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

264. 1. Following are my dominant first impressions of Indonesian political scene. These impressions are shared by senior members of my staff and are reflected in their excellent reports these past several months.

2. Sukarno is deliberately promoting Communism’s cause in Indonesia. I concur in view already expressed in this Embassy’s reporting that Sukarno, who clearly calls the shots here, is attempting to move all forces in Indo society to left or, more explicitly, to policy orientation similar to that PKI. This is being done at as rapid a pace as seems prudent without creating excessive dissidence or coalition of more conservative elements which might conceivably act as coherent restraining influence. Sukarno is not a “Communist” in a formal sense, but he is certainly attracted to Communism as a means of organizing society and advancing his own Marxist-nationalistic ideology. We may look for Sukarno to continue his efforts to develop a family of more or less “Communist” power elements, of which the PKI proper would be an important but not an exclusive element. This (i) gives Sukarno more freedom to operate, (ii) makes some sort of “communization a la Indonesia” more palatable to other groups by allowing them to continue their existence and even to prosper while being altered in their intrinsic content and (iii) provides a more acceptable image abroad in areas of would-be Indonesian or “NEFO” penetration.

3. Indonesia has become an almost completely closed society. I was aware in Washington that we were taking a propaganda beating but I was not aware of the extent of this anti-U.S. campaign. Pro-Communist Antara News Agency is sole source of foreign news. Indonesian people are receiving steady propaganda diet through speeches of their leaders, press, radio and TV emphasizing seamy side of U.S. domestic life and U.S. “imperialism and aggression” abroad. U.S. efforts to refute hostile propaganda are largely ignored. While many Indonesians say privately that they see merit in our side of story, they are submerged in mass of anti-U.S. rhetoric and distorted news from Antara or from Peiping, Pyongyang, Hanoi and Moscow. No one has the guts to print objective views and this is understandable in Indonesia’s political environment.

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a. Indonesians have developed art of smearing by insinuation to fine point. Usual formula is to print distorted or manufactured allegation against U.S. or other “imperialist” enemy, refuse to print rebuttal, and then take stand that silence by “imperialists” implies consent. This point clearly indicated by Minister Coordinator for Public Relations Ruslan Abdulgani, who said in speech July 27 that absence of denial by UK and Malaysia to Indo charges of subversion in Sulawesi remind one of old Dutch saying that “those who keep silent consent.”

4. U.S. officials in Indonesia are becoming increasingly isolated. Indonesian contacts shy away from us when political climate heats up, and this is the hot season in Djakarta. For our part we do not press to see them since in present atmosphere this would put them in difficult position. DCM, who has been here on and off since 1949 and who, therefore, has many old Indonesian friends, tells me that he leaves it up to these friends in most cases to see him, wanting to avoid putting them on spot by seeking them out. In most cases they stay away.

5. Although I see no immediate physical threat to Americans in Indonesia, I believe there is virtue in further contraction of our establishment here. I lean more and more in favor of withdrawing all university contract Americans. Possibly it would be helpful to convey to Indos impression that we are prepared to pull out completely if conditions worsen appreciably. Perhaps if Sukarno started really to think about it he would begin to realize all the disadvantages and even dangers to him were a break in relations to occur. This is not to deny that there would be disadvantages to us as well, but I feel that Sukarno has come to feel over the last several years that the U.S. has an infinite capacity to put up with Indo harassments and humiliations. If we could shake this belief we might at least buy time. In any case, previous U.S. posture of sweetness and light has been anything but successful in recent past.

6. I have been unable to establish any kind of dialogue or even antiphonal autologue with Sukarno in short time I have been here. Process has been inhibited of course by events before my arrival, events following that arrival and perhaps importantly by fact that Sukarno goes into hibernation for three weeks before his annual blockbuster speech on August 17. In fact he raised latter subject with me as first topic in our conversation July 26. Subandrio has avoided any talks with me. Other Indonesians are perfectly pleasant (for example, my wife and I had long pleasant chat with Madame Hartini Sukarno and several cabinet ministers after opening of Book Fair yesterday) but social dealings are as generally reflected in para 4 above.

7. Our style and approach towards Sukarno and company in past years may have been appropriate under circumstances then but I believe time has come to challenge old assumptions, to look at facts anew and to re-examine our posture toward Indonesia. This is process we [Page 280]must do in orderly deliberate manner. We should avoid to extent circumstances permit any sudden changes of policy or crash operations.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 2 INDON. Secret. Repeated to Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Tokyo, and CINCPAC for POLAD.