78. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Posts 1

714. Hong Kong for Ambassadors Jones, Bell and Blair.2 Our basic objectives with regard Indonesia continue to be to do what we can to keep Indonesia out of communist control, to restrain Indo military and foreign policy excesses so that they do not lead to second major military conflict in SEA, and to get through current period (probably meaning Sukarno regime at least) without open break between US and Indonesia. Over past year tactics employed to do these things have been based on assumption main current problem—Indo-Malaysia dispute—could be negotiated out if right combination found, and we have played active role in encouraging participants and interested Asians to seek negotiating basis. We feel this tactical approach correct. Meanwhile, however, adverse direction Indonesian policies have become more clearly defined, requiring review of our approach. Following is summary of our assessment of situation we now face:


For past seven years or more, Sukarno has habitually used hostility to one or another foreign power as dramatic issue to unify country under his rule. His own ideological makeup and historical circumstances have made it inevitable that target has in virtually all cases been Western or pro-Western power (UK, Malaysia, Netherlands, GRC, [Page 168]etc.). This strategy, together with internal balancing and manipulation rival forces, has become basic tool in maintaining his regime. Thus when West Irian settlement eliminated Indo’s last real grievance against West, GOI flirted briefly with idea of economic development as next dramatic issue before dropping it for confrontation. One result of this strategy has been deepening atmosphere hostility to West throughout much of Indo society; friendly Indos may attempt explain it away as passing phase, but fact remains present Indo environment probably more hostile to West than almost any outside China and its satellites.

Military confrontation of Malaysia has gone through various stages—guerrilla activity in Borneo, negotiations, low-level terrorism on mainland, culminating in Aug-Sept 1964 attacks on mainland—but each has proved more or less dramatically unsuccessful. As of early Sept, GOI faced two crucial problems: (a) they had brought selves to what they saw as brink of open war with UK, which they knew they could not win, and (b) they recognized that despite year of proclaiming their determination to crush Malaysia they had accomplished almost nothing toward that end. In effort find way out of this dilemma, Sukarno sought to mobilize support in Moscow and among AA’s at Cairo for development Sukarno-led neutralist anti-imperialist front. Consensus seemed to be that he failed, but it too early to be sure of this.

Current Situation

We have assumed that, when Indos recognized they could not crush Malaysia without unacceptable damage to selves, they would be willing accept tolerable settlement through face-saving device and then turn to other dramatic issue to keep populace keyed up. Have been hopes that this could be internal issue for a change, perhaps even economic development.

Latest developments suggest this assumption may have become erroneous. Rather than cutting losses and turning elsewhere, Indos seem to have decided on (or perhaps drifted into) new confrontation strategy, switching from narrow confrontation of Malaysia to more diffuse political confrontation of entire West (i.e., Old Established Forces). Sukarno Aug 17 speech clearly signaled this switch and Cairo conference3 seems to have formalized it. Indos would expect realize number of advantages from this strategy:

It overshadows Malaysia confrontation and should relieve regime of need to escalate military confrontation to point where it again brings grave threat British retaliation. Malaysia confrontation would continue as essential element this broader confrontation but could be carried out through propaganda, subversion and relatively safe Borneo guerrilla campaigns.
It moves Indo into much greater prominence in world scene, feeds regime’s self-esteem and provides much more satisfying dramatic issue than increasingly tired theme of Malaysia confrontation. At same time, it blunts widespread AA disapproval of rash Indo assault on fellow AA member by subordinating it to political assault on white man.
It could even be manipulated into a “third force,” bringing together in an Indo-dominated bloc various AA mavericks (Ghana, Cambodia, etc.) plus North Korea and North Viet-Nam, thereby breaking Indo isolation and giving Sukarno real place in sun.
At least in early stages, this strategy should be welcome to Chicoms and should provide some comfort for Russians as they see threat open war recede. Rewards could probably be extracted from both. Recent developments such as crackdown on PKI anti-US excesses and peace feelers to Tunku and British might be cited as evidence to contrary. This does not appear persuasive. Easing of anti-US excesses more likely stems from (a) GOI fear PKI getting out of hand and (b) desire not to challenge US too directly over relatively trivial issues at this early stage in new game. Noteworthy that, while physical pressure on US properties in Indo is abating somewhat, intense anti-US brainwashing through all Indo information media apparently is continuing in full force. Re peace feelers, demonstration of continued Indo desire for peaceful settlement with Malaysia also compatible with new strategy in that it improves Indo world image and helps woo AA’s.


If this assessment generally correct, we can anticipate following:

Indos will become progressively more hostile to US as chief of “Neokolim Oldefos” and to US interests both in SEA and throughout world, whatever policy we may pursue toward them.
Not wanting to unite Oldefos against them while they unite against us, they may differentiate carefully in their treatment of various Western countries, may increase fire on US in addition to UK while handling Australians more gently and striving maintain fairly cordial (and profitable) relations with Europeans, Japanese and perhaps Philippines as long as they can.
While Sukarno will continue assert his willingness settle with Malaysians in AA context and may well go through negotiation motions to create peace-loving image, his real need for settlement will have disappeared. Further Indo participation in negotiations will thus be no more than shadow play as far as GOI concerned. No real settlement short of complete Malaysian capitulation will be seriously considered.

Foregoing does not imply that this new Indo strategy we see emerging will be immutable or necessarily permanent. Indo policy has been subject to wide variations over past 15 years and undoubtedly will change again when combination of internal pressures, outside pressures and rewards produce Indo reassessments. We see this merely as current Indo strategy, to be pursued as were past strategies until failure or changing circumstances call for new one.

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Dept views on US tactics necessary to meet this new Indo strategy will be subject separate cable.4

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 1 INDON. Secret. Drafted by Ingraham and Cuthell; cleared by Evelyn S. Colbert, Chief of the Southeast Asia Division, Office of Research and Analysis for Far East, INR, and Harriman; and approved by Bundy. Sent to Djakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Bangkok, Tokyo, London, Canberra, Wellington, CINCPAC for POLAD, and Hong Kong.
  2. The Ambassadors were in Hong Kong for discussions on Malaysia.
  3. The Cairo Conference of Non-Aligned Nations, October 5–10, 1964.
  4. See Document 79.