86. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State 0

4116. Deptels 32071 and 3213.2 Made call on General Nasution this morning accompanied by Col. Cole, Army Attaché.3 General treated my call as important occasion. Honor guard had been turned out and he later informed me this was first time he had ever received a call from an Ambassador. With him at conference were General Subroto, Col. Ibnu, Lt. Col. Sukendro, and interpreter for Subroto among others. General Nasution’s English turned out to be quite fluent.

General Nasution struck me as a highly intelligent, determined man of character with definite philosophy and most attractive personality, [Page 150] latter feature I had not anticipated. After we had established rapport he opened up and talked freely, at one point nearly 15 minutes without pause.

General received me standing, flanked by his staff officers and we spoke for some minutes together before coffee was served and we sat down. In connection usual exchange of courtesies. I observed that I had heard a great deal about him since coming to Indonesia and that it had all been good. I expressed regret that it was impossible for him to attend my dinner for Admiral Frost 4 tonight but that I understood completely, knowing how busy he must be. However, I hoped that when he saw Admiral Frost tomorrow morning he would not treat the Admiral’s call as a courtesy call but would discuss Indonesian situation frankly with him and anything else he had on his mind. I said this would be mutually beneficial.

General Nasution responded that he would do so. He said, “There have been serious misunderstandings between United States and Indonesia.” I agreed, commenting that I hoped these were in process of being cleared up.

Expressing regret but also understanding that he had been unable to send observers to SEATO exercise, I then led into invitation from Admiral Stump to attend or send representatives to modern weapons demonstration and handed him draft of Admiral Stump’s letter.5 Nasution replied that he would have liked to have sent observers to SEATO exercise but that in present situation it was impossible as he needed every competent officer. He said he sincerely welcomed Admiral Stump’s invitation, indicated that if timing were different he would have accepted with pleasure but that he was afraid he would have to make same response as to SEATO. However, he appreciated invitation and would write Admiral Stump.

I then referred to long standing arms request which Indonesian military had with US Government and outlined substance of reference telegrams in less detail but otherwise as presented to Foreign Minister and Prime Minister last night (Embtel 4112).6 General appeared gratified by news that US was now prepared to be responsive to arms request but made no specific comment. I emphasized my government wished to demonstrate its confidence in leadership Indonesian Army by this [Page 151] move. Statement evoked gratified nods from staff officers present and this was point at which Nasution himself began to unbend.

He said he wanted me to know his thinking on position of Indonesian Army within democratic government structure. (General had previously been described to me as officer who talks over heads of associates. This characteristic was clearly evident as General pursued theme of place of Indonesian military in hierarchy.) He was disciple of late General Sudirman, founder of Indonesian Army and Chief of Staff during revolution, he said, in his strong conviction that Indonesian Army must be protector of democratic Indonesian state based upon constitution and Pantjasila. Constitution was important but Pantjasila with its five principles was basis of philosophy establishing republic.

He wanted me to understand this because this was reason Army would never permit Communists to take over government. PKI did not agree with two points of Pantjasila and Army considered all five points fundamental to Indonesian philosophy of revolution. Army had fought for individual freedom as well as independence of country and was determined to preserve this.

For same reasons, he was equally and unalterably opposed to Moslem state which would violate principles Pantjasila. This was old-fashioned concept. It might have been all right 500 years ago in period absolute monarchies but not today. He knew Natsir intimately. They had worked together during revolution but he had never been able to subscribe to Natsir’s philosophy.

He was likewise opposed to military junta concept, he said. Indeed, differences between himself and former members of his staff, such as Colonel Lubis, revolved around this central point. There was no difference in their attitude toward communism and he said this represented basis misunderstanding on America’s part of issues involved in current conflict. Colonel Lubis wanted to use army as road to political power; other dissidents were merely interested in “commercial aspects of Warlordism”. This was great evil in Indonesian Army as it had been in Chinese Army in old days, and he was determined to crush this and develop strong, vigorous, cohesive army responsive to commander-in-chief with function of preservation Indonesian democracy. He implied China might never have gone Communist had this been true.

Position of Indonesian military was different and would continue to be different from that of military in any other country in world that he knew of, he said. He has repeatedly been urged to take over power and establish military dictatorship. “I will not do this,” he said. “This is what happens in Latin America. It must not happen in Indonesia. If I seize power today someone else will seize power tomorrow and throw me out. This does not make for stable democracy, which is our objective”.

[Page 152]

Neither, however, would Indonesian military ever accept traditional position of military in European democracies and under all circumstances take orders from civilian politicians. Indonesian military would continue active in policy. They had fought and won revolution and considered they had right to be heard in councils of nation. They did not want to take over power—their objective, he repeated, was to protect and preserve fruits of revolution. “It is our job to preserve freedom in Indonesia,” he said, “and to prevent its curtailment from whatever source. This is what Pantjasila means to us.”

To carry out this concept, Army would insist on strong emergency powers being provided in constitution. They must be able to move in and take over legally when threat to democratic state loomed on horizon. What he seemed to be saying was that Indonesian Army would in effect be policeman to constitution and guardian of Indonesian liberties and that he was determined to weld it into effective instrument for this purpose.

Comment: I was much impressed with General Nasution and believe conversation was most useful from standpoint both sides. Better assessment of results, however, can be made after discussions within Cabinet are known and Indonesians follow up this approach.

Department’s prompt action relation above matter deeply appreciated. It apparently was close thing. British Ambassador informed me today he was waiting for Subandrio yesterday at 1 p.m. and that Foreign Minister was delayed considerable length of time in Cabinet meeting. His aide informed Ambassador, “there is terrible argument going on in there”, and when Foreign Minister finally emerged he confirmed this and indicated in meeting great pressure had been brought to attack US openly as aggressor. Events of last night and this morning already appear to have brought great change in atmosphere.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 756D.00/5–1858. Secret; Niact. Transmitted in two sections.
  2. Document 81.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 84.
  4. Jones summarized his talk with Nasution in Indonesia: The Possible Dream, pp. 137–139.
  5. Admiral Laurence H. Frost, Chief of U.S. Naval Intelligence, arrived in Indonesia on May 8 as part of a larger trip to the Far East for the purpose of inspecting U.S. naval intelligence operations. (Ibid., p. 147)
  6. Not further identified.
  7. Document 84.