341. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)0

I’ve planted the seed with Harriman that he might consider whether he shouldn’t go out personally to try and damp down Malaysia affair.1 Sukarno is the key, only the US has the leverage in this situation to have any influence on Sukarno, the Bung will only listen to the President, and only a Presidential envoy like Harriman would have the requisite combination of toughness and understanding to deal with characters like Sukarno, Macapagal and the Tunku.

To me, it’s worth every resource of preventive diplomacy to forestall the kind of blow-up over Malaysia in which our very success in blocking Sukarno may lose us Indonesia. Obviously, we must support Malaysia. But if we let things drift to the point where Sukarno’s continued subversive build-up forces us to enter the lists against him, we may practically push him into Communist hands. I do not believe the Soviets could afford to let Sukarno down, if he appealed to them for aid. They could, of course, send him all sorts of aid unless we blockaded Indonesia. If they did so, he could hardly keep the PKI out of the government, and this would make Aidit Sukarno’s logical successor. At a minimum we’d end up with a major anti-Indonesian effort on our hands, on top of Laos and Vietnam. At the maximum we’d lose Indonesia to the Bloc.

Best way I see to avoid such risks is to utilize some more Presidential diplomacy. I’d follow up the President’s “stand still” messages with a further round calling all concerned to account and asking them to lay off till he can send a personal envoy to talk with them. Harriman agrees that [Page 743] such an envoy is desirable, but bridles at going himself. However, who else could do the job? Wilson Wyatt just doesn’t carry the punch. Rusk or even Ball would be both too big and too unsympathetic to the Bung. Only Harriman can convey firmness plus understanding, and I claim it is well worth ten days of his time to hit Manila, Djakarta and then Kuala Lumpur.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Malaysia, 10/63. Secret. Also sent to Forrestal.
  2. According to a telephone conversation, October 9, 5:35 p.m. Harriman was very reluctant to go, but Komer was very insistent. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Kennedy-Johnson Administrations, Telephone Conversations)