157. Record of Conversation0


I. Sukarno visit: General Strategy

Guy indicated that he had talked to Professor George Kahin at Cornell about his latest paper.1 Kahin had expressed three reservations about the paper:

He was not convinced that if Indonesia gains West Irian it would have the effect of building up Sukarno. Kahin suggested that with West Irian out of the way Sukarno might be forced to perform in other areas—in areas where he may have more difficulty in performing such as economic development.
It was Kahin’s view that Sukarno had not forced the military into the new united front (the “National Front”). Rather, after Sukarno had decided upon this tactic the army had forced its own way into the Front.
Kahin agreed that if the PKI could be banned, it would eliminate the possibility that the party would be left as the legal heir to Sukarno. However, he felt that the party might remain the legitimate heir even if it were not a legal party.

With these three reservations Kahin accepted the analysis in Pauker’s paper. Kahin also pointed out that if we were going to extract a quid pro quo from Sukarno in return for a change in our position on West Irian, the matter would have to be handled with the greatest finesse because Sukarno was very sensitive to this kind of thing.

An interview Kahin had had with Aidit (Chairman of the PKI) during Kahin’s last trip to Indonesia in January indicated that the Communists were trying very hard to build an image of moderation. (Aidit sought this interview apparently for the purpose of making this clear to Kahin.)

Guy felt that perhaps the reason he was more pessimistic than Kahin about the situation in Indonesia was that he (Pauker) was attempting to determine the general trend; to determine where the political dynamics of the situation was leading Indonesia. Thus, though the army may have forced its own way into the National Front, it may nonetheless be adversely affected by its association with the Communists in the Front.

Mr. Rostow outlined the following possible strategy for dealing with Sukarno and asked Guy Pauker’s reaction to it:

The visit itself commits us to a red carpet treatment for Sukarno.
We might make some concessions to Sukarno on West Irian in the direction of eventual Indonesian control.
We might seek to convince Sukarno that we are serious in Southeast Asia; that we are not going to let South Vietnam go communist. We might seek to make him aware of the presence of the Seventh Fleet and of the fact that the movement of the Fleet during the Laotian crisis was intended seriously. In general, we might seek to convince him that the balance of power is not tilted in favor of the Communists and that this is a vigorous, powerful country. The personal impression created by the President himself should be very helpful in this regard.
Despite the fact that everyone seemed to be writing off the development plan as not being a very serious document, it should be possible to find two or three important projects in the plan that are serious and that we could offer to support. Such action should help strengthen the hand of Djuanda and the “rationalists” within the government.
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(Guy Pauker’s comments on this strategy are contained under specific subject matter headings below.)2

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Indonesia, Rand Studies (B). Secret. Drafted by Johnson on April 4. Pauker, Rostow, Landon, and Johnson had an earlier conversation on March 15. Johnson prepared a 25-page summary of the major points on March 29. (Ibid.)
  2. The paper, “Indonesia Today,” drafted by Pauker, was sent by the Rand Corporation to the White House on March 27. (Ibid.) In a March 30 memorandum to Rostow, Johnson summarized and analyzed Pauker’s paper. Johnson stated that the central issue posed by the paper was: “is Sukarno so committed to a pro-Soviet position externally and a pro-PKI position internally that he can be little influenced by any changes in U.S. policy?” Pauker leaned toward that conclusion, but suggested that Sukarno might be susceptible to personal diplomacy during his White House visit. Pauker also suggested that a U.S. deal on West New Guinea/West Irian could also have a real impact on Sukarno. Pauker warned that success in West Irian might convince the army to accept the PKI as a full partner. Johnson himself suggested a deal whereby the United States supported the claim to West Irian and offered aid and Sukarno eliminated the PKI as a political force with his united front. (Ibid.)
  3. Attached but not printed. Pauker commented that Sukarno would not accept a U.N. trusteeship and probably not a temporary U.N. trusteeship with Malaya as the trustee. Pauker thought Sukarno might accept a 5-year Malayan trusteeship followed by a plebiscite provided that Indonesians could have access to Papuans to convince them their future lay with Indonesia. As for U.S. aid, Pauker believed it could not substitute for support on West Irian. Finally, Pauker recommended the visit with President Kennedy should be a personal and social one, since Sukarno responded well to such visits.