169. Memorandum From Robert H. Johnson of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Rostow)0


  • State’s Briefing Papers for the Sukarno Visit

In response to your suggestion to Mr. Bell that the papers include an outline of the points to be covered, State has included in pp. 2–4 of the transmittal memo to the President1 a very brief summary of the proposed general position on each issue. In its transmittal memo State [Page 372]emphasizes the importance of dispelling Sukarno’s belief that we oppose him personally. In view of this emphasis, with which I agree, I think it might be highly useful if the President could be given a somewhat fuller background on the reasons for Sukarno’s belief; I recommend that a statement along the lines of the attached be provided to him. (It is a slightly revised version of something I gave you in mid-March.) If you agree, I will have Sam Belk include it in the briefing material he is getting together for the President.

I. West New Guinea (Tab C)2

The objective of the U.S. approach is a very minimal one of providing “evidence of friendly interest and concern in the West New Guinea dispute which will encourage a peaceful settlement” (p. 1 of memo).

State proposes that we advance the Malayan trustee idea and ask that Sukarno give us his reaction after he had had time to study it. No reference is made to self-determination, a plebiscite or a terminal date for the trusteeship, but reference is made (Tab C, p. 3, par. 4) to replacement of Dutch officials and to the fact that Indonesia would have access to the territory under a trusteeship. This is a more forthcoming position than I had anticipated. I recommend, however, that we make three additional points. If we are not prepared to go as far as the third, as I would prefer, it would be possible to stop after the first or the second.

“We are prepared to use our maximum powers of persuasion with the Dutch in order to obtain a solution that will be acceptable to Indonesia. President Sukarno realizes of course that many Dutch feel very strongly about this issue and that it will require some flexibility on all sides if a solution is to be found.”
“While it is impossible for us to suggest now exactly how long a trusteeship might last, we would anticipate that it would be a transitional arrangement and not of indefinite duration.”
“West New Guinea is not ours to dispose of, but, as we look at the various possible ways in which the situation might evolve, it seems most likely to us that sooner or later it will go to Indonesia.”

The discussion of the WNG problem in the State paper covers most of the essential points but buries, in the first two full paragraphs on the [Page 373]last page, the discussion of the urgency of the situation.3 It also does not consider the question of where an immediate negative Sukarno reaction to our proposals would leave us.

II. East/West Relations (Tab D)

So far as I know current policy on the subjects covered, the material seems accurately to reflect it. However, the following ideas have occurred to me in reading this section.

Laos (p. 1): Would there be any value in the President’s taking off from the statement that we support the goal of a neutral Laos to digress briefly on this Administration’s general view of neutralism?
Communist China (p. 5, par. 4):Bob Komer is giving you a memo on the general subject.4 Whether or not they are so intended, the first two sentences of par. 4 could be interpreted by Sukarno as being directed toward GRC support of the Indonesian rebels. If so, the assurances contained in them are pretty weak. Why not delete them and revise the third sentence to read: “We make every effort to dissuade the GRC from policies and actions which are contrary to the interests of other friendly countries, but it should be appreciated that we cannot and do not control the GRC’s policies and actions.”
Disarmament (p. 6): The principal point of this discussion is to explain the significance we attach to inspection. Yet, it seems to me that par. 3, which is intended to do so, does not clearly state the case for inspection.
[Page 374]

III. Economic Support for Indonesia (Tab G)

The second paragraph of “recommendations”5 raises two questions:

The point that the United States has the resources, competence and leadership to “win” the cold war seems a much broader point than just an economic one and, if it is to be made, should probably be made in a broader context than that of U.S. support for Indonesia’s eight year plan. I am rather surprised to see it included at all, in the view of the opinion I have heard expressed several times by State people that it can be best made implicitly rather than explicitly.
I think it is tilting against windmills to suggest to Sukarno that his connections with the USSR and Communist China be limited to “facade connections”. The figures under Tabs G-2 and G-3 indicate that Bloc aid offers total over one billion dollars, U.S. aid, $572.6 million.

Perhaps State intends that the U.S. will assume most of the burden of support for the eight year plan for it suggests that the President say (last sentence, p. 1): “We would anticipate that the magnitude of this [U.S.]6 assistance would cover a substantial part of the resources required by the plan.” In the Embassy’s despatch analyzing the plan, it is indicated that the Indonesian Cabinet believed that Indonesia would absorb additional credits of $40 million per year. If this Cabinet view were accepted at face value, perhaps the U.S. can cover a substantial part (or all) of the resources required. However, it is also evident that the plan contemplated unrealistic amounts of foreign private investment and that the Cabinet has not really made up its mind about foreign investment, a subject that the government has debated inconclusively since independence. Thus, actual requirements for additional aid could be a good deal more than $40 million per year. In any event, it seems quite unlikely that Sukarno will be willing to forego Bloc aid.

The first full paragraph on p. 3 outlines a more extensive role for the proposed high level mission than I think it will be likely to be able to play; [Page 375]the first line of the paragraph is a general expression of State’s own doubts on this score.7

The Pope Case (Tab H)

I remind you that you have a TS memo in your file on this subject8 that you may want to use in any talk with the President.


Though not mentioned in these briefing papers, you may recall that Mr. Bell thought it would be useful sometime in the conversation if the President could outline his own domestic policy plans. He mentioned education as an example. (The Indonesians are very keen on education and it is one of the few fields in which they have done a quite effective job since independence.)




Our policy toward Indonesia for the last several years has been based upon the hope of strengthening an anti-Communist element or grouping in Indonesia in order to force Sukarno, in his manipulation of Indonesian political forces, to move in a more anti-Communist direction. Our immediate objective—except possibly for a short period in 1957–58—was not to supplant Sukarno himself, but to influence his political balancing act in a direction favorable to ourselves.

In the early and mid-1950’s we based our hopes upon Hatta (the anti-Communist Vice President), and upon the Masjumi (liberal middle [Page 376]class pro-West Moslem party) and the Indonesian Socialist Party (pro-West, rationalist intellectual). The national elections of 1955 and provincial elections of 1957 demonstrated the weaknesses of these bases of non-Communist opposition. When dissidence in the Outer Islands, always an important factor in Indonesia, broke out into an open rebellion in 1957–58 led by anti-Communist regional military commanders and certain prominent members of the Masjumi, we put our chips on the revolutionary government and hoped to identify Sukarno with the Communists. But the revolutionists soon proved unable to stand up to the military forces of the central government.

However, the rebellion brought to the fore another non-Communist alternative—the central army command under General Nasution. Accordingly, when it became evident that the rebellion would fail, we extended military assistance to Indonesia and sought to build up the army as a non-Communist political force. (During the period when the rebellion had been developing we had turned down Indonesian government requests for military aid.) There also continued in existence a significant anti-Sukarno non-Communist political party remnant. The army under Nasution showed signs from time to time of a desire to cooperate with that remnant in building a national anti-Communist political movement. We encouraged such efforts. One such attempt by the army was the creation of the National Front for the Liberation of West Irian. A more recent effort was the creation in mid-1960 of the Democratic League which had discreet army support. Both of these efforts failed and both organizations are now dissolved.

Through all of this period Sukarno has sought two objectives: (a) to so balance and frustrate sources of potential or actual opposition to himself as to maintain his own pre-eminent political position; and (b) to create an organized mass political base which is loyal to himself personally. His balancing act initially involved balancing the non-Communist political parties off against each other; then the central army command against the political parties; finally the Communists against the army. Through it all Sukarno has manipulated the emotions of nationalism and revolution to maintain his own popular political strength as the foundation for a political movement based upon personal loyalty to himself. (Unlike other Asian political leaders, he did not come to power as the actual head of a political movement.) His campaign against Dutch economic interests, against the rebels and against the indigenous Chinese as well as his campaign for West Irian have all served this purpose.

Sukarno’s leadership combines strong charismatic qualities with an adept Machiavellianism. The opposition caves in when it faces even the prospect of a confrontation. This was true of Hatta; it is true of Nasution. In his search for a personal political base he has created a political philosophy and political slogans which appeal to a deep synoretic tendency in [Page 377]Indonesian culture and which at the same time provide an all-encompassing political-ideological umbrella under which he can operate to unite the most diverse political factions. “Pantshila”, and more recently, “Usdek”, both quite devoid of genuine content, are expressions of this syncretism. He has no interest in administration or in economics; his passion is revolutionary politics directed toward securing his own position. The first five year development plan was a bust; the new eight year plan may suffer the same fate. Both, however, have served useful personal political purposes.

Sukarno must now consider that he is at last approaching the culmination of his endeavors. He has used the concept of “guided democracy” and the return to the 1945 constitution to destroy the governmental institutional bases for opposition as well as to destroy the principal opposition political parties. The Masjumi and the Socialist Parties have been dissolved. The two remaining non-Communist parties of any consequence—the National Party (PNI) and the Muslim Scholar Party (NU)—have subordinated their views to Sukarno’s. The PNI has always, in any event, derived most of its strength from its identification with Sukarno. Sukarno is now launching a new National Front which is designed to provide, at long last, a mass political base loyal to him.

The Indonesian Communists. (PKI) early learned that opposition to Sukarno did not pay. Since their armed revolt of 1948 they have, with only minor deviations, identified themselves with Sukarno’s objectives. They have, of course, prospered. They have long had the most effective village-level political organization in Java. Meanwhile, the USSR has also given Sukarno increasing support.

Whereas the PKI and the USSR have given consistent support to Sukarno, we have given our support to the anti-Communist forces with the result that we have often seemed to oppose Sukarno. In view of this it is not surprising that, as the recent SNIE on Indonesia states (Par. 33, SNIE 55–61):10

  • “. . . . Sukarno appears to be increasingly convinced that he personally does not have the sympathy and support of the U.S. and that the U.S. not only would be happy to see him replaced but would be willing to assist a local initiative to this end. His suspicions of the U.S. are buttressed by his belief that the U.S. was behind the 1958 rebellion of the outer islands. He has interpreted the failure of President Eisenhower to visit Indonesia during his Pacific tour as a personal snub. Moreover, U.S. policy regarding the West New Guinea issue has always antagonized Sukarno. These factors have accelerated Sukarno’s current slide to the left in domestic and foreign policies.”
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Indonesia, Vol. I, 4/61. Secret.
  2. Document 168.
  3. Reference is to Tabs A-J outlined in Document 168.
  4. These two paragraphs of Tab C read as follows:

    “We believe that a solution must be found as the Dutch position is untenable and Indonesian frustration, with Communist goading, may if not ameliorated lead to hostilities which could be ruinous to the Free World position in Southeast Asia. Indonesia may have the requisite military capability by the end of this year to launch an offensive campaign.

    “We do not want uncontrolled UN discussion of the issue as we would be placed in the uncomfortable position of choosing between a key Asian power with a strong psychological and historical case and a faithful European ally espousing the cause of ‘self-determination’.”

  5. Not found.
  6. This paragraph of Tab G reads:

    “Given the penchant of President Sukarno to play both ends in the cold war and attempt to line up with the winner, President Kennedy should seek to induce a conviction on the part of Sukarno that the United States has the resources, competence and leadership to win, hence he would be well advised to go along with the West and eschew anything but facade connections with the Chinese Communists or the Soviet Union. The President could refer in a confident tone to the plain facts regarding U.S. resources, demonstrated capabilities and intentions.”

  7. Brackets in the source text.
  8. The first sentence of this paragraph of Tab G reads: “To the extent that Indonesian officials will listen and cooperate, the proposed economic mission might outline a simplification of the foreign exchange system and the adoption of realistic rates, also seeking to reduce the recurrent budget deficit and minimize punitive measures against private industry and entrepreneurs.”
  9. See the enclosure to Document 153.
  10. No classification marking. Drafted by Robert H. Johnson.
  11. See Document 151.