and Admiral O’Donnell neither raise the question of a long-range program with the Indonesians nor respond specifically to Indonesian overtures along these lines which may be made. Should the Indonesians bring up the matter with Mr. Knight and Admiral O’Donnell, as well they may, some discussion cannot be avoided. In our view, while Mr. Knight and Admiral O’Donnell might indicate United States recognition of Indonesian needs, they should carefully avoid any impression of any commitment to provide additional aid or of encouraging expectations of a continuing program.

We hold this view because the present United States policy towards Indonesia remains one of proceeding step-by-step as we assess the strength and determination of non-and anti-Communist elements in Indonesia to move that country in the direction we would like to see her take, for her sake as well as our own. This policy derives from the impossibility of foreseeing now the likely course of (1) internal Indonesian politics and (2) Indonesian foreign policies. Under the circumstances it seems premature to discuss a long-range military assistance program with the Indonesians. To do so might well give them an exaggerated idea of the extent to which the United States is presently willing and able to go to meet their desires for military assistance.

Although we do not favor discussion of a long-range program with the Indonesians at this time, we do believe it would be most helpful for Mr. Knight and Admiral O’Donnell to discuss the matter fully with Ambassador Jones and the MILTAG officers in Djakarta. We believe it is essential constantly to review and evaluate developments in Indonesia to [Page 368] guide us in the development of our policy towards Indonesia. For example, we shall wish to observe carefully how the projected Indonesian governmental reorganization measures are applied. If these measures are carried out in such a way that a more stable government and a more decisive curbing of Communist influence seem likely to result, it might then be timely to consider the possibility of considering further military assistance programs.

It may be desirable meanwhile to examine the feasibility of engaging in a long-range military assistance program should such a program be determined to be in our best interest. Consideration of a long-range program would have to take into account, for instance, in addition to the guidelines you suggest, the difficulty of planning on a long-range basis when Mutual Security funds are appropriated year-by-year in unpredictable amounts. Any long-range program for Indonesia would have also to be coordinated with the many other demands on MSA funds, a potentially serious problem since these demands invariably exceed the funds available.

Sincerely yours,

Walter S. Robertson
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 756D.5–MSP/3–2859. Secret. Drafted by Moore on April 6. The following Department of State offices concurred in this letter: SPA, WE, FE, W/MSC, and G.
  2. Document 190.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.