109. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State 1

1643. Ref: Deptel 727.2 While we agree with analysis reftel, Country Team seriously concerned that line Ambassador instructed take with Sukarno will worsen rather than help basic situation. Recent deplorable attacks US installations here are reflection rather than cause fundamental US-GOI problem. Debate with Sukarno on Viet-Nam and other policy issues along lines reftel is not only futile but will just anger him and probably increase our troubles. Country Team convinced day when we can profitably try to argue Indos into accepting our viewpoint on major world issues is, for the moment and hopefully temporarily, past. [Page 231]Believe we should “agree to disagree” with GOI on China, Viet-Nam, Malaysia, Congo, etc. We can, of course, discuss these problems but would be futile to lay our prestige on line by attempting convince them we are right and they wrong. Believe, however, we can and should attempt turn present unfortunate situation to some advantage by shifting dialogue onto preservation our bilateral relationships and seeking actions best designed to do this.

Following additional factors underlie Country Team thinking:

If we seem attack and threaten Indos along lines reftel they will react adversely and irrationally. We will not convince them, merely aggravate them. Situation will continue to worsen, perhaps to breaking point.
With no real capacity for retaliation against Indo installations in US, we only increase danger to our own establishment here by vague threats and admonitions. We believe it important that USG retain foothold in Indonesia. If present trends continue we will be put in position sooner or later where we will have little alternative but to retaliate against some Indo installations in US. Resulting tit-for-tat exchange could eliminate US from Indonesia. As Dept aware, Indos are hypersensitive in dealing with big Western power and perfectly capable cutting own throats if they believe they being pressured.
We support delay in $350,000 contribution to Bandung reactor but fact remains it is limited lever over Sukarno, whereas if used punitively it will only hurt and antagonize some of our friends here (especially Siwabessy). Unilateral reduction size USAID as punitive measure similar. If this to be done believe we should do it in way which gets at least some mileage from GOI.
Despite what Sukarno, Subandrio and others have said, evidence is clear they do not want our USIS libraries, at least as they now function, and have little interest in USAID. Same is probably true other parts US installation. Indos seem be reaching point at which they “tolerate” our programs because they think we want them and because up to a point they want to avoid antagonizing us further. Reftel seems imply we should press for physical protection existing establishment by GOI. We agree but believe we should also examine that establishment more closely to reduce difficulty of protection.
Would be unrealistic for us to insist on retention USIS libraries or other aspects our programs directed toward Indo people when they are in such marked contrast with what GOI is telling its own people. GOI has given us clear signal on these libraries. We should recognize it.
Despite our policy differences with GOI, Country Team believes constructive discussion is possible and necessary regarding our bilateral relations. We believe Sukarno and many of his top aides want avoid break with USG. Reasons for this complex but probably include [Page 232](a) fact that US is major world power as well as power in Pacific; (b) GOI view that USG may at some point be useful in exerting influence on Brits; (c) belief US is still potent source aid; and (d) though this seems be diminishing possible belief USG is useful as counter-ploy to Communist China. Sukarno’s often expressed and we believe sin- cere friendship for Americans as individuals also should not be over- looked.
As result above analysis, Country Team believes our objectives should be (a) quietly to reduce hostages (especially unengaged people in USIS aid and MILTAG); (b) eliminate those parts our establishment which have become useless to us and source profitless friction with GOI; and (c) try to convince Indos it in our common interest to carry out (a) and (b) above in rational and orderly manner and in way that will preserve our future bilateral relationship.
Approach which seeks reduce our presence here may actually stimulate Indos to help preserve as much of our establishment as possible. Our apparent readiness to take initiative may shock some Indos into believing we are preparing to abandon them. This could rebound to our benefit. Continued effort by us to avoid reductions in establish- ment likely strengthen hand those who seek total elimination USG presence.

To summarize, Country Team and I believe attacks on US installations and other recent GOI actions are signal Indos do not want us here in strength and form we now have. This not to say attacks in any sense justified or should be condoned. What we mean is that discussion should not be restricted solely to attacks and ostensible reason for them (Viet-Nam). Rather these should be used as springboard for far-reaching exploration seeking rational and realistic basis for continued USG-GOI relations. Numbered paras 1, 2 and 5 in instructions (reftel) seem fit within this framework. Paras 3 and 4 would, I believe, be counterproductive. I therefore urge Dept amend my instructions and authorize me make following approach to Sukarno and Subandrio (I would hope see them together; if not I would go over same ground separately).3

[Page 233]
(Same as numbered para 1 reftel.)
(Same as numbered para 2 reftel.)
These events have brought us to critical position. We want better relations and are prepared do whatever we reasonably can to achieve them. We believe GOI also wants maintain constructive relations with us. However this mutual desire endangers present situation in which we faced by intolerable attacks on our installations.
We believe we can and must seek position in which we can have honest policy differences without excesses. One phase of present problem may be GOI view that US presence in Indo too large and active and no longer reflects actual state our relations. Seems to us this is what GOI trying tell us by these repeated attacks on our installations.
If so we would like bring this into open so we can discuss on fal [full?] and frank basis; otherwise, continuation present trends may endanger more permanent aspects of our relationship. We fully willing discuss reductions and adjustments in our programs and installations if GOI believes these desirable. However we want to take these up in orderly way on government-to-government basis and not as result mob attacks. These attacks only complicate problem and make understanding more difficult. I would then seek draw Sukarno and Subandrio out on USIS and other US installations and programs along lines set forth above. I would stress need for facing problem openly and directly and would say that in view importance USG attaches to this issue I believe it essential we have joint understanding on these matters within 30 days. I would tell them I would report their views to my government and will want to discuss matter further. I would, of course, make no commitments at this time.

Foregoing message in which I concur was drafted by Country Team prior my return this afternoon and held for my signature. As Dept aware, I have long held out for maintaining as complete US presence here as possible, considering that closing down of USIS installations would be heralded as PKI victory and swiftly result in further clipping away of US presence as PKI tacticians turn the heat on Peace Corps, AID [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].

It is obvious, however, that if GOI does not want USIS to continue its activity in its present form, we as guests in country have no choice but to accept verdict. It is of vital importance to our bilateral relationship that if utility of USIS operation actually has diminished to point at which we are getting no returns on our investment, whatever adjustment is to be made should be made in manner to do least damage to totality of US position. This I and all of Country Team consider can only be done by full and free frank discussion with Sukarno and Subandrio without establishing atmosphere of threat or implied punishment.

[Page 234]

USITO 1324 reporting USIA Director Rowen’s views being answered separately.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL INDON–US. Secret; Immediate. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD. Upon receipt, passed to the White House, Defense Department, and CIA.
  2. Document 108.
  3. In telegram 731 to Djakarta, February 22, the Department agreed to Jones’ revised presentation subject to certain comments and observations. The Department believed that Indonesia had moved from “agreeing to disagree” to “riotsmanship” in its differences with the United States over Vietnam. The Department hoped that Sukarno “would not put the course of bilateral Indonesian-American relations in the hands of the Viet Cong.” The Department hoped for a clearer idea of what part of the USIS program Indonesia was prepared to defend and warned that the AID programs in Indonesia were under increasing Congressional scrutiny and unless Sukarno desired termination or substantial reduction, there was no chance of Congressional agreement. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL INDON–US)
  4. Not found.