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

2007. Subject: Need for Military Assistance Program in Indonesia.

Events of past several months clearly indicate that “new political order” in Indonesia will be army planned, army built and army sponsored and that it is army which will remain dominant political force in Indonesia for a long time to come. We are pouching airgram which discusses army plans for the “new Indonesia” in depth.2 Following is summary of our analysis:
Army has reached firm conclusion (which we share) that at present it alone possesses the cohesiveness and leadership necessary to establish “new political order” in Indonesia. Army also believes that failure on its part to take initiative would lead to political dissension and direct threat to Indonesia’s unity. Army has set itself deadline of slightly less than two years to establish “new order,” which elections scheduled to be held by July 1968 will confirm.
Army’s basic goal during interim period is to establish stable and responsible administration. It will seek to do this by broadening popular participation in government while maintaining strong central [Page 477]control. In short, it will attempt to find middle road between pitfalls of Sukarno’s authoritarian regime and freewheeling political party activity of early 1950’s. This task, it believes, will require tight hand on reins.
Even after “new order” established, army will continue to exercise what it regards as its “historical right” to remain in government arena as separate political force. Army already holds overwhelming majority of key posts in regional administration (in addition to powerful and wholly military pepelrada structure); it is also becoming increasingly evident in second echelons of central government and is moving deeper into key national enterprises.
We believe army’s assessment of role it must play is valid and that its formula for “new order” is essentially right mixture for Indonesia. In fact, there appears to be no workable alternative short of outright military dictatorship which Suharto hopes to avoid. This means that USG must contemplate working with an army controlled government not only during two year transition period but well into “new order.”
In addition to its essential function as architect of “new order,” military must, for compelling political reasons, be given constructive role in new society. Suharto has repeatedly emphasized in his talks with me that the military must have a strong sense of mission directed towards improving conditions of life in Indonesia.
Useful activities must be provided for army personnel in order to help curb corruption and to prevent army personnel from engaging in hooliganism or unhealthy political activity. Constructive military outlets could also mitigate trend towards military moving into all sectors of government and economy.
Suharto must also produce some early and clearly visible progress towards improving people’s lot in order retain their confidence and ensure his own dominant role over others who would move directly toward military junta. Civic action type projects, aside from ultimate economic impact, can yield immediate psychological profit demonstrating army’s concern for public welfare. Army, which has clearest command channels, most equipment, most readily available manpower and one of largest pools of technical expertise, is in best position to undertake projects of this nature.
Suharto now lacks the resources, particularly equipment, to fold the military into such constructive operations in meaningful way. Meeting these requirements with Indonesia’s own foreign exchange resources would cut into other vital projects and could easily create animosity toward the military for removing funds from civilian sector.
US assistance for Suharto’s program would allow us to influence and strengthen the hands of those who will be running this country for the next several years and who, in harness with good civilian [Page 478]leaders, are best qualified to do so. In short, this program would give us multiple returns on a relatively small investment.
I therefore urge that a modest military assistance program be instituted for Indonesia soonest. Such a program would include:
Spare parts, replacements and technical advice for Indonesian military civic action program.
Military sales program to enable Indonesian military to buy certain additional items which are compatible with their present role.
Selective non-combatant items to help improve morale within army and strengthen position of General Suharto and his colleagues.
Training program along lines already envisaged to train key Indonesian officers, especially in civic action field.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 19 US–INDON. Secret. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. Airgram A–210 from Djakarta, October 29. (Ibid., POL 2 INDON)