254. Letter From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Bohlen) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Warnke)1

Dear Paul:

A letter from Ambassador Thompson to Secretary McNamara, dated October 19, 1966,2 recommended $6 million in grant assistance to the Indonesian armed forces in support of an on-going military program of civic reconstruction. This program, which also includes training oriented towards civic action in U.S. Service Schools, is now well under way and has been operating effectively for about a year. Since the rationale for the program is essentially political and economic. I feel it might be useful to define more precisely at this stage the policy framework of the program for the months ahead.

Our April 14, 1967 agreement with Indonesia3 specified that our assistance was provided “for a program of civic action … helpful to the economic and social development of Indonesia.” The objective of the program is therefore a limited one; to support and assist the Indonesian military in its civic mission activities. In contrast to MAAG missions elsewhere, we are not seeking to establish a service-to-service advisory role, nor do we wish to participate in anything but the purely civic action aspects of Indonesian military planning.

“Civic mission,” as used by the Indonesian military, embraces a much broader range of activities than we would regard as “civic action.” The Indonesians, for example, consider the construction of barracks and commercial or industrial activities undertaken by military personnel also as part of the “civic mission.” While it is difficult to draw firm guidelines in this area, we feel that our resources, to the maximum extent possible, should be used for projects in the public works field of direct and immediate benefit to the civilian population.

Counterinsurgency is often linked with civic action in an over-all internal defense program. In Indonesia we wish to maintain a clear distinction between these related military activities and leave counterinsurgency entirely in Indonesian hands. Localized civil disturbances have been endemic in Indonesia since independence, and two such [Page 552] uprisings are now in progress in West Borneo and West New Guinea. Indonesia, in the past, has not sought our assistance in meeting these situations. It is possible, however, that the current financial straits of the Indonesian Government might persuade the military authorities to look to our Military Assistance Program as a source of supplementary budgetary support for counterinsurgency.

Under present circumstances, we would wish to avoid such involvement. Neither of the current uprisings, restricted to isolated areas of the archipelago and involving ethnic minority groups, is any threat to the Suharto government. The Indonesian Army is well supplied with small arms, and has had 23 years of experience in counterinsurgency operations. There is no pressing need for United States involvement, and to begin assistance, even on a small scale, would establish a continuing lien on limited MAP resources. Further, the use of American equipment against the Papuan dissidents would be politically awkward because of the role of the United States in the 1962 settlement turning over West New Guinea to Indonesia. We do not, of course, wish to rule out the possibility of counterinsurgency assistance to Indonesia under different circumstances.


Charles Bohlen
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 19–8 US–INDON. Confidential. Drafted by Underhill.
  2. A copy of the letter from Acting Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Llewellyn E. Thompson is attached to a March 15 memorandum from Bundy to Bohlen. (Ibid.) See also footnote 2, Document 226.
  3. See 18 UST 384.