193. Briefing Notes for President Johnson 1


  • Meeting with Ambassador Marshall Green Tuesday, February 15

Marshall Green has returned for consultations at a moment when Sukarno’s political adroitness is recouping for him much of the [Page 403]power assumed by the military following the PKI’s abortive coup last fall.

After employing brilliant “salami” tactics in eliminating the PKI as an effective political force, Generals Nasution and Suharto are now temporizing in using the political leverage they have gained against Sukarno. The military fear their unity will not hold up under a direct challenge to Sukarno and are once again reverting to a policy of pursuing limited political objectives. Sukarno is exploiting the military’s hesitation to reassert his full powers and continue in force his radical left domestic and foreign policies.

In effect, “two governments” are now competing for power and attempting to administer the country. The struggle is likely to continue for some months without clear resolution, but Sukarno has maneuvered into a somewhat better position to come out ahead.

Without effective government, severe inflation is rampant and the economy continues its dangerous slide into chaos. The military are attempting to saddle Sukarno with responsibility for national mismanagement while seeking their own essential rice supplies through private channels abroad.

Our policy during this period has been to maintain correct relations with the government without attempting to initiate new aid or other programs of support. We are reluctant to bolster Sukarno through new monetary stabilization and other aid, are still awaiting clarification in the current political confusion, and are coupling aid with the necessity for improved diplomatic relations and changes in Indonesian policies. The military have been opposed to new, overt foreign economic assistance until they have achieved certain (undefined) political changes.

Our ability to respond to Indonesian requests for aid when they are made may be hampered by the simmering crisis between the Indonesian Government and U.S. oil companies. The momentum of Indonesian harassment has continued since the abortive coup last fall.

Green considers the next six months critical. You may wish to raise with him:

Whether our present posture remains viable in the face of Sukarno’s reassertion of his authority.
A specific question might be whether expanded quiet U.S. assistance to the military might place them in a better position to blunt Sukarno’s impetus toward restoring his radical left policies.2

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We have serviceable channels to the military if more extensive quiet support is desired. We have so far limited this to the provision of medical supplies and communications equipment.

R. W. Komer3
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Robert W. Komer, Indonesia, Nov. 63 to Mar. 66, [1 to 3]. Secret. These notes were originally prepared as a draft memorandum for the President, but Komer changed them to Briefing Notes for the President’s meeting with Marshall Green on February 15; see Document 194. Attached but not printed is a brief biographical sketch of Green. The Department of State also prepared a February 12 briefing paper for the President. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, EA/Indonesia Files: Lot 70 D 3, PER 9–3 Consultation)
  2. Komer sent a February 10 memorandum to the President to obtain approval of the meeting with Green. In that memorandum he noted that “The power struggle between Sukarno and the Army is the second biggest story in Southeast Asia” and the outcome was still uncertain. Komer suggested giving “a little more discreet help to the Army; or at least to tell them we’d do so if and when they made the right noises. A word from you to Green would stimulate contingency planning.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. 20, Feb. 5–28, 1966)
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.