159. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Indonesia1

508. 1. Following thoughts on current and prospective Indo situation are based primarily on Mission’s excellent reporting during past few weeks, are tentative, and are intended to solicit Embassy’s comment.

2. Main elements current situation are:

Indo Army still cleaning up situation;
Sukarno resisting elimination PKI and trying to reassert control;
PKI apparently undecided between pursuing legal struggle if possible or resorting to insurgency and terrorism;
Non-communist civilians who have been inactive in past years becoming actively anti-PKI, but their leaders still much in background and not playing major role. Situation likely settle down slowly in some new pattern. To date and probably in near future issue regarded as domestic (except for question of Chicom involvement), and our only role has been to give quiet assurance that we and allies will not interfere. As situation takes new shape believe it likely Army and perhaps others who will be responsible for running country will feel need to know our position toward their regime.

3. Obviously premature to assess what shape new situation will take. Alternatives seem to include, in broad terms,

Restoration pre-September 30 situation—i.e. Sukarno-run PKI dominated Indonesia;
Some version of NASAKOM with Army having ultimate responsibility for success, and “KOM” being successor to PKI;
Army-backed, and in part operated, civilian regime with substantial Marxist-Socialist civilian component;
Out and out Army regime.

4. In unlikely event a. above develops, our relations with Indo clearly back where they were and probably much worse. d. seems equally unlikely in view Nasution’s and Army’s often stated desire avoid military vs. civilian situation and importance military has long given to need for development anti-PKI, non-communist civilian government. This course would also involve direct challenge to Sukarno and subject Army’s real cohesion to major and unwanted test (Embtel 1098).2

5. b. and c. above, which we currently believe more likely, are essentially variants of same situation but probably with different internal backgrounds. b. implies settlement with Sukarno which tolerates existence weakened PKI, while c. might well result in PKI hard core being out of power, underground, and engaged in insurgency and terrorism. Likelihood in both cases is that Subandrio would be out or reduced to non-control position, while Sukarno, if present, would not have final authority in basic issues.

6. Regardless of which form new regime takes it will be faced by three major problems apart from basic issue internal security:

Priorities: While operating behind facade of current domestic policies regime will be oriented more toward Indonesians’ domestic problems, and this in turn will mean greater attention to long neglected and critical economic problems.
Foreign Policy: Indoctrination in NEFO-NEKOLIM and other acrostics so deep (and often swallowed by military themselves) that changes can only be gradual in short term and likely to be in style rather than substance;
Communism: As indicated para 3 your 1021,3 PKI is one thing, communism another. As most educated Indos have large Marxist element in their thinking, regime will have to try to educate opinion slowly to recognize that communism is more than economic theory, and that it is not simply aggressive form Indonesian nationalism (para 5 your 1090).4

7. New regime will obviously need external aid to deal with economy. Will have difficult task of doing so while handicapped by foreign policy and hobbled by confusion on economic theory. Despite this problem, approaches to Thai, Japanese, Germans and apparently others which already made will have to extend toward something more formal than simple search for emergency bailing out in terms of food.

8. Basic to getting such foreign assistance will be establishment abroad of fact that Indonesia has new face, and in this Indos likely want to know how U.S. views them and what position U.S. will be conveying to other countries whether or not Indos choose seek direct help from us. As Indos probe us on question, and recognizing we dealing in still very hypothetical situation, suggest our description of our attitude should include following:

Like Indo Army, we have long assumed that at what it considered appropriate time PKI would make overt bid for power. We were surprised that PKI chose present period for open assault re Army, as events in past months seemed to us to have been moving steadily in PKI’s favor. Only tenable conclusion we have been able reach after considerable study of available info is that Aidit and PKI were under heavy pressure from Chicoms to produce abrupt and prompt victory for Chicom interests in Asia in view recent setbacks for Chinese in Africa and elsewhere—without, of course, considering Indo interests.
Our hope continues to be that Indos will produce government and policy dedicated to Free Indonesia and to full development of country for benefit of Indo people;
As Army and non-PKI elements move into control of and responsibility for welfare of country they are going to have to take rapid and effective steps to correct current economic mess, and for this they [Page 333] will need foreign help. Indos have many friends in non-communist world who have long desired help, their objectives ranging from desire see Indo strength develop as force supporting freedom of other states to simple desire for normal and mutually profitable trade and commerce. We unaware of any free country which foolish enough to wish simply “exploit” Indonesia or its people in colonial sense. We are disposed to help Indos locate such help if they wish, but believe they will find it available without difficulty;
Our own bilateral relations have been poisoned by sea of hatred (of sort which produced September 30) which PKI has poured into Indonesia in past years. We recognize this background cannot be eliminated over night nor can it be ignored by Indo Government or by us;
In view foregoing, we assume Indos will want avoid anything looking like overt GOI turn toward U.S. For short run our assistance to them would probably have to be on covert or semi-covert basis related specific, small, ad hoc needs. We quite willing go along with this. In addition showing Indos we will not take advantage of difficult internal situation to intervene, we recognize probable need for passage of time to allow cooling off period, and will not seek or expect public evidences of pro-American feeling. (FYI: Further down road we would hope situation might stabilize to point where structured economic support along lines 1963 consortium idea could be considered, but think speculation about this, except as indicated sub-para c. above, not likely be useful in near future. End FYI.);
If real PKI insurgency situation develops we would, of course, try to meet Army needs as expressed to us by Army. Problem here could be continuation military aspects of confrontation and continuation stridently aggressive anti-American propaganda. If former stopped or suspended and latter moderated, we believe U.S. public and Congress would go along.

9. Foregoing obviously very tentative but believe Department and Embassy should try to agree on main lines of U.S. response if and as Indos probe our position in days and weeks ahead. Embassy’s comments requested.5

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 INDON. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Drafted by Cuthell, cleared by Berger, and approved by Bundy.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 158.
  3. In paragraph 3 of telegram 1021 from Djakarta, October 15, the Embassy noted: “There is a subtle but important difference in Indonesia between being anti-Communist and anti-PKI. It is okay now to be the latter but not former.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 INDON)
  4. Document 158.
  5. In telegram 1236 from Djakarta, October 27, the Embassy agreed with this analysis and recommendations. The Embassy recommended that the Department explore the possibility of “short-term, one-shot aid on covert, non attributable basis assuming Indo Army clearly solicits such aid.” The Embassy was less pessimistic than the Department about changes in Indonesian foreign policy, especially towards China. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 INDON)