245. Despatch From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State0

No. 819


  • President Sukarno and His Impact on the Current Indonesian Scene


Throughout his fifteen years as head of the Indonesian state, President Sukarno’s formal authority and his ostensible domination of the government have never been as great as at present. Since assuming his current extraordinary powers in July, 1959, however, he has demonstrated a complete lack of capability to utilize them rationally toward the solution of Indonesia’s burgeoning problems. To an increasing extent government is being carried on by others, with Sukarno falling back [Page 474]into the negative role of a wielder of vetoes and an obstacle to be bypassed. More and more his attention is deviating from responsible administration toward concentration on the comparatively sterile process of political maneuver.

Sukarno’s reaction to the frustrations of his position has been one of increasing irrationality and emotional extremism, sharpened by physical deterioration. Having alienated progressively larger segments of Indonesian leadership, he now finds support only among the masses— whom he still controls—and among the members of an unreliable palace clique. His status is menaced by a growing polarization of forces around the Army and the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), both of whom see him as an obstruction to be ultimately shelved although neither is as yet in a position to offer a direct challenge. Such a challenge may emerge whenever either side feels itself strong enough to act or, alternately, if it feels its position is seriously jeopardized. In any case, should Sukarno lose the support of the masses through a continuing inability to stem the economic decline, through moral revulsion to exposure of his peccadillos after a temporary topping from power (as in cases of Farouk and Peron), or through other developments, his day will be over.

Sukarno’s growing irrationality poses a problem to American interests in Indonesia, one which may become more severe as he is driven by the economic crisis to greater extremes of talk and action. In meeting this prospect, it is essential to American policy that it be recognized that he is but one factor in the Indonesian scene. He is not Indonesia, even though he continues to be the most potent symbol of Indonesian nationalism. End Summary.

[Here follows the remainder of the despatch; see Supplement.]

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 798.11/3–1460. Secret.