167. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Southwest Pacific Affairs (Cuthell) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Bundy)1


  • Indonesian Army Attitude Towards the United States Government
Ambassador Green has noted that we are now dealing with two Indonesian governments. The first is the established, Sukarno-led [Page 349]Dwikora Cabinet. The second is the Indonesian military. There is evidence that the Indonesians see a somewhat comparable split image when they look at the United States, and this memorandum presents an estimate of the Indonesian Army’s view of the American Government.
The Indonesian Army sees itself as dealing with three American governments. With some over-simplification for the purpose of rough identification, they may be described as the Pentagon, the CIA and the State Department. Recognition of the separate military, intelligence, and political aspects of the American governmental structure is not in itself remarkable. What is striking is the degree to which the Army feels it can keep its relationships with each in separate compartments, and deal with each on a separate plane in isolation from the other two.
The relationship with the Pentagon is a friendly, professional association developed at Ft. Leavenworth, Fort Benning and Fort Sam Houston. It is a service-to-service tie between military men which transcends political differences between the governments. It is an association founded on trust, respect, and a network of deep personal friendships.
[11 lines of source text not declassified]
The Army’s relations with State have not been extensive. The Army has in the past regarded this manifestation of the American Government as the proper province of the civilian branch of the Indonesian Government. While not regarded as hostile to the Army as such, State is identified in the Army mind with policies and actions inimicable to Indonesia’s basic national objectives.
The Army knows that all three United States governments approve of its actions against the PKI, and that all three are disposed to help the Army in this effort. The basic problem which now confronts it is how this American desire to help can best be exploited, first in the interests of the Indonesian Army, and, second, in the interest of Indonesia. (The Army naturally sees these two objectives as almost identical.)
Help from the Pentagon, i.e., large amounts of arms and material in a MAP pattern, for the time being is foreclosed because it cannot be concealed, and is therefore politically unacceptable. Non-military assistance from State also could not be kept covert and has therefore the same major political drawback. [5 lines of source text not declassified]
Looking beyond its current campaign against the PKI, the Army is undoubtedly aware of the problems it will have with State before any large-scale resumption of American assistance is possible. Among these are the following:
The Army opposes western military presence in Southeast Asia.
The Army favors continuation of confrontation. It may have some differences with Sukarno and Subandrio on tactics, but not on basic policy. Confrontation provides a desirable unifying influence. It provides a foreign enemy against which to channel popular hostility. It provides a rationale for continuing sacrifices from the civilian population and it justifies a continuing lion’s share of the budget for the military establishment.
The Army opposes our policy in Viet-Nam. It considers our military presence as western intervention encouraging rather than deterring Chinese intervention in Southeast Asia.
The Army is strongly nationalistic in economic orientation, and favors the takeover of western economic interests. We could be seriously mistaken if we believe that the Army does not favor a takeover of the American oil industries. It has undoubtedly calculated very carefully the repercussions of such a takeover and may have already made careful preparations with the Japanese and other powers to compensate for any ill effects. Transportation and marketing would obviously be the main problems confronting a national oil industry, and the Japanese are in a position to help on both. The Army may be quite prepared to force Stanvac and Caltex out, go ten or twenty cents per barrel below the world market price in return for Japanese cooperation, and pocket the remainder of the company’s share of the profits. On this basis the Army may calculate that Indonesia’s foreign exchange position would be improved rather than damaged by a takeover. From the political point of view, such a strongly nationalistic action would be applauded by virtually all Indonesians. It would cut the ground from under the PKI and establish the Army as a firm foe of NEKOLIM.
The Army has a major stake in continuing good relations with the Soviet Union. These relations, they feel, will probably survive the current campaign against the PKI, but might suffer serious damage through any highly visible rapprochement with the United States. The Army has a tremendous investment in Soviet hardware, and without spare parts this hardware becomes a pile of junk. The Army’s prestige and its position as a major military force in Southeast Asia depends on continued functioning of this equipment. The Army must persuade the Soviet Union that it is anti-Chinese and that despite its actions against the PKI it will continue with policies that will serve Soviet interests in Southeast Asia.
If the foregoing analysis of the Army’s position is valid, it has the following implications for U.S. policy:
In the life and death struggle which has finally been joined with the PKI, the Army deserves our support.
For the time being we should accept the fact that the best we can hope for is a more truly non-aligned Indonesian Government still [Page 351]hostile to the United States in many ways, but also hostile in many respects to the interests of both the Soviet Union or Communist China.
For the time being we must accept a minor role in influencing the course of Indonesian events. The United States has been too firmly established as the enemy of Indonesian national hopes and ambitions to permit Indonesian individuals and organizations to work publicly with us. We can, however, play an important supporting role with the Japanese and other acceptable foreign governments, and we have an obvious contribution to make in selecting small-scale covert assistance.
With the passage of time a more truly non-aligned Indonesian Government may gradually come to recognize that American and Indonesian interests are in harmony and not in opposition. Under these circumstances our investment in training of Army officers under MAP, and civilians under a variety of AID programs will bear fruit. This is, however, a process which must proceed at its own pace and any well-meaning efforts to hurry it are likely to have the reverse effect.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, EA/Indonesia Files: Lot 68 D 467, POL 23–9, 30 September Movement. Secret. Drafted by Underhill. Printed from an unsigned copy.