Index // Introduction // Chapter 1 // Chapter 2 // Chapter 3 // Chapter 4 // Conclusion || PDF/paperback


Definition of the topic

The project's aim is to write a history of official US policy toward Indonesia during the years 1961 to 1965, under the administrations of Kennedy and Johnson. This work will establish how the Kennedy administration from the inherited problems of the Eisenhower-administration’s polices formed a unified and broad policy to secure Indonesia’s continued neutralism or turn it westwards, and how the US acted according to this policy until September 1965.

Introduction to the Subject

From the late 1950s until the 1970s Southeast Asia held a prominent place in US Foreign Policy. Indonesia, as the largest and strategically most centrally placed country in the area, held its share of the involved administration’s concerns, for as far as Asian issues were concerned it was only surpassed by Vietnam in dedicated time and worry.1 Particularly, this was true in 1957–58 and in several shorter periods from 1961 to 1965.

In 1957–58, a regional rebellion against Djakarta had altered the Indonesian power structure.2 The CIA explicitly instructed by Dwight D. Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles performed the till-then largest covert military action in US history, and in support of the regional rebellions tried to overthrow the neutralist Indonesian government under President Sukarno. 3 The rebellion failed, and considerable damage was done on US-Indonesian relations. The following years Indonesia shifted from a parliamentary democracy and into a more authoritarian state-form. A delicate tripartite power structure emerged, consisting of the communist party (PKI), the military and Sukarno. In US eyes, the country’s drift seemed to be towards becoming the world’s third major communist country, threatening to become the "greatest loss since the fall of China." 4 However, in 1965 an allegedly communist coup attempt led to a military counter-coup led by general Suharto (henceforth referred to as the Gestapu affair). After a massacre of roughly half a million claimed communists, an anticommunist military government established itself under the rule of Suharto. 5 During the next few years Indonesia aligned itself with the US and recreated its links with the west. Indonesia, seemingly out of the blue and by "bloody good luck" was "saved for the free world". 6 The balance of Southeast Asian power had thus shifted in US favor, and the vital maritime passage between the Pacific and the Indian Ocean had been secured for both military and commercial purposes. Likewise, Indonesian natural and military resources were safely out of communist hands.

The sudden change of fate was extraordinary in the Cold War period. The magnitude of the involved parts were considerable: The third largest communist party of the world, recruited from the World’s fifth largest population, seemed to be gaining control of a country with vast natural resources.7 Through the domestic waterways of the archipelago state 8 went the only major maritime passages between the Pacific and the Indian Oceans, used among others by the American and British fleets. Still, the relationship between the US and Indonesia during these years of change is largely an unwritten chapter among historians. The overshadowing focus has, besides Vietnam, been on internal Indonesian affairs and US policy in the periods before 1961 and during the "new order" of Suharto.


January 1961 is the natural starting point for a general, empirical treatment of US Indonesia-policy prior to the coup. 1961 is when the Kennedy administration took over the remnants of Eisenhower’s failed policies. The obvious ending point is the coup and counter-coup of September 30., 1965. Both events marked basic reevaluations of policy for the US.

The natural focal point of analysis is the those who were most involved in decision making, both day-to-day and for general guidelines. I focus on the foreign policy makers in the two involved presidential administrations. The most important day-to-day decision makers were the White House national security staff and the State Department through the Indonesia desk, the office of Southwest Pacific affairs and the Far East bureau. During the period, Ambassador Howard Jones in Djakarta rose to become an important, separate player. Jones was perhaps the single most influential person in policy making after the president. For general guidelines and when particularly important issues came up, several people from the top national security echelons took active part, including Assistant Secretary for the Far East Averell Harriman, Under Secretary of State George Ball, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Admiral Harry Felt and the two presidents.

USIA had the most significant and active role of the agencies, but CIA and the Peace Corps also were involved.9 Due to the lack of sources, CIA operations are not considered within the primary scope of this analysis, but will be treated when necessary for their effects on other parts. However, CIA analyses, reports and political recommendations are included in the this treatment. Other involved parties included the Agency of International Development (AID), the Military Assistance Program (MAP), the Food For Peace program (PL480) and various publicly funded financial institutions. The Congress is only included as far as it influences the administrations’ policies. Hence, for practical purposes it is not implied in the active usage of the terms "the US", the "administration" or "the Americans" unless specifically mentioned. 10. The same applies to the press, the American oil and rubber companies and other private actors.

General Questions and Argumentative Structure

Chapter one starts with the answer to my first question: What situation did the new administration find itself in with respect to US-Indonesia policy? The answer is that the administration found itself in a combination of emerging crises, and no policy to handle the crises. The combined crises threatened turn Indonesia into a hostile or communist state. The administration also found out that a hostile Indonesia would have dramatic and negative effects on US security in the Pacific.

The next question is how the new administration reacted to the situation. The first year, the administration spent on sorting out the situation and how to respond to it. The primary US objective was determined to be to secure Indonesia as a friendly or neutral nation, secondarily to avoid a war in the process. A conflict between two groups in the administrations crippled US policy towards Indonesia during the first year of Kennedy’s administration. However, the exploratory work done by the administration during 1961 still formed the basis for US policy in the following years.

In chapter two, I start by recounting how the president acted to resolve the stalemate that remained after the first year of the administration. Kennedy chose one of the two conflicting policies as basis for the overall strategy of the administration, subduing the other. After doing so, the US were able to still most immediate crises in the US-Indonesian relations. The administration then developed a carefully planned new policy towards Indonesia. The new policy had two specific parts, an offensive and a defensive. The preferred methods in the plan were also twofold: personal and systemic. The personal method was made on two levels: On the top-level, the US forged an offensive, action and decision-oriented network of relationships around President Kennedy, President Sukarno, Ambassador Howard P. Jones and their closest circles. The second level of the personal approach was a professional level, and focused on establishing and maintaining institutions where regular contact could be made between Americans and Indonesians. The US concentrated these contact efforts on the Indonesian army, and to some extent the Universities. This was the defensive part of the US policy, intended to build up resistance to communism among the future leaders of Indonesia. A subordinate US objective was to make sure that these future leaders actually kept their status as potential leaders.

Two new questions then arise: How was this plan implemented, and how did the plan’s solutions correspond to reality’s problems? To answer the two questions, I merge them into one: How did the new US policy perform when applied? The first major test of the American plan, over an oil agreement, worked out as a success. Through using the top-level personal network in active diplomacy, the US was able to secure its interests and maintain the systemic approach, which in turn made sure that the defensive personal network plan was left undisturbed.

In chapter three, we will see how a greater test on the US plan arose. An international conflict emerged and the question of interpretation of Indonesian actions became critical to US policy. The White House’ interpretation of the Indonesian actions and their background was neither constant nor in line with the interpretations of most other groups influencing US policy. The US rather than being the proactive instigator of new policy, then started to react on outside events. The US was driven to give up to its offensive policy and fall back on the defensive strategy.

The next question is why this happened. One answer had already been found interpretation. But that answer lacks an aspect: When the US was driven to reaction, who or what was it that actually drove them? Again, one answer has been made to this question as well, in chance and the death of Kennedy. However, chance alone is an unsatisfactory answer.

In chapter four another answer is found in the PKI and its cultural campaign against the US. We then ask ourselves: What were the further consequences of this erosion of the US policy plan? Did the US change their policy? The answer is that the US did not change its policy, but adapted it for the new circumstances, and continued to rely entirely on its defensive plan. The next question is then why the US did not alter its policies, and the answers are mainly found in the effects of Vietnam on the administration.

The next question is what other effects Vietnam might have had on US policy towards Indonesia. Also, the question arises how the defensive plan held out on its own. The answer is that also the defensive plan was under permanent attack, and that the broad, defensive network between the US and the Indonesian army was eroded throughout 1965.

The argumentation concludes on September 30, 1965, when the final official contact network was formally removed, thus putting an end to this stage in US policy. However, for the benefit of the reader and to put the story in its necessary larger context, a short aftermath, starting the night between September 30, 1965, and the subsequent events that altered the Indonesian Government and US-Indonesian relations completely.

Sources and Historiography

I have mainly relied on primary sources for this study. However, secondary literature has been necessary and has provided valuable information on several subjects, particularly regarding Indonesian interpretation of events. Some of the older literature on Indonesia doubled as primary sources, since they were influential on US decision making. On a few subjects, I have had to rely on the information given in secondary literature without being able to verify them in primary sources, as I, for practical reasons, was without access to the sources. A major problem has been the availability of literature in Oslo. Even in the fields where literature is abundant, it has proved hard to actually get copies to Oslo.11

Due to the relatively small numbers of experts in Indonesian affairs in the early sixties, scholarly analyses were also actively used by various parts of the two concerned administrations. Different schools in political approach thus were formed in accordance with the different scholarly analyses.12 As such, what seems technically to be secondary literature some times acts as primary sources in my analysis. This notably is the case with the works of Guy Pauker at Berkeley, which were widely used to advocate a more militant policy towards Sukarno. I use the past tense to denote the treatment of literature as a source.

Historiography and history intersects on other fields as well. There are some occasions were scholars have political intentions which damage their scholarly reliability. On one hand, such articles may provide valuable information and interesting interpretations. On the other, they at times present their information in a confusing, one-sided apology, with few nuances separating political truisms, empirical observations and pure speculation.13 With a part of the thesis concerning psy-war, or propaganda, I have run into this problem at several occasions and from different angles. It seems to be little doubt that scholarly work took part in the psy-war at various times—both at the place and time of my analysis and later on in the Cold War. In this respect, scholarly work differed less from the writings of the press than one may initially believe. Press material are used only insofar it has been found in the official archives, and as such it is treated as remnants.

Primary Sources

For primary sources I have relied almost exclusively on American archival material. The prime reason for this, was the limited time-frame of my project and the focus on American administrative processes and events. In addition came the restricted availability of other possible sources. A wider examination would benefit by including sources of Japanese, British and Dutch origin, and when circumstances permits, Indonesian and Malaysian sources as well as operation files from the CIA stations in Djakarta and Singapore. However, the archives I have used have produced a wealth of material. Much of the material has been released the last few years, hence opening for fresh analyses. Note that I have not had access to sources from CIA-DDP (clandestine operations), only to CIA intelligence material and secondary interviews with involved CIA personnel.

The most important material has come from the John F. Kennedy Presidential library in Boston, Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas and the National Archives in College Park, Maryland (NARA). A wide range of files from these archives have been used, including National Security Files, Country Files, White House files, different topical files and the personal files of a number of involved persons, as well as interviews, interviewed memoirs, records of telephone conversations and selected media archives. Together, this material has provided a broad background for the workings of the involved administrations. Unfortunately, most of the internal discussions in the administrations has not been recorded. Due to the small number of involved persons, much of the internal communication was informal and oral. Many internal discussions thus are not directly documented, but only referred to in other sources or recapitulations.

Much of the material has presented interpretational challenges. Mainly this have been due to the several roles parts the material have played. The purposes and meaning of both source material and secondary literature have at times been a lot more complex than a first glance suggests. Moreover, the special jargons and conceptual patterns of the different sources are complex enough to be worthy of a separate study. The blend of intricacies, intentional and unintentional ambiguities, tacit and overt references, implications and overstatements make for higher literary value than one may normally expect from bureaucratic documents. A particular trait of both sources and literature is the common desire to tell a more intriguing or flattering story than actual events justify. Especially, this is a common denominator for much of the archival material that has been written with future historians as the specific target group.14

Another source of material has been the National Security Archives, Washington DC. Primarily, the material I found here, consisted of working material for research done by other persons on related subjects. Most important were Kathy Kadane’s charting of US activities around 1965 and her interviews with numerous US personnel stationed in Djakarta at the time, particularly CIA-personnel.15 However, the interviews are flawed by the gap in time: The interviews are performed over twenty years after the events they describe, and contain several discrepancies when compared with recently released archival material. Accordingly the discrepancies make the interviews as a whole seem less reliable. 16 The discrepancies can most likely be attributed to the blur of memory, besides the interviewed subjects’ desire to tell a more self serving story than actual events justify. The other possible explanation for the discrepancies is archival alterations, an option which under the circumstances seems less likely, although there are examples of forged documents among the sources. 17 With the correction of other material, however, the interviews are valuable sources. The National Security Archives also had raw material and unpublished, larger works from Peter Dale Scott, alongside some interesting correspondence between different researchers and involved participants.

Other primary sources have been available locally. In the series Foreign Relations of The United States, there is a relevant volume containing a selection of material from the above-mentioned archives, covering Southeast Asia except Vietnam 1961–63.18 Unfortunately, the selection is dominated by one issue, namely the negotiations over West Irian between the Netherlands and Indonesia where the US mediated. Another selection of previously declassified material has been available on microfilm and microfiche from the Nobel Institute’s Library. I have had use for material from the National Security Files and Press Conferences of the Secretaries of State, particularly concerning State Department’s confrontations with Congress over aid to Indonesia. For economic and demographic statistics, I have relied on UN sources in addition to US material. Citation style is primarily based on the Lyndon B. Johnson Library’s citation guideline, while the NARA classifications are based on State Departments archival classification system at the time.


Scholarly works discussing US involvement in Gestapu and the 1958 rebellion are fairly abundant, but only a few works treat the years in between with more than a summary mention. Kahin & Kahin’s brilliant book Subversion As Foreign Policy is the authoritative work on US involvement in the 1958 rebellion in Indonesia.19 In an epilogue the authors briefly summarizes events involving US and Indonesia until 1965, thereby providing a good introduction to the current state of knowledge on US-Indonesian relations in the period. Unfortunately, their treatment focuses largely on the impact of US policy in Indonesia, rather than on the actual conduct of US policy or the policy making processes.

Kahin and Kahin models the tripartite power balance in Indonesia as the defining element of US-Indonesian relations until 1965. The civil war of 1958 led to a polarization of the Indonesian power system, with the army on one side and the PKI on the other. Sukarno balanced the two sides against each other, and based much of his power on retaining that balance. The US support to the regional rebels in 1958 had been central in causing this polarization. Kahin and Kahin further argues that the US continued to contribute to the polarization under Kennedy and Johnson by supporting the army. The US support to the army forced Sukarno to strengthen PKI in order to retain the balance. Hence, the US support to the army promoted the conflict with PKI, and US policy was also, although unwittingly, one of the reasons for the ascendancy of PKI during the early sixties.

Furthermore, the Kahins portray General Nasution and the army as the driving force during the whole period, and the period is seen as critical in the army’s slow path to political hegemony. The US was forced to operate inside the existing power triangle, even if it before 1958 had been hostile to all three parties inside that triangle. US policy, particularly in 1961–62, hence can be seen as in hostage to the guidance remaining from the Eisenhower policy. Another important point in Kahin & Kahin is how Sukarno no longer trusted the United States. CIA had become a personal enemy, which he believed to be out of political control and responsible for several attempts at his life. The US were more strongly identified as a colonial power after 1958, and was therefore vulnerable to anti-imperialist moods in the Indonesian people, according to Kahin and Kahin.

Frederick Bunnell in his Ph.D. thesisThe Kennedy Initiatives In Indonesia, 1962–1963, treats the US economic initiatives made in Indonesia during the Action Plan-Period, 1962–63.20 Particularly, Bunnell discusses the US efforts to develop Indonesia through a plan for economic aid and stabilization in co-operation with the IMF. The work is the broadest scholarly work on this period in US-Indonesian relations. Unfortunately, its age and lack of sources from within the administration has reduced its value as a treatment of US policy.

Robert Bruce has written two little-known articles covering US attempts to build up a paramilitary force in Indonesia: The first one is called "Foreign Training, Reference-Group Theory, and Paramilitary Behaviour During Coups: The U.S. Attempt to Influence the Indonesian Mobile Brigade", while the second one is titled "Paramilitary Police as Political Resources in Civil-Military crises: The Mobile Brigade between Sukarno and the Army in Indonesia.".21 Bruce’ main thesis is that the US from 1952 to 1965 sought to build up the Indonesian federal police force Mobrig as an anticommunist armed force. The attempt failed, since Mobrig, although supposedly the most US-friendly force in Indonesia, remained inactive during the whole coup affair and aftermath. Both articles are brief, but well-researched and provide a perspective not found elsewhere in literature. The conclusion from inactivity to failure, however may seem somewhat facile.

Paul Gardner has written the only extensive recollection of US-Indonesian relations throughout the whole period of Indonesia’s independence in his recent book, Shared Hopes, Separate Fears: Fifty Years of U.S.-Indonesian Relations.22 Gardner’s treatment is focussed on events and personal interaction rather than policy. However, we can extract a few general conclusions and assumptions on US policy from his treatment. Gardner argues that US policy in the West Irian issue as well as the Malaysian issue was dominated by internal struggles inside the administration, with the Europeanists and State Department on one side and the NSC aides on the other side. Furthermore, Gardner argues that that a Jonesian view on policy existed, stemming from Ambassador Howard Jones, and primarily implying that the US should through personal contacts and an open door policy influence Sukarno to moderate his polices. Furthermore, Jones was from 1964 alone in this assessment of Sukarno and Konfrontasi, while. the administration and the embassy, was working for a harder line against Sukarno. Gardner also implicitly treats the attitude to the Malaysia conflict as the most important line of demarcation in US policy making versus Indonesia from 1963–65. Finally, Gardner places the initiative for the Indonesian economic stabilization plan of 1963 with Indonesian First Minister Djuanda, in direct opposition to Bunnell’s treatment.

The Johnson period, 1964–65, is as a whole covered by the article "The limits of Manipulation: How the United States didn't topple Sukarno" by H.W. Brands.23 Brands divides the period into three phases. In the initial phase, the Johnson administration hesitates and little work is done. In the second phase, from mid-1964 and until early 1965, the US attempts to follow a dual strategy: On one hand the embassy tries to accommodate Sukarno, on the other hand the State Department seeks to build up the army in expectation of a confrontation with the communists. In the third phase, the confrontation line takes over, and all attempts on talks and friendly attitudes toward Sukarno ceases. Brand’s main hypothesis is that the US, by choosing the confrontation line, for all practical purposes surrendered the attempt to influence Indonesian policy. The activism of former years had failed, and the US were forced into a policy of wait-and-see. On Sukarno’s downfall and Suharto’s ascendance, the US had little or none influence. The article remains the most known work in the field, and Brand’s hypothesis stands as the most common view among researchers today.

For US policy in 1965, a broader selection of work exists, however most of them focus on the September 30 coup and its aftermath. Frederick Bunnell has written what is probably the most thoroughly researched and up-to-date treatment of US policy toward Indonesia in 1965 with the article "American ‘Low Posture’ Policy toward Indonesia in the months leading up to the 1965 ‘coup’".24 Bunnell’s thesis is that the US initiated a new "low posture" policy toward Indonesia during the first months of 1965, which replaced the previous "Jonesian" active policy of courtship with aid. He explains the shift in policy bureaucratically, with the experiences from Vietnam and internal dissatisfaction withs the Jones-line as important factors. The "low posture"-policy facilitated the military take-over, but Bunnell emphasized that it is to early to say whether the CIA took an active part in the events.

A common denominator for the works of Bunnell, Gardner and Kahin and Kahin, is that they presuppose that the main dispute in US policy in 1961–65 was the choice between an accommodationist line and a hard line. According to this concept, the Europeanists were the hard-liners, while the Asianists and Jonesians sought to accommodate Sukarno on behalf of European interests. Brand’s work moderates this view by modeling a confrontation policy running alongside the accommodationist policy. In Brands view, the US shift in policy in 1965 hence meant that the US abandoned its accommodationist policy, but maintained its confrontation policy.

A somewhat more disputed article concentrating on 1965, is Peter Dale Scott’s The United States and the overthrow of Sukarno.25 Scott states that the US through CIA used 1965 to plot both the abortive coup and the counter-coup, as well as Suharto’s ascendance to power. The first coup was arranged to legitimate the second, while the US at the same time got rid of skeptical generals. Some of Scott’s views, particularly regarding the US role as active planners of the coup, are fairly disputed among scholars. However, the theory holds wide support among non-scholars. A number of articles, books and pamphlets by others build on Scott’s work, but generally represent little value beyond Scott’s own.

I have also used literature which basically covers other areas, but where relevant subjects for my analysis are subsidiary topics. This has been the case for some petroleum issues and military issues regarding the confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia. Furthermore, I have utilized a wide range of literature for understanding Indonesian matters and putting them into context.

For more general background on US Southeast Asian involvement and policy, I have used Larry Berman’ Planning a Tragedy: The Americanization of the War in Vietnam, and Gary R Hess’ Vietnam and the United States : Origins and Legacy of the War.26 An important contribution from these books have been how the US administration increasingly became focussed on Vietnam, and how important it was for US policy in 1964 and 1965 that the administration increasingly became pressed for time. For an understanding of the military aspects of the Malaysia conflict and its relation to Vietnam, I have relied on Konfrontasi revisited: Indonesia's foreign policy under Soekarno by J. Soedatji Djiwandono and "The Australian Army and Indonesia’s Confrontation with Malaysia" by David Horner. 27

Various articles from America Ascendant, US Foreign Relations Since 1939 by Thomas Paterson and J. Garry Clifford (eds.), as well as articles from Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations by Michael Hogan and Thomas G. Paterson, (eds.)28 have been valuable for perimeter theory, domino theory and different approaches to US foreign policy. In brief, these works conclude that the United Stated viewed Indonesia in close connection with the rest of Southeast Asia. The Southeast Asian countries’ role were as critical suppliers of raw material and food for other Asian countries. As such they were essential for the security of Japan, secondarily important for the security of Asia and to some degree even to the Middle East—in accordance with the domino theory. The strategic of Indonesian waters were a factor vital to the relative importance of Indonesia for US security assessments, as was the extensive natural resources and large population of Indonesia. US investments in oil and rubber was another factor. Still, the overshadowing concerns were those of raw materials and the "rice bowl" 29.

For general US context and policy, Strategies of Containment by John Lewis Gaddis must be mentioned, particularly for role of the national security concept in US policy.30 For general theoretical background on US foreign policy, I have used John Ikenberry’s collection of original articles in American Foreign Policy - Theoretical Essays. 31 To get a hold of the historiography and Western scholarship on Indonesia, I have used Benedict Anderson and Audrey Kahins article collection Interpreting Indonesian politics : Thirteen Contributions to the Debate. 32

A number of biographies and memoirs have moreover been of use. For general information on Johnson and his administrations outlook on the world, H.W. Brands’ The Wages of Globalism: Lyndon Johnson and the Limits of American Power has been informative.33 The book includes a slimmer edition of his Indonesia article, and positions his theories on Indonesia into a broader perspective. For biographical works on the Kennedy years, Arthur M. Schlesinger’s A Thousand Days and Robert Kennedy And His Times stands out, although both are fairly sympathetic. 34 These biographies have mainly been used for background on the interaction between some of the policy makers in Washington, and particularly to Robert Kennedy’s role. Of memoirs, I have found use for George Ball’s memoirs, The Past Has Another Pattern as well as Dean Rusk’s apology: As I Saw It 35. For the occasional personal perspective of Khrushchev, particularly on Soviet arms deliveries, I have relied on the transcript, Khrushchev Remembers: The Last Testament. 36 The memoirs of ambassador Howard P. Jones’, Indonesia: The Possible Dream, has been invaluable, although it is somewhat self-absorbed and written with a delicate sense of omission. 37 Its use has primarily been as a source, documenting both events and Jones’ interpretation of the events. At a few occasions I have also treated it as literature, the treatment as literature is then indicated by use of the present tense.

Some special problems occurred with the biographies, interviewed biographies and memoirs. Some of them have been extensively used as source material in subsequent literature, often without corrective sources and as the prime source of information.38 Hence, what seems to be different sources supporting the same conclusion in reality has been based on singular evidence. The memoirs and interviews also presented particular problems regarding reliability without supporting sources, the same applies to a certain extent for the biographies.


Methodological and Theoretical Concerns

While I have refrained from using one general model or theory as an explicit overarching framework of analysis, some rudimentary models and theories have been applied to a few specific subtopics.39 On such occasions, the functions of the models are to cast a broader light on the described events, and are primarily intended to be rudimentary and supplementary tools of interpretation, not full-fledged theoretical analyses. The specific theories will be outlined and drawn upon as necessary.

The general methodological approach is close to classical diplomatic history and I have focussed on the narrative of particular events, persons and small group interaction. The reasons for this are the basic empirical nature of the project, the few number of people involved in the direct decision-making processes and the initial observation that personal relations was a central facet of US-Indonesian relations in the period. I will discuss the role of personal relations more specifically in the first chapter. Although the perspective of simple interaction is the dominant, I have to some extent tried to include a perspective of interpretation, and I have tried to give a rudimentary impression of how concepts and different interpretations were influential on US policy.

I also rely on a few techniques that draw a larger and more modeled picture, mainly by selectively using terms from specific theoretical frameworks. Especially noteworthy is also the use of basic memetical terminology, which implies a specific treatment of concepts, ideas and ideologies, based on the concept of "selfish", contagious memes40 as the basic, atomic unit of communication. 41 This is done because the terms provided a practical way of recounting events, and not as a stringent theoretical application of memetic theories, nor does it imply any specific ontological status of the memetic theory. References to recurring phrases, memes and concepts are denoted by the use of italics, while specific uses of phrases are denoted by double quotes.

A considerable number of phrases, names and abbreviations specific for the time and place have been used throughout the thesis. It is noteworthy that one of the features of politics in Indonesia was inventing complex terminological systems, much to the distress of outside observers. Most of the phrases will be unknown for most readers, and will be briefly explained as they arrive. For extensive lists, see the separate appendices on terminology and names.

The transcription of Indonesian names constitutes a specific problem, since several styles exist. Indonesian official transcription to Roman letters at the time was in a transitional phase and subject to several reforms, and the choice often reflected political stances. I have chosen to rely on the guidelines used internally in State and White House under the Kennedy administration, which to a large part correspond with the most widely used transcriptions used internationally today and the "international" Roman transcription preferred by Sukarno.42 For example, I use "Djakarta", not "Jakarta" and the letter "u" instead of the Dutch pair "oe". Note that the usage of "j" (/j/ or /d(/), "y" (/j/)and "dj" (/d(/) is not always consistent. The inconsistencies reflect customary practices in the administration, like in "Java". Also, some persons, mostly Indonesian, are referred to by only one name, although they technically may hold several names and titles; for instance Sukarno, Subandrio and Suharto. This is done in compliance with common or preferred usage. For the same reasons, a few persons are referred to by their title rather than their name, like the Sultan of Jogjakarta, an to some extent the Tunku (Abdul Rahman). 43


Narrative Presentation of the Chapters

The thesis is divided into four general chapters, each representing a time period. There are two chapters on the Kennedy years, one transitional chapter and one chapter for the Johnson years. The first chapter introduces Kennedy’s presidency. The different actors are first introduced alongside the administrations initial perceptions of Indonesia and policy towards the country. Then the agendas that first appeared on Kennedy’s desk follow, notably the lingering dispute between the Netherlands and Indonesia over West Irian. After that follows a discussion of the military situation and how the US chose to respond to the massive Soviet influx of arms, followed by an overview over economic interests and assistance.

The second chapter introduces the new forward action initiated by Kennedy. The new push forward is introduced by the solution of the West Irian issue. The next subchapter treats the massive Action Plan for Indonesia, which Kennedy introduced to exploit the positive environment that emerged after the West Irian solution. I then look closer into how the action plan was implemented and particularly the problems with oil that almost ruined the implementation.

The third chapter deals with the transition from Kennedy to Johnson. I start with a treatment of the range of problems building up for the implementation of Kennedy’s Action Plan: First the build-up of a new and alternative ideological worldview in Djakarta, and then the sudden confrontation with Malaysia that halted the offensive thrust of Kennedy’s action scheme. The chapter finishes off with how Johnson continued Kennedy’s plan, but was unable to revive the offensive part of US policy.

In the fourth chapter, the initiative lies in Djakarta. I introduce the chapter with a description of the campaign against US installations in Indonesia. Then I describe two major re-evaluations of US policy forced by events in Indonesia, which both adjusted the emphasis of US policy without altering the US commitment to the defensive part of the US policy. I continue with a treatment of how and why the US started to demonstrate military strength to Indonesia. The final subchapter tells how US continually sought to forward aid to the Indonesian military, but was hindered by concern to the British, the Congress and the Indonesian army’s reluctance to receive US support—and accordingly how the defensive part of the US policy stemming from 1962 was undermined and given up. I end my treatment when the isolated, few US officials left in Djakarta called in the message that woke the administration on October, 1, 1965: That Indonesia may be lost to the communists in a coup, and all trusted friends were dead or missing. A short epilogue will sum up the events that followed, for the benefit of the reader.


1 A quick survey of the agendas of meetings of the National Security Council shows that Indonesian-related topics are among the most frequent entries. See also Anderson:1982: 76 ; Introduction chapter, Devaney, 1975.
2 For further treatment, see subchapter "Historiography", p*
3 Kahin & Kahin 1995: 10
4 The meme "greatest loss since the fall of China" spread among the White House advisers and State Department staff, particularly from 1963 to 1965. ]
5 The estimated numbers varies from the official number of 78.000 to Amnesty’s "over one million". (Brands 1989: 802). For further discussion of the figures see Cribb 1990
6 "Bloody good luck" is the title of Brands chapter on the Johnson’s Indonesia-policy. (Brands 1995).
7 Measured from the most outward island points in Indonesia, while not including US islands or Alaska.
8 The "archipelago state" was the Indonesian Governments own definition, implying that waters between the islands were integral part of Indonesian territory and not subject to international mile limits. Confer
9 USIA expands to the United States Information Agency. At periods almost half of the Embassy reporting from Djakarta revolved around USIA agendas.
10 Certain parts of the Congress, however, were better informed of the administrations activities, and most often they were treated as silent and knowing supporters of the administrations policy. Notably this applies to the Senate Foreign Relations committee, and particularly the senators Hubert Humphrey and William Fulbright.
11 Without the library of the Nobel Institute, and that of NIAS in Copenhagen, this thesis had not been possible to write at all.
12 The most characteristic administrative schism in academic reliance was the one between conservative-inspired militarists and Europeanists versus the Sukarnoists or the Jones-fraction, which was more reliant on liberal and Kahinian scholars. Confer the following paragraph on historiography.
13 In particular this applies to left-wing literature like Peter Dale Scott’s and right-wind or militarist literature like Guy Pauker’s and Joseph van der Kroef’s (Cf. Feith 1982: p 45)
14 The Oral History project of the Kennedy Library is a particularly interesting case here: The project contains interviews made exclusively for the Archive with time clauses. The interviews range from the candid to the self-disguising, and some interviews, for instance that of Dean Rusk, reads almost like an apology. Other interviews explicitly point out parts of the administration that need to justify themselves, and ridicule the stories they correctly anticipate that the apologetic actors will tell. Likewise, undocumented and ghostlike myths of success, nearly legends, are common in later recounts of US activity in the area and at the time.
15 The Kathy Kadane papers, NSA. Kathy Kadane has written some partially impressive journalistic work on the US role in the massacres of 1965–66. Unfortunately, her work is reliant on the precarious interviews.
16 This applies particularly to alleged deliveries of military materiel around the days of the coup.
17 In particular, a British letter which caused considerable political distress and most likely was the work of one of the Indonesian secret agencies.
18 FRUS 1961–63, Volume XXXIII, Southeast Asia.
19 Kahin and Kahin 1995
20 Bunnell 1969.
21 Bruce 1982; Bruce 1986
22 Gardner 1997
23 Brands 1989
24 Bunnell 1990
25 Scott 1985
26 Berman 1982; Hess 1990
27 Djiwandono 1996; Horner 1989
28 Paterson/Clifford 1995; Hogan/Paterson 1991
29 The "rice bowl" was a common nickname in Washington for Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific, and refers to the shape of the area as well as its perceived strategic function.
30 Gaddis 1982
31 Ikenberry 1996
32 Anderson/Kahin 19878
33 Brands 1995
34 Schlesinger 1965; Schlesinger 1978
35 Rusk 1991; Ball 1982
36 Khrushchev 1974
37 Jones 1971
38 In particular this applies to Howard P. Jones’ autobiography, (Jones 1971)
39 For a general and more speculative theoretical approach, however, I would have built on John Searle’s theories of intentionality and rule-based acts. The model’s base would be the assumption of a common, tacit agreement among US policy makers, this time including Congress, on how to relate to Indonesia. The agreement, (for example defined as the output of an equilibrium of individual and sub-collective actions and opinions), would primarily consist of an attitude of waiting out Sukarno while trying to keep friendly relations with whomever who would want to return the friendliness. This was combined with the simple, but stern belief that in the end, the friends will outgun the foes. This common belief and the resulting actions together formed, qua intentionality-determining rules, a collective intent that superceded the individual actors’ intent. The crux of the model would be the hypothesis that this collective intent worked to overturn Sukarno and inaugurate a military rule, even though its individual actors were not aware of this, nor were the most important single actors working for this aim on an individual level. Such a model’s most interesting aspect would be the apparent conflict between the individual’s conscious intents and those of the larger entities, and the search for falsification of such a conflict. Furthermore, the model could be part of a larger model including the rest of Southeast Asia, built on a similar theoretical approach.
40 A meme is an atomic unit for human communication, which for instance can be a concept, an idea, a phrase or a word. Typical memes are "East Bloc", "national security" , "the biggest loss since the fall of China" – and the word "meme " itself.
41 For an introduction to memetic theory and appliance on policy making, see Speel 1997
42 An interesting point here is how the Kennedy and Johnson-administrations used the new Indonesian and "international" transcription rather than the colonial Dutch transcription, while earlier administration relied more on the Dutch transcription.. For a name like "Sukarno", the spelling "Soekarno" would, if used by Americans, have political implications, and be regarded as a sign of hostility by Sukarno. This is despite the fact the Sukarno in his signature continued to use "Soekarno", while in typed insisting on "Sukarno". For Sukarno, spelling was a conscious political choice, something which he made clear to both his subordinates and Ambassador Jones. Although sparsely documented, it seems like the US choice of spelling also was a conscious decision made on political grounds and rooted in the Djakarta Embassy’s recommendations. As an interesting example was the American choice of using "Djakarta" over "Jakarta" in compliance to the "international" spelling preferred by Sukarno, and in opposition to the dominant usage in the English-speaking world. The choice of spelling however also reflects the impact of "Indonesianist" scholars in the administration, as well as diplomatic courtesy. Note that the most frequently used terms referring to Sukarno was "the Bung" or "Bung Karno", while "Dr. Soekarno" or "Dr. Sukarno" were the formal and diplomatically correct notations.
43 The usage of "the Tunku" (or "the Prince") versus "Abdul Rahman" is complex. "Abdul Rahman", often reflected an interpretation of him as a British, not a Malay person (by being raised and educated in England, and by using a Western naming convention to emphasize his background), while "the Tunku" emphasized his Malayness. Hence, the usage of the name "Abdul Rahman" at times actually reflected an insult when made by Indonesians, while "the Tunku" reflected respect. However, the person himself became so unpopular in Indonesia that the respect implicit in the term "the Tunku" could also imply a sarcasm. The actual usage in the administrations was inconsistent.


Index // Introduction // Chapter 1 // Chapter 2 // Chapter 3 // Chapter 4 // Conclusion || PDF/paperback

This document was converted from Word
with Abula Webword on 11/7/1999
© Stig Aga Aandstad