232. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Johnson 1


  • Effectiveness of U.S. Military Assistance to Indonesia

General Suharto’s assumption of the powers of the Presidency has dramatized the significant shift in Indonesia’s political orientation that has been taking place during the past sixteen months. This shift began on October 1, 1965, when the Indonesian Army, led by General Suharto, put down a Communist-inspired coup d’etat and then proceeded to eliminate the three million member Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) as an effective political organization. Having crushed the PKI, the Army turned to the more difficult job of stripping President Sukarno of political power and reorienting Indonesian foreign policy away from close association with Peking and toward accommodation with its neighbors and the United States. This process appears now to be entering its final stage; the Indonesian Army is nearing complete control of the Indonesian Government.

I believe that our Military Assistance Program to Indonesia during the past few years contributed significantly to the Army’s anticommunist, pro-U.S. orientation and encouraged it to move against the PKI when the opportunity was presented. That the PKI was acutely aware of this instinctive opposition in the Army is shown by the fact that five of the six Army generals assassinated by the PKI on that fateful October 1 had received training in U.S. Army schools and were known friends of the United States. Moreover, after the Army had put down the revolt, the key jobs went to U.S.-trained officers. Suharto himself is not U.S.-trained, but all thirteen top members of his staff, the group that now governs Indonesia, received training in the United States under the Military Assistance Program. In my judgment, our decisions to invest roughly $5 million to bring some 2100 Indonesian military personnel to the United States for training, and to continue the program even [Page 494]during the bleak years 1963–65 when Sukarno was carrying on confrontation against Malaysia and working closely with Peking, have been very significant factors in determining the favorable orientation of the new Indonesian political elite.

Our total MAP to Indonesia from 1950 through 1965 was $63.2 million. Roughly $59 million was given in the years 1959–1965. Two-thirds of this ($40 million) went to the Army and included over 100,000 small arms, some 2,000 trucks and other vehicles, and tactical communications equipment. When Sukarno began his confrontation against Malaysia in 1963, we eliminated from the program items that contributed to Indonesia’s offensive capability, but we continued to supply small arms for support of the Army’s internal security capability.

In 1962 we expanded the MAP to include engineering equipment for the Army’s civic action program. A total of $3 million of such equipment was delivered between 1962 and 1964. The civic action program was the brainchild of General Nasution (now Chairman of the Consultative Assembly) and General Yani (one of the generals killed by the Communists in October 1965) who believed the Army needed programs that would improve its image with the Indonesian people vis-à-vis the PKI. Another aspect of the civic action program was to bring key younger Army officers to the United States for training (at Harvard, Syracuse, and several other institutions) to prepare them for high level management responsibilities. This training proved to be of great value when the Army assumed control of the government.

We suspended shipments of new equipment to Indonesia in September 1964. In March 1965 we cancelled the remainder of the program, except the training of those Indonesians already in the United States. Roughly $23 million for equipment, services, and training was cancelled, and the funds were subsequently recouped. However, we maintained close contact with the Indonesian Army leadership through our military attaches and our Defense Liaison Group, which was retained on a skeletal basis even after the termination of MAP.

In September 1966, when the Army had isolated Sukarno and formally ended confrontation against Malaysia, we resumed the military training program for Indonesian officers (at a cost of $400,000 in FY 67). The primary emphasis of this training is on increasing the civic action capability of the Indonesian Armed Forces. During this past week, we have decided to increase the FY 67 MAP by $2 million in order to provide spare parts for previously supplied engineering equipment and also some new equipment—all for the civic action program. In FY 68 we plan to give Indonesia $6 million in MAP, primarily for support of the civic action program.

It would be presumptuous to claim that our military assistance and training were solely responsible for the anticommunist orientation [Page 495]of the Indonesian Army, or even that they were the major factors in causing the Indonesian Army to turn against the PKI and swing Indonesia away from its pro-Peking orientation. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that these programs, together with our continued sympathy and support for the Army, encouraged its leaders to believe that they could count on U.S. support when they turned on the PKI and, later, against Sukarno. Our firm policy in Vietnam has also played a part in forming Army attitudes favorable to our objectives in Southeast Asia. A year and a half ago, Indonesia posed an ominous threat to the U.S. and the Free World. Today, the prospect is dramatically altered for the better. General Suharto’s government is steering Indonesia back toward a posture that promises peace and stability in Southeast Asia.

Robert S. McNamara
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 72 D 2468, Indonesia, 1967, 091.31 MAP. Secret. Drafted by Steadman. Rostow transmitted this memorandum to the President under a March 3 memorandum, in which he noted that, “the ’New Order’ leaders in Indonesia have given high priority to military civic action. They regard Ambassador Green’s assurances of expanded MAP and our help in debt rescheduling and new foreign aid as votes of confidence, which they are, in their efforts to bring order out of chaos.” There is an indication on Rostow’s memorandum that the President saw it. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Indonesia, Vol. VII, Memos, 5/66–6/67)