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

359. Deptel 188.2 Following is my assessment and recommendations on Indonesia in light most recent events but with background Sukarno’s words and their implementation in action over last 15 years. Admittedly crystal ball murky in this atmosphere but seems necessary try use it anyway.

A. Assessment:

1.
Although zigzag tactics Sukarno regime difficult predict the at least vague outlines of its course just ahead seems set and short-term effect on US official position here reasonably clear. US is in for harassment and trouble from PKI and other leftists and government will only half-heartedly apply brakes to them under best of circumstances we can expect. How far this will be allowed to affect operations under private American investment here, particularly in oil, not yet clear.
2.
Malaysia, immediate cause rapid deterioration US-Indo relations over last year, is not subject meaningful settlement so long as Indos, as now, pursue negotiations as tactic to destroy Malaysia with objective dominating territory, under one pretext or another.
3.
PKI will continue to spearhead confrontation against Malaysia and lead popular support for most other Sukarno causes. Its pressure on government in turn to espouse PKI causes will be unrelenting but so measured as to be at same time irresistible to Sukarno.
4.
PNI under present leadership too sycophantic to other than follow Sukarno’s lead. NU has weak leadership and organization and is unable do much but mute enthusiasm with which it says “me too” to Sukarno. Other parties either inconsequential or subject Sukarno’s manipulation or both.
5.
Army will try to keep its unity and its correct attitude vis-a-vis Sukarno. Pressures on army leadership for conformity will increase, however, and its strength and unity of purpose under non-Communist leadership will inevitably erode. Army will try to salvage as much as it can in way training and keep its special relations with US military but this is likely to be reduced soon to trickle or hiatus. Air force and navy have virtually written off US assistance.
6.
Indonesia’s domestic and foreign posture will be dominated by Sukarno’s growing megalomania. And whether as result decision made long ago by him or as consequence his predilection for and training in revolution, Sukarno will lead Indonesia in way which will strengthen hand PKI and take Indonesia further into Communist camp.
7.
Sukarno will continue his drive for Asian-African leadership generally through espousing anti-imperialism, etc. and particularly through promoting as many A–A conferences as possible here in Indonesia. He will also make special effort to exert leadership with North Korea, North Vietnam and Cambodia and this will lead him to beat anti-US drum and echo Peking. Conscious of Indo reliance on Soviets for arms and other support, Indonesia will point effort to effect reconciliation of USSR and CPR.
8.
Sukarno and his closest advisers like Subandrio speak of passing through stages of revolution advancing to socialism (communism). Although this process has at times appeared and now appears to be moving rapidly, it has actually not gone very far. Army, most of governing class (despite heavy Communist influence some Ministries such as Basic Education, Information, Sports and Justice), larger part of Moslem, mainly peasant population, is still unprepared and “revolutionary” changes remain largely at verbal level or confined to central authorities Djakarta. PKI still has much to do, as party itself seems aware (FND 7069)3 although PKI dedication, energy and drive and financial backing should not be underestimated.
9.
Drive by Sukarno to take Indonesia into Socialist camp is therefore race by him with Father Time in which odds are against Sukarno. Sukarno’s fellow revolutionaries have been dying off fast last few years. New generation is coming on fast. Many of them can be counted on to put their educations to work on Indonesia’s real problems of sagging economy and social backwardness, if and when they get the chance. Need for US aid would then be magnet drawing them toward us.
10.
There is much discontent with economic waste and corruption and with Sukarno’s arbitrary disposition of Indonesia’s financial resources on his pet projects. Price of rice has reportedly doubled since Aug 17 speech. Sukarno’s rice policy could well be his Achilles heel with hitherto compliant population. There is some dissidence and potential dissidence in outer islands like Sulawesi and Sumatra. However, leadership and organization to make discontent and dissidence effective in revolt is much less strong than in 1958. There is some stirring in NU and among what is left of Masjumi but it is still too inchoate to be meaningful.
11.
Although Sukarno’s bluster gives verbal aid and comfort to enemies of US in Far East, Indonesia has little real power to put in balance. It will tie down some British and perhaps eventually Australian and New Zealand forces but will itself be tied down in process.

B. Recommendations:

1.
In anticipation further deterioration US-Indo relations US should reduce American presence subject to harassment here. It may actually relieve situation to close out some less meaningful projects. Specifically, where AID and MILTAG projects are completed or when Indonesians request US to end them, we should repatriate personnel with least possible fanfare and publicity.
2.
On basis foregoing, Congress should be persuaded not to include in AID bill any additional restrictions on US aid to Indonesia to that contained in Presidential determination provision.
3.
To extent possible maintain those aid, civic action and military and police assistance programs meaningful in terms of continuing contact and future influence. Keeping our commitments on some non-tactical items equipment will almost certainly be necessary to accommodate this.
4.
On short notice be prepared to respond to emergency requests by responsible Indonesian leaders for food, riot control equipment and internal security items. This might entail stockpiling in areas close by such as Philippines and/or Australia.
5.
By covert and overt means increase volume and effectiveness with which US version world events is provided Indonesians (this will require injection funds and people—this is field where US has been losing heaviest to ChiComs, Soviets and PKI).
6.
Avoid insofar as possible communication to press, American or foreign, that any particular changes taking place in our policy toward Indonesia. Our public posture should be as in past: (a) continue ongoing programs as possible, (b) avoid taking position on substance Malaysian dispute, (c) oppose use of force to settle Malaysian disputes, (d) desire by US maintain friendship both Indonesia and Malaysia.
7.
Keep contact open with NU and other elements opposed to Sukarno’s anti-US policies ([less than 1 line of source text not declassified] I am preparing assessment these contacts which will send shortly).
8.
Be alert to development potential for meaningful dissidence, especially in outer islands and West Java, and be prepared move rapidly in support army should Sukarno-PKI pressures on army leaders or other occurrences precipitate army revolt against Sukarno.

To extent Department finds any above suggestions helpful, Embassy will submit detailed recommendation.

Galbraith
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 1 INDON–US. Top Secret; Immediate; Limited Distribution. Passed to the White House.
  2. In telegram 188 to Djakarta, August 21, the Department informed Galbraith of the “high-level reappraisal of U.S. policy towards Indonesia with special reference to military assistance” and asked for his assessment. (Ibid.)
  3. Not further identified.