311. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Green) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Dear Henry:

I have received a personal letter from Frank Galbraith covering a range of sensitive subjects regarding our relations with Indonesia. I thought you would be particularly interested in the following excerpts on Indonesian MAP. Frank presented these points as the views of the small circle in the Embassy who work on highly sensitive political/DCM, Political Counselor, Defense Attaché less than 1 line of source text not declassified]).

“What we are most anxious to see amplified is the timetable which the President and Dr. Kissinger have in mind for the Indonesian program. We are all agreed, as I believe you are in Washington, that Indonesia’s present capability for assuming a meaningful security role in Southeast Asia is virtually nonexistent. A great deal of basic spadework needs to be done, both in stabilizing and developing the country as well as preparing the military establishment for modernization. The review of emphasis in our MAP which Dr. Kissinger mentioned to Sumitro has to a large degree already taken place. Although civic action continues to play an important role in the program, the planning under the new $15 million ceiling places primary emphasis on improving the maintenance capability, logistics, and communications of the military, along with the introduction of some combat equipment. All of these elements are, of course, a necessary preamble to a modernization program.

“President Suharto’s reaction, as reported by General Sumitro to George Benson (Djakarta 5655)2 fortunately seems to recognize the need for a measured approach. He seems to be sufficiently concerned with the budget and Indonesia’s economic development to want to postpone any further burgeoning MAP for this year at least.

“There are a number of pitfalls which both we and the Indonesians will have to avoid if we want a realistic chance for a stable Indonesia capable of playing the role we envisage for it in the area. [Page 676] Shifting too quickly into a full-fledged modernization program, either because of our interest in forcing the pace of Indonesia’s military progress, or because of the inability of the Indonesians to resist the temptations, would present us with one of two choices. Either one of these, I believe, would be undesirable at this stage. The first would be to turn over a lot of modern equipment too soon and watch it become quickly unserviceable; the other would be to provide hundreds of American trainers and advisers so that we could insist and insure that they take care of the equipment. If we were to adopt the second choice I am afraid that we would be adding significantly to the domestic political problems which are likely to mount for the Suharto Government anyway. Many of those in the Indonesian Armed Forces are all too inclined to ignore the political repercussions of actions which they consider desirable from a purely military point of view. If we compound their lack of political sophistication by ourselves ignoring such probable political repercussions, we are likely to increase their political troubles and eventually weaken the Suharto Government.

“Another area where a premature military modernization effort would weaken hopes for a stable base from which Indonesia could mount its heightened SEA role is on the economic side. It would be a tragedy should the Indonesians divert too soon their scarce resources from development into the military sector, a diversion which would be required if they were to seek to absorb more MAP, given the huge rupiah outlay required to receive, use and maintain the equipment we might give them. Progress on the economic side has been promising, but the situation remains critical. Such a diversion at this stage of the first five-year program could seriously set back the good start that has been made in economic rehabilitation.”

My personal experiences in Indonesia would support Frank’s assessment.

Sincerely yours,

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 531, Country Files, Far East, Indonesia, Vol. II. Top Secret. In an August 11 routing slip, attached but not printed, Holdridge noted that “HAK has seen, no further action necessary. JHH 8/12.”
  2. Dated August 4. (Ibid.)