5. Memorandum From Michael V. Forrestal of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • Aid to Indonesia

There is apparently an NSC meeting at 4 p.m. this afternoon on the subject of aid to Indonesia.2

[Page 11]

I have reviewed a memorandum from the Secretary of State to the President3 which will, presumably, be discussed at this meeting. I offer the following comments to you for what they are worth.

In my opinion, the principal recommendation in this memorandum would constitute an abandonment by the Secretary of State and the President of the opportunity to make the critical judgment on whether the United States should embark upon a policy which involves an eventual risk of U.S. involvement in military operations against Indonesia.

The last two sentences of the second full paragraph on Page 5 of the Secretary of State’s memorandum read as follows:

“Weighing the impact of cut-off on Indonesia versus the consequences of delivering items that do in some degree contribute significantly to Indonesian military capability, the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, will examine the list in detail and suspend deliveries that could in any way so contribute. The Secretary of Defense will then report to you the action taken, noting any items that may in his judgment be deliverable under this criteria.”

What is contemplated is that the Secretary of Defense will review all items currently scheduled for delivery to Indonesia with a view to suspending such shipments as may contribute to Indonesian military capability. The Secretary of Defense will “consult” with State and report after the fact to the President. This looks innocent enough on the surface, but it overlooks the basic political fact that a seemingly innocuous decision to suspend a scheduled delivery of a particular item may well be construed by the Indonesians at some point to be a signal of a basic change in U.S. policy toward that country. Consider, for example, the shipment of trucks to the Indonesian army for civil action projects. I understand that the Secretary of Defense is inclined to view some of these shipments as a contribution to Indonesian military capability. This of course may be so; but to the extent that such shipments have been promised to the Indonesians and are subsequently cut off, it seems to me that we may be giving Nasution an unintended indication that the U.S. is abandoning its political support of the Indonesian armed forces. If the Indonesians construed our action in such a way, there would be every incentive to them to take maximum political advantage of such a situation by anticipating further cuts in U.S. aid.

The example of Cambodia should be kept in mind. When a politically sensitive and popular Asian leader comes to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the United States has become unsympathetic [Page 12]to his national aims and ambitions, his first reaction will be to prove his independence of U.S. policy.

In the case of Indonesia, this could mean that the army and the PKI would unite even more closely behind Sukarno and his efforts to “crush” Malaysia. He could be expected to escalate his efforts, appealing to his people for a total national effort against the forces of colonialism led by the United States and its principal European ally. At some point in this process our obligations under the ANZUS Treaty would be called into play; and in any event, we would find it hard domestically to sit idly by while the British got themselves heavily engaged in a guerrilla battle against a vituperative Sukarno.

Of course, all this may happen in any event; but it seems imperative to me that a decision to risk such a chain of events should be taken at the highest level of the Government and only after full investigation of the possible consequences.

I would recommend that the Secretaries of State and Defense be assigned the task of reviewing the “pipe line” items, presenting their recommendations to the President (separately if they cannot agree) before any action is taken. In the meantime, I think we must mount a renewed and more intense diplomatic effort to turn Sukarno off, using whatever leverage that remains to us in our present aid programs in Indonesia. For this purpose I certainly think it is essential that a personal, tough-talking representative of the President visit Sukarno before the Ramadan month of fasting begins in late January.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Indonesia, Vol. I, 11/63–4/64. Secret.
  2. The meeting took place on January 7 at 4 p.m.; see Document 8.
  3. Document 4.