197. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) and Chester L. Cooper of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • Indonesian Developments

Sukarno has ousted General Nasution as Indonesian Defense Minister, removed several other moderates from the cabinet, and added seven leftist ministers.2 Unless the Indonesian military challenge these decisions, this development will restore Sukarno to full political control and will negate Indonesia’s anti-Communist tendencies that have been at work since October. If the military decide to reverse Sukarno’s decisions, and it is not at all clear that they will, the situation could degenerate into civil war.

Reports from our Embassy tend to conclude that the military, and particularly Army Commander General Suharto, may not contest Sukarno’s move at this time.3 This would be consistent with the military’s past record of avoiding direct political confrontation with Sukarno and of playing out a game of maneuver.

There are factors currently at work, however, which make this situation more fluid than usual. In pressing a nationwide campaign of five months against the Indonesian Communist Party, the military have unleashed religious and political emotions that have even been directed against Sukarno, himself, and that might be difficult to hold in check. This would be particularly true if Moslem and youth elements receive any encouragement from the military. There are some reports that the military plans to foment demonstrations to afford a pretext for their re-imposition of martial law and the reversal of Sukarno’s decisions. This would lead to the direct confrontation with Sukarno that the military has always avoided. But some Army elements might be ready [Page 411]to accept the risks of internal military strife rather than lose the opportunity of completing the internal political changes their moves against the Indonesian Communist Party set in motion.

Although the situation is confused and fluid, one thing is clear: few if any U.S. initiatives to influence the course of events are apparent.

CLC
McG. B.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Indonesia, Vol. VI, 11/65–5/66. Secret. There is an indication on the memorandum that the President saw it.
  2. In telegram 2341 from Djakarta, February 20, the Embassy reported a “real crisis shaping up between Sukarno and Army.” Telegram 2360 from Djakarta, February 22, contains a complete list of the “reshuffled Dwikora Cabinet” announced by Sukarno on February 21; telegram 2364 from Djakarta, February 22, contains biographic data on new members of the cabinet; telegram 2365 from Djakarta, February 22, contains the Embassy’s comments on the new cabinet organized by major functions. (All National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 15–1 INDON)
  3. As reported in telegrams 2353 and 2363 from Djakarta, February 22. (Ibid., POL 23–9 INDON and POL 15–1 INDON, respectively)