26. Editorial Note

On February 27 at the 356th meeting of the National Security Council, the following exchange took place during Allen Dulles’ intelligence briefing:

“Turning to the situation in Indonesia, Mr. Dulles stated that the United States faced very difficult problems in that area. He sketched the latest developments, most of which had been set forth in the newspapers. While there had been raids on Central Sumatra by Djakarta government forces, there had not as yet been an all-out attack on the Sumatra forces. Mr. Dulles said that CIA was inclined to believe that Sukarno was not entirely sure of his army. Mr. Dulles estimated that perhaps half of the army forces deployed on Java would prove loyal to Sukarno. But even so, they were not very enthusiastic about an attack on Sumatra.

Sukarno was to make a major speech on March 3, on which occasion he will presumably indicate his policy decisions with respect to the dissidents. This is likely to be a strong position against the rebel or patriot forces, either by the application of military force against them or by starving them out.

“Mr. Dulles expressed the opinion that the dissidents had moved rather too fast and made their decision and delivered their ultimatum without carefully counting their military assets. This did not mean, However, that they had lost the fight; indeed, they have a reasonable chance of winning it. The Sumatran soldiers were the best fighters in the Indonesian armed forces.

“Mr. Dulles said that the great problem confronting us is how far we go into the matter. [2 lines of source text not declassified] Mr. Dulles predicated that if this dissident movement now went down the drain, he felt fairly certain that Indonesia would go over to the Communists. In this judgment Secretary Dulles expressed agreement. Secretary Dulles also pointed out that in past policy we have gone so far as to state that we could not afford to let this happen. We should therefore, in his opinion, be willing to take some very substantial risks in the situation.

“The President stated his belief that we would have to go in if a Communist take-over really threatened. Secretary Dulles went on to point out that our chances for successful intervention were better today, with the assistance of an indigenous government on Sumatra, than they would be later on, when we might have to intervene without such a cover.” (Memorandum of discussion by Gleason, February 28; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records)