76. Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency for the Department of State1


The deterioration in US/Indonesian relations reported in recent Embassy Telegrams (particularly Embtel 317,2 320,3 and 3594) evokes a question as to the feasibility of initiating a program of covert action aimed at affecting the current trend of events. In this context the following paragraphs outline a series of action possibilities, together with an analysis of certain problems entailed in their planning and implementation. If in its essence this presentation meets with your approval, it may then appropriately be sent to the Department and the CAS headquarters for further consideration and, hopefully, endorsement.

The Situation

During the past two months there has been a steady increasing strain in relations between Indonesia and the U.S. The Indonesian attitude has crystalized in the face of a number of recent developments. These include repeated indications of unilateral withdrawal by the U.S. of our remaining aid program, culminating of course in the passage of the Tower Amendment;5 the communique released by President Johnson and Tunku Abdul Rachman6 which the Indonesians have construed as representing U.S. support for Malaysia; and finally the Tonkin Gulf episode.
In his 17 August speech Sukarno7 in effect declared the U.S. to be public enemy number one in Asia, and identified himself more explicitly than ever before with the Communist Bloc. Internally the trend to the left has matched Sukarno’s international posture. By calling for the re-tooling of “reactionary” officials up to the Menko level, the President virtually invited the PKI to advocate re-tooling of all anti-Communists [Page 162] in the government. While announcing that he would dissolve any reactionary political party, he has at the same time given tacit approval for the PKI’s unilateral action campaign. In his speech Sukarno endorsed emphatically the land reform program and the establishment of the land reform courts, which for all practical purposes will be controlled by the PKI thru Astrawinata. He not only proclaimed the ultimate end of “imperialist capital” in Indonesia, a primary objective of the PKI, but declared also that anyone who opposes Nasakom opposes the revolution. Although in his latest cabinet reshuffle (27 August) Sukarno did not go all the way toward Nasakomization, there can be no question that he went a step further in legitimizing the PKI’s role in the executive branch of his government. These developments have of course been matched by repeated slaps at the U.S., including the postponement of military and police training, the Pan American boycott, the action against USIS in Djogdjakarta, and the general threat to American property.
Notwithstanding this rather grim picture, there are indications that the situation is by no means beyond redress. Words of encouragement continue to be received by various components of the U.S. Mission from close contacts, sources of information, and friends in general. There are good men in government, the armed services and the private sector, who are willing to work for the things they believe in, even if it means endangering their livelihood and personal security. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] continues to find it possible to work effectively with such individuals, and their motivation is by no means confined to the pursuit of money. Among them some have already demonstrated a capability for limited but effective clandestine political action. There have been, moreover, numerous approaches to the Embassy and to other Mission components by individuals—some self-seekers, but others altruistically motivated—who seek assistance to enable them to fight communism in Indonesia.
Time, however, is not on the side of these people, as the ground beneath them is being eroded at a rapidly accelerating rate. Perhaps it cannot be stopped. Certainly a covert program alone cannot reverse the trend. The Embassy, in its recommendations to the Department, has posed a number of considerations, which are in effect aimed at maintaining a foothold in Indonesia under conditions that might enable us to outlast Sukarno. Within the context of the basic mission program and as a supplement thereto, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] proposes an intensified covert action program, limited in its objective initially, but designed for expansion if circumstances permit.
The objectives of a covert program would entail initially the adoption of an active interest in Indonesian internal political developments. The immediate goal would be to build up strength among [Page 163] non-communist and anti-communist groups and organizations. The program would be two-pronged, on the one hand designed to flex the muscles of the “good” elements, at the same time encouraging direct action against the PKI as a party. Small scale harassment efforts would be orchestrated and momentum developed. A case can be made to show that Sukarno is susceptible to pressure and sensitive to certain types of public opinion. The unfortunate thing is that the Indonesian right wing has in effect lost its nerve and abandoned the fight to the communists. The PKI has exploited the situation and brainwashed both Sukarno and a large portion of the population. It is necessary therefore to demonstrate to Sukarno the existence of an active anti-communist sector which is clearly not yet willing to be written off.

[Here follow paragraphs 6–14, which contain an outline of a five-phased program and an assessment of [text not declassified].]

Present U.S. policy toward Indonesia has been essentially constructive and forward-looking, predicated on the concept of contributing to Indonesia’s economic development. In the face of an increasingly leftward drift on the part of the GOI, matched by an increasingly stronger communist voice in Indonesian affairs, we have sought to maintain our equity here until the advent of better times. Within this framework the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] covert action program has been limited. Modest efforts have been made to develop points of contact and influence [1 line of source text not declassified]. There has been moderate emphasis on the development [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] among potential leader types. And finally, the program has entailed limited harassment of the PKI. There has, of course, been no authorization for direct attacks on Sukarno. The level of permissible risk-taking has naturally been very low and confined almost entirely to the realm of intelligence collection.
Certain of the activities suggested in paragraphs 5–11 above could be undertaken in the framework of the existing policy. If, however, a serious effort were to be undertaken along such lines, a number of significant questions would first have to be weighed very carefully. It would have to be understood at the outset that the purpose of the entire exercise is agitation and the instigation of internal strife between communist and non-communist elements. While the pattern of activity proposed is relatively modest in scope, the measure of the success of the program would in effect be the momentum it acquired. This would mean a widening of its scope and an intensification of its pace. Thus even a modest beginning effort would carry within itself the essence of more critical policy questions. Just how far can we go in attempting to split the PKI and, more important, to pit the PKI against non-communist elements, particularly the Army? To what extent, if any, should we attack Sukarno? Is it unthinkable to foment internal tensions such as [Page 164] gave rise to the Chinese riots of last year, and which under certain conditions might force the Army to assume broad powers in restoring order? We do not wish to appear overly ambitious in this connection. If, however, we are to develop a program entailing forms of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] as a supplement to long-term political development, it is imperative that we know where we are going and that we be able to weigh the possible consequences of our efforts. The time to answer these questions is now, not later. To undertake action even on the modest scale outlined above without first studying these questions and commitments they might entail would result in action for its own sake. It would be far better to stand pat, without the risk of embarrassment or hazard [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].
If there appears to be an element of incompatibility in such a melding of destructive action with long-term efforts to breathe life into the nobler elements of Indonesian society, we can only argue that in the long term there may be little left here to save. The current combination of Sukarno’s tough dictatorship coupled with an increasingly effective brainwashing of all local population elements, plus the skilled PKI exploitation of legitimate Indonesian nationalism, and lastly the inbred Javanese tradition of acquiescence before authority, will surely result in elimination of the remaining barriers between communists in this country and those who would resist them.
Perhaps the most important of all, we believe it essential to make a substantial effort to combat growing PKI domination in the propaganda field (press, radio and TV). Inasmuch as the current PKI propaganda line and that of the Sukarno regime are virtually indistinguishable, this would entail an obvious risk. We believe this risk must be taken.
  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Indonesia, 1963–1965. Secret. This paper, originally CIA telegram [text not declassified], September 5, was sent to the Department of State under cover of a memorandum, FE 716, from Colby to Bundy, September 18.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 62.
  3. Dated August 17. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 15–1 INDON)
  4. Document 63.
  5. See footnote 4, Document 59.
  6. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1964, pp. 899–900.
  7. See footnote 2, Document 59.