February 16, 2018

Deepening the US-Indonesian Strategic Partnership

By Patrick M. Cronin

Indonesia is a huge archipelago, the most populous predominantly Muslim country in the world, and the most consequential nation in Southeast Asia. Indonesia may have a relatively low public profile, but not as far as the Pentagon is concerned – and something important is happening when it comes to U.S. defense and security ties with Jakarta.

The history of relations between America and Indonesia has been anything but smooth. Indonesia’s founding president, Sukarno – flamboyant, narcissistic, gifted, and ultimately irresponsible – led Indonesia through the 1950s and early 1960s on a fateful political trajectory. Indonesia emerged from Dutch colonial control (and Japanese military occupation) with democratic, Western-oriented, political institutions. But actual governance proved difficult and poverty deepened despite the natural wealth of the country. Sukarno soon seized upon the international Marxist/communist, “anti-imperialist,” “revolutionary” narrative. It was political “bread and circuses” without the bread. By the early-to-mid 1960s he was publicly calling for an Indonesian alignment with China and North Korea – “the New Emerging Forces.” Domestically he became increasingly reliant on the powerful Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). The results were catastrophic. In 1965, a communist-aligned coup (with Sukarno’s tacit if not active support) produced a military countercoup and a national bloodbath.

Read the full article in The Diplomat.

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