187. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara 1



  • Aid to Indonesia (U)
(S) A recent message from the US Embassy, Djakarta, contains information indicating that President Sukarno might be re- moved [Page 391]from power after 1 January 1966 and Indonesia may request US aid.2
(S) Should this occur followed by an Army takeover, requests for overt economic assistance—especially for foodstuffs—may be substantial. Requests for the overt provision of military materiel probably would not be large. Items which might be requested include ammunition, man-portable radios, light automatic weapons, vehicles, and perhaps C–130 and C–47 aircraft spares. Some training assistance might also be sought.
(S) The displacement of President Sukarno by the Indonesian Army could benefit US security interests in the area. While political philosophies within the Army cover the full spectrum of those existing in Indonesia, the Army as a whole appears to be searching for a nonaligned policy which runs counter to President Sukarno’s previous alignment as a junior partner of the ChiComs. The Army appears to be the strongest single anticommunist force in the country but will eventually call for civilian leadership which, in turn, probably will represent a nationalist-religious-communist coalition. The US interests would be best served if the government which follows President Sukarno’s removal were to be pro-Western. It is more likely that it would be neutralist. In any case, opportunities to influence the course of events will be presented to the United States and it is appropriate to investigate at this time ways in which they can be exploited to US advantage.
(S) There are several factors, however, which impinge upon the advisability of immediate overt provision of military aid to the Indonesian Army by the United States:
The position of the Indonesian Army is precarious and any overt provision of US military aid at this time could tend to reinforce charges by Sukarno, Subandrio, Peiping, and Moscow that the Army is a “tool of (US) imperialism.”
Without a demonstrated willingness on the part of Indonesia to discontinue the “crush Malaysia” policy, the United States could be in a position of subsidizing Indonesian aggression and opposing US/UK interests in the area. On the other hand, relaxation and eventual elimination of the confrontation with Malaysia would reduce the cost to the United Kingdom of maintaining military commitments in Malaysia [Page 392]and Singapore and could lead to advantageous economic relations among Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Problems concerning expropriation of US economic assets, subversive intent toward the Philippines, and recognition of international law in the matter of free passage of the sea straits between Indonesian islands all require resolution.
Considering present US commitments in Southeast Asia, the logistics implications of aid to Indonesia must be evaluated.
In view of Indonesia’s past tendency to export aggression, the impact on neighboring countries of aid to Indonesia should be considered.
(S) The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that:
The United States, if requested, be prepared to provide Indonesia a limited quantity of emergency foodstuffs/medicines in the interest of showing support for the new government.
Since the campaign of the Indonesian military leaders against the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) appears to be progressing according to plan and no US military assistance appears required for internal security, the United States should not overtly provide military aid to Indonesia at this time.
Prior to giving favorable consideration to additional requests for overt aid, the problem areas outlined in paragraph 4, above, must be substantially resolved.
The Department of State and the Department of Defense jointly establish criteria for the resumption of overt military and economic assistance.
A memorandum substantially as contained in the Appendix hereto be forwarded to the Secretary of State.3
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
David L. McDonald4

Acting Chairman
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 70 A 3717, Indonesia 320.2–400.3295 (381 Indonesia). Secret.
  2. Telegram 1797 from Djakarta, December 15. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 INDON) In telegram 1924 from Djakarta, December 30, the Embassy suggested that although dissatisfaction with Sukarno had increased, opinions differed on whether he would be ousted in the near future. The Embassy stated that “on balance we believe Army would prefer not to oust Sukarno at this time unless their hand is forced, most likely by Sukarno himself.” (Ibid.)
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates McDonald signed the original.