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143. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State0

2154. For Secretary from Ambassador. CINCPAC also for POLAD. Time has come in my opinion when US interests demand reassessment of situation in Indonesia and review of our policy and courses of action.

US has been seriously challenged in Indonesia by Communist bloc for first time since nation freed from colonial domination of Dutch.

Result is that economic, military, psychological programs which formerly good enough, no longer can assure achievement of US minimum objective of preventing Indonesia from falling under Communist control.

US is faced with decision as I see it whether this minimum objective of sufficient importance to make necessary effort to repel Communist counter-attack now in full swing. If answer affirmative US will, as in achievement any major objective, have to pay price. Price will be higher, longer we wait.

Situation still sufficiently fluid that if positive program to meet new situation is pressed immediately, vigorously, Communists can be beaten here. Inaction unlikely to preserve status quo; on contrary it virtually certain produce deterioration our position, further Communist gains, ultimate necessity for drastic measures to avert disaster—measures we might by then be unable or unwilling to take.

I wish to propose now in broad outline seven-point program of immediate action. In subsequent communications I intend to spell out in greater detail certain parts of it.

Before suggesting program I would discuss briefly reasons why we must take action—why it is that, despite the anti-Communist position of the army, Indonesians now moving slowly but perceptibly from neutralist position to one of greater dependence on bloc.

Slightly less than year ago USSR apparently reached conclusion it could not afford have largest Asian Communist Party outside China mainland go down drain. At about that time President Eisenhower declined visit Indonesia. Khrushchev did come, and he dangled practically [Page 303]unlimited offers of economic, military aid before eyes of relatively unsophisticated Indonesians. Even more importantly he came forward with sky’s-the-limit offer of political support for satisfaction of Indonesian national claim to WNG. Perhaps most effective of all, he paid attention to Sukarno.

At almost this precise moment Dutch elected assert their colonial claim in this part of world by dispatching aircraft carrier Karel Doorman on flag-showing cruise. However innocent Dutch intent may have been, however well-grounded in legality their claims to this conglomeration of mountain and swamp land half world away, from Holland, consequences of this action have been mischievous and long-lasting. At worst, this defiant gesture may have been prelude to free world disaster in Southeast Asia, opening the way, as it has, for an unwelcome choosing up of sides over intrinsically insignificant issue.

It hardly necessary to spell this out in detail. Should war break out between Netherlands and Indonesia over WNG, consequences are such that our entire position in Asia would be threatened. The Sino-Soviet bloc would at once come to support of Indonesia, Australia would at once come to support of Holland. The US would be forced to choose between unsatisfactory position of neutrality and support of Netherlands on an issue which all of Asia and Africa would regard as struggle of new nation against colonialism.

In my view this bleak outlook can be prevented from ever coming to pass but not without US seizing initiative, difficult as this is for us in situation in which long-time, tried and true ally arrayed against uncertain newcomer. Formula for solution of WNG question must be found, US as acknowledged leader of free world has responsibility of finding it. We must further face up to hard fact that if peaceful solution to be developed it must be solution acceptable to Indonesians. Time has passed that Dutch could dictate terms and every attempt on their part to do so only throws Indonesians closer and closer into waiting Soviet arms.

Solution of West Irian problem, difficult as that may be, is, however, alone no longer sufficient to bring about readjustment of Indonesian posture. Second essential key is Sukarno the man. Once Sukarno would have turned with whole heart to US if we would have changed our position on WNG; he told at least three successive Ambassadors this. Today more is required.

We must convince Sukarno we are interested in working with him to achieve peaceful solution to problems of Asia in general and WNG in particular. As first step toward new rapprochement with Indo President, we must satisfy him that US is not hostile to him personally. Reserving elaboration of separate points for subsequent communications, following is summary of actions which I think we must take to achieve our objectives.

[Page 304]
Resolution of New Guinea question. We must actively seek formula for solution West Irian question, exploring all possibilities, recognizing that there no possibility of permanent, peaceful settlement which does not include unmistakable promise that this territory will one day be united with Indonesia.
Establishment of personal relationship between President Kennedy and President Sukarno. This involves also recognition of fact there no group in Indonesia except rebels willing directly to oppose Sukarno, and therefore no immediate means of displacing him.
Greater flexibility in (a) technical assistance programs including commodity support; and (b) educational exchange. Only slightly more funds would be required but Ambassador should be free to move expeditiously when opportunity arises.
Much greater speed in supporting development projects and programs, more stress on political effect; willingness to let Indo use development funds as they think best, including promotion of their concept of socialist state if necessary; and broader use of resources for development of impact projects on basis of calculated risk even though such use funds may involve some departure from traditional economic criteria for justification.
Removal of political restrictions, “token aid” character military assistance to Indo. For example, provision heavier weapons rather than permitting bloc to supply them (although we may be too late here).
Preparation for possible major psychological war campaign coordinating covert and overt resources when proper climate can be developed.
Review of US position colonial questions throughout world, to assure that we are as we talk and as we like to think of ourselves. Although listed last in this list, it might well be first in importance.

It my considered judgment that such program would not meet our short range objective here. I believe, however, that its success depends upon complete coordinated pursuit of all seven points. Partial implementation would not likely bring partial success but only delayed failure.

If it is to be argued as heretofore that such program involves too high price, then we must readjust our thinking to concept of advanced Communist base in this three thousand [garble], strategically located treasure house of resources, or at least an Indonesia closely approximating Communist satellite. We may even have to face involvement in new proxy war or war itself should Anzus become involved over WNG.

It not my purpose to evaluate these possibilities in total scheme of things. I consider it my inescapable duty, however, to point the ways I see of avoiding them.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.98/1–2561. Secret. Also sent to CINCPAC.