Kamis, 08 Agustus 2013

Soekarno and John F Kennedy

"No wonder Sukarno doesn't like us very much. He has to sit down with people who tried to overthrow him." - President Kennedy, 1961

Up until Kennedy's time, the aid predominantly offered to Indonesia from this country came mostly in the form of military support. Kennedy had other ideas. After a positive 1961 meeting with Sukarno in the United States, Kennedy appointed a team of economists to study ways that economic aid could help Indonesia develop in constructive ways. Kennedy understood that Sukarno took aid and arms from the Soviets and the Chinese because he needed the help, not because he was eager to fall under communist rule. American aid would prevent Sukarno from becoming dependent on Communist supplies. And Sukarno had already put down a communist rebellion in 1948. Even the State Department in the United States conceded that Sukarno was more nationalist than Communist.

But the pressing problem during Kennedy's short term was the issue of West Irian. The Dutch had taken an ever more aggressive stance, and Sukarno was assuming a military posture. America, as allies to both, was caught in the middle. Kennedy asked Ellsworth Bunker to attempt to mediate an agreement between the Dutch and Indonesian governments. "The role of the mediator," said Kennedy, "is not a happy one; we are prepared to have everybody mad if it makes some progress."

It did make everybody mad. But it did make progress. Ultimately, the U.S. pressured the Dutch behind the scenes to yield to Indonesia. Bobby Kennedy was enlisted in this effort, visiting both Sukarno in Indonesia and the Dutch at the Hague. Said Roger Hilsman in To Move a Nation:

Sukarno came to recognize in Robert Kennedy the same tough integrity and loyalty that he had seen in his brother, the President, combined with a true understanding of what the new nationalisms were really all about.

So with preliminary overtures having been made to Sukarno and the Hague, Bunker took over the nitty gritty of getting each side to talk to each other. The Dutch, unwilling to concede the last vestige of their once-great empire to their foe, pressed instead for West Irian to become an independent country. But Sukarno knew it was a symbol to his people of final independence from the Dutch. And all knew that the Papuan natives there had no hope of forming any kind of functioning government, having only just recently been pushed from a primitive existence into the modern world. The United Nations voted to cede West Irian fully to Indonesia, with the provision that, by 1969, the people of West Irian would be granted an opportunity to vote whether to remain with or secede from Indonesia. Kennedy seized the moment, issuing National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 179, dated August 16, 1962:

With the peaceful settlement of the West Irian dispute now in prospect, I would like to see us capitalize on the U.S. role in promoting this settlement to move toward a new and better relationship with Indonesia. I gather that with this issue resolved the Indonesians too would like to move in this direction and will be presenting us with numerous requests.

To seize this opportunity, will all agencies concerned please review their programs for Indonesia and assess what further measures might be useful. I have in mind the possibility of expanded civic action, military aid, and economic stabilization and development programs as well as diplomatic initiatives.

Roger Hilsman elaborated on what Kennedy meant by civic action: "rehabilitating canals, draining swampland to create new rice paddies, building bridges and roads, and so on."


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