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

1843. Reference: A. Embtel 1515. Reference: B. Embtel 1519.2

Indo politics has continued to move in “right” direction since our last assessment (reftels). PKI is no longer a significant political force, and Djakarta-Peking axis is in tatters. Meanwhile, army has gained in political experience and has further consolidated its position. Most notable change, however, has been further weakening of Sukarno’s prestige and marked failure of his mid-November bid to get full authority back in his own hands. This failure has opened real possibility of far-reaching changes in local power structure during next few months, but many problems and hazards remain.
Indonesia is now in midst of basic political revolution. Final outlines this revolution still obscure, and there will almost certainly be slippage from time to time, but we do not believe Sukarno/Subandrio can reverse present trend. Following significant developments underlie this interpretation:
Sukarno’s image is tarnished. From all sides we hear comment that he will no longer be decisive political factor in future. Even newspaper editorials and corner columns are beginning to snipe at his hitherto sacred image. Sukarno’s dogged adherence to his discredited slogans and in particular to his insistence on continuing Communist role in Indo society and Indo alliance with Asian Communist regimes has furthered public disillusion. Meanwhile army leaders and others are ignoring his admonitions to extent which inconceivable three months ago.
Subandrio has been stripped of much of his authority. Even though earlier army hope to force him out before now has not materialized, Subandrio has lost ground. His intelligence agency (BPI) has been taken out of his hands and placed under army-dominated supreme operations command (KOTI). He has been smoothly eliminated from top leadership position in KOTI at time when that body apparently [Page 389] being groomed as real power center. Even within Foreign Ministry, there large faction headed by his first deputy (Suwito) which not loyal to him.
KOTI has developed into potential rival government. Existing cabinet (105 portfolios) must eventually be changed into more efficient governmental tool. Appointment of Nasution, Sultan Hamengku Buwon, and Ruslan Abdulgani as Deputy Supreme Commanders of KOTI, with authority over military, economic, and political affairs, seems first step in this process and virtually creates rival to Sukarno’s presidium and cabinet. Below the three KOTI deputies command structures are being created reaching into every sphere of governmental activity.
Army’s internal position is stronger. Military cohesion has tightened to extent Nasution/Suharto can now expect loyalty most key commanders in any showdown. Efforts by Sukarno to shunt aside anti-Communist military leaders have flopped, and army has retained effective urban as well as rural control despite indications month ago that control might be slipping in cities.
Moderates seem about to regain control of Nationalist Party (8). Sukarno support for party’s radical left wing has had little effect in saving Ali/Surachman leadership. This further evidence of major shift in locus of power which has taken place.
Old foreign policy has been discredited. Indonesia’s close alignment with Communist China is shattered. Even confrontation with Malaysia is beginning to respond to new atmosphere and we aware of as little support outside immediate Sukarno entourage for lengthy pursuit of this ill-conceived policy.
Indos are starting to do normal business with us again. It is apparent that high level decision has been made to clean up old problems between FonDep and Embassy. Yesterday Embassy received payment for damage to Medan and Surabaya Consulates by demonstrators earlier this year. This first reimbursement we have received since 1962. We also informed yesterday that private property of two Embassy military officers which seized when house they rented from William Palmer taken over early this year will be returned to us, ending nine months of bickering. This morning USIS books which held in storage since March were turned over to Ministry of Higher Education for use by Indo universities.
Indo political change not yet complete, however, and old government structure still stands in way of positive actions in some fields. Major problem for army is fact it still saddled with Sukarno. Army obviously not happy with what he says and does but still reluctant to take any direct action to remove him. It thus possible he will remain head of state although we do not believe he will regain dominant political role. In any event, we as well as army may as well face fact we may have to live with him for a while.
Even if Sukarno remains, we believe odds are that Subandrio will go and that locus of power will center more and more on army and civilians cooperating with it. While such government will have number of shortcomings (particularly in skilled personnel), and while it will face problems of staggering proportions, at least it likely to be government with which we can deal realistically on matters of common concern. Whether such government will be able in long run to maintain its authority and prevent fragmentation of control over these scattered islands will depend in large measure on whether army able to maintain momentum which is sweeping it to power and show concrete results in handling enormous economic and administrative problems. Continuing elimination of Communists in most areas and attacks on Chinese in some have definitely weakened public order and this is another of many problems which army will have to tackle. For time being, however, attacks on tattered remnants of PKI are being allowed to continue, although purely racial excesses against Chinese are being held in partial check.
As we approach 1966, we are primarily still remaining as far in the background the Indonesian scene as possible, but on near horizon is necessity to be prepared to work with a new order which will still contain many problems for us but will be infinitely more healthy and more promising than what we had before Oct 1.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 INDON. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Bangkok, Canberra, CINCPAC for POLAD, Department of Defense, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, London, Manila, Medan, Paris for NATUS, Singapore, Tokyo, and Wellington.
  2. In telegrams 1515 and 1519, both November 20, the Embassy assessed the struggle between the pro-Sukarno leftists forces and the Army/non-Communist civilians and suggested that while clear cut predictions were difficult to make, the unresolved political situation meant that regionalism was reasserting itself in Indonesia to the detriment of both Sukarno and the Army. (Both ibid.)