227. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Indonesia1

98121. Ref: Djakarta 2565.2

There is general agreement here on desirability assisting Indonesian military at earliest feasible date in its civil reconstruction program. We are willing examine not only MAP but entire range U.S. assistance [Page 480] capabilities, and commit available resources where they will meet Indonesian priority needs.
As you have pointed out to Malik and military, our readily available resources are limited, and even if committed to utmost, they could not satisfy unrealistic expectations still apparently held in some quarters, nor have significant impact on vast complex of politico-social problems in East and Central Java. For psychological and political reasons, it is important that military leaders have some tangible evidence of our backing, but it seems realistic accept from outset that we cannot provide more than token support to an effort which must be essentially Indonesian in conception and execution.
Necessity for small program also meets Malik’s request we keep program on modest scale and examine carefully what military is already doing in civic mission field. He appears reflect growing civilian concern that any substantial direct foreign assistance to dominant clientele group could strengthen forces tending separate military from civilian society.
Accepting necessity and desirability for small program, basic practical problem is relating feasible U.S. contributions to Indonesian needs. As it has emerged from your conversation with Malik and the Generals reported reftel, and in previous talks with ARMA and Chief DLG, Army’s civic action program is still in blueprint stage with substantial support needs expressed in general terms unrelated to specific missions and projects. All conversations have carried unspoken but clear indication that implementation is awaiting commitment U.S. resources and U.S. planning assistance and feasibility studies. Difficult to reconcile this apparent inactivity with urgency reflected in Hartono statements. Indo Army has had 16 years experience and number of conspicuous successes in independently conceived and executed civic action projects, and needs little guidance in this field. Such projects are inherently labor intensive, and despite recognized shortages, there should be sufficient hand tools and other items of equipment available to get projects underway without outside assistance. Even modest beginning should bring desired political and psychological impact. Indonesian military has in past shown impressive level professional competence in coping with logistic support of two major military campaigns in most distant islands of archipelago, and we believe it should be able to begin program of road repair, irrigation works rehabilitation and other basic civil jobs on central island of Java that would not require extensive use of motorized equipment. Believe we should continue to underline strongly your statement (para 4 reftel) that Army should press ahead with needed programs regardless of outside help.
Experience in U.S. supported 1963–64 civic action program provides clear evidence that U.S. assistance was most effective when it backstopped and supported established individual projects already in progress. Participation in planning, or giving feasibility advice on plans still on drawing board, carries with it implied commitment, and when we become involved in either process, Indonesians tended to shift to us both the burden of providing resources as well as the responsibility for success or failure. Necessity of small program as well as desirability require Army move ahead on its own, indicate clearly that our initial assistance should be restricted to support of projects already underway, and that we should not become involved in planning or feasibility studies.
On basis foregoing you may reply to Malik along following lines:
We wish to do what we can to help military in its civic mission.
The resources that we can make available are limited and we believe they could best be utilized in support of projects already underway.
We would like to examine such projects, and in consultation with Indonesian military, attempt to relate priority needs with our capabilities to help. At an appropriate time, we would be prepared to send several military engineering specialists to survey equipment.
FYI—Before detailing TDY personnel, believe you should proceed soonest with plans for Chief DLG and AAO to visit on-going projects (Djakarta 2472).3 Based on their reports, we would plan send team composed of military engineering officer and non-coms to survey equipment, and such A.I.D. specialists (e.g. in Title II) as AAO considers appropriate. Other supporting evidence of Army civil activity would also be welcome, and all mission travelers should be alert to this interest.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 19–8 US–INDON. Confidential. Drafted by Underhill; cleared in draft by Nuechterlein and by Sherwood F. Fine, Officer-in-Charge of Indonesia, AID; and approved by Berger. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD and Algiers for Harriman.
  2. In telegram 2565 from Djakarta, December 1, Green reported on a meeting with Malik on November 29 in which Malik made a “strong plea for immediate USG assistance to civic mission projects” on behalf of Suharto and the Cabinet. Green suggested that in view of the deteriorating political situation in Java, “major stakes are involved in our response to this request.” (Ibid.)
  3. Dated November 25. (Ibid.)