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

1890. Deptel 946 sent KL 741,2 Embtel 1832.3 Further comments to second reftel follow:

I and other members of my staff in contact with key members GOI and military leaders have for past several months been using most of arguments presented in first reftel and we will continue use them. Difficult to say what effect our argumentation has had. Our representations have not perceptibly succeeded slowing down confrontation. There even may be danger that, given Indo psychology, our showing too much worry about their problems counter-productive. Subandrio recently quipped to diplomatic group in my presence: “Americans are more worried about ceasefire than we are.” Nevertheless believe we should continue try deflect them through reminder several adverse consequences their current policies and actions lest they tend brush these under rug.
We do not believe that Sukarno either going down road of confrontation alone with support dragging its feet or that he primarily responding to pressure from military or others (although PKI is of course trying its best to push him). Sukarno is calling shots.
Re attitude of military, we believe following are salient aspects. Military leaders:
Want to stay ahead of PKI and assert leadership on emotional national issue (remembering they nearly lost leadership to PKI in case West Irian);
Have no intention letting confrontation develop into real war. Even threats resupply to guerrillas probably more for propaganda reasons than otherwise. High ranking officer just last day or two told Col. Benson “They can take care of themselves;”
Think that in carefully muted and orchestrated guerrilla effort (not “all out” confrontation) Indo has winning proposition (we believe that in long run, subject of course to unpredictable actions others, they may be right);
Are prepared to react to PKI moves which they are confident they can handle but have no other plans for taking over and improving nation;
Like civilian leaders, support Sukarno because they feel they have no choice but to keep their position and wait for something to turn up;
Are aware that economic situation is tough but do not believe it involves political risks they cannot contain or that will seriously limit their actions; besides, they themselves as privileged elite do not feel effect and pinch to extent most other Indos do;
Have, together with some civilian leaders, keen recollection way situations have developed in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cuba and West Irian and their reading of these situations leads them to believe that advantage lies with guerrillas rather than with defenders. They regard gambles of escalation and economic hardship as minimal and worth taking.
Any promotion by us of crisis psychology here in respect to US-Indo relations plays into hands PKI whose objective is to cause rupture there. Granted pressures necessary to attempt to keep Sukarno from running wild, they should be calculated, low-key ones.
Specifically on numbered paragraphs of first reftel we offer seriatim following comments;
We should avoid overestimating as well as underestimating effects on Indonesia (as well as on Malaysia) of confrontation. We are not convinced that Indo will be entirely strapped for aid. There have been reports credit offers presently in Indo hands of nearly $500 million (admittedly, mostly for capital projects). Sov $250 million credit of 1960, although earmarked for capital projects, could if USSR agrees be shifted to more pressing Indo needs. Sovs have given no recent indication of any intention to permit significant shift. Japan, Netherlands, Germany and France in descending order have given evidence willingness extend commercial credits which will establish them in potential Indo market. In recent talk here on TV, Sov Amb expanded on availability Sov aid and trade. Thus far Sov aid has been intended and has operated to strengthen GOI and has had little effect on PKI one way or other. Parenthetically there have probably never been more private foreign commercial representatives in Indo than at present time.
Indos aware of risk escalation (which they assume, however, would throw conflict onto world level). Military leaders intend keep operations involving British in low gear and in jungles where they think they can in time win. They think they have initiative and can make it as hot or cold as they want and in this way safeguard against escalation.
We assume these statements envisage major conflict and US involvement, such as meeting ANZUS commitments. Otherwise we believe GOI will try avoid break with us and we think US should also try to avoid break with Indo, unless provocation becomes intolerable.
Indos probably believe and hope US and UK will see situation here in terms their individual interests and that this will work to divide them. We have emphasized, and confident they fully aware of, US commitments to ANZUS.
In addition comment on possible material support above, we assume reluctance by USUN and others to see Malaysia issue thrown into UN indicates some potential A–A and Bloc support for GOI.
With their theories “territorial warfare” Indo leaders probably see situation differently and very likely think that major assault by major power is unlikely because of fear by such power of escalation. In extreme circumstances they also apparently assume that Sov Bloc would come to their assistance. CAS has reports of informal offers of unspecified aid from ChiComs. They aware of and apparently willing take this risk, if forced into it, although will make every effort avoid escalation.

Additional and concluding comments and recommendations:

US objective in Western Pacific of keeping Indo in free world orbit or at least denying area to Bloc seems to us to be overriding consideration in our approach to Malaysia problem, subject only to US policy interest in creation of secure, stable and viable Malaysia.
We would think that reasons which have led US AID complete break with Cambodia despite Sihanouk’s provocations would apply in even more important and convincing way in case of Indonesia, up to point of intolerability.
US should insofar as possible avoid quarreling directly with Indo on Malaysia, continue to urge ceasefire and talks seeking political settlement; and preserve US presence Indo.
US should at same time avoid both becoming involved militarily or in being trapped into sponsoring particular compromise or being drawn directly into the negotiating picture in any manner which would give Indos further advantage.
So long as present Malaysian crisis continues, US should, with certain exceptions which are clearly in our interest, respond to Indo requests for additional economic and military assistance with expressions of regret that we must await settlement Malaysian problem (exception to this would be US support for relief of hunger through shipment surplus agricultural products under Titles II and II [III] of PL 4804 and, to extent possible, support for civic action and permissible military training).
In tune with many key Indos who would prefer policies more acceptable to us, we should wait with patience and forbearance until new leadership appears.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 INDON–MALAYSIA. Secret; Limdis. Repeated to Kuala Lumpur.
  2. Document 33.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 33.
  4. Public Law 480, Agricultural Trade and Development Assistance Act of 1954 (“Food for Peace”), enacted July 10, 1954, 68 Stat 454. Section II is entitled “Famine Relief and Other Assistance,” Section III is “General Provisions.”