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supping with the devil « Previous | |Next »
September 2, 2003

It is pretty clear that Australia faces a terrorist threat that has its base in Indonesia. Few would disagree with that. Many are worried about the unity of a corrupt Indonesian state and its political capacity to hold the nation together.

Indonesian nationalism is pretty ugly, highly militarized and defensive to the point of paranoia. The military (TNI) has taken it upon itself to defend the national unity of the state and it treats all threats to centralized power in Jakarta with a ferocious destructiveness. Witness East Timor and Aceh. The military assumes that regional political dissent to centralized state power and the desire for greater regional autonomy can be stopped only by military means.

The fear is that if Indonesia becomes a failed state, then it becomes a haven for international terrorism. The Australian national security state sees the spectre of Muslim fundamentalism on the march. Jemaah Islamiah is seen as the tip of the iceberg and almost a Taliban-like military force.The Australian national security state is willing to sup with the devil to defend its borders in the war against international terrorism. The devil is the unreformed Indonesian military that laid waste to East Timor, and is now doing the same in Aceh in the name of national unity. More particularly, the devil is the brutal and ruthless Kopassus anti-terrorist unit of the TNI. Little is said about refoming the military.

So it is good to read this article by Harold Crouch. He says:

"In my view, close relations with the Indonesian military should wait until there are strong indications of the presence of a real will for reform."

The exception is limited cooperation to deal special threats such as a hijacked Quantas plane in Indonesia. Crouch says that what is to be avoided is a return to:

"...the warm military relationship of the past, which included training and exercises that strengthened the military's capacity for internal repression. My concern, however, is that some elements within the Australian defence establishment might, like some of their US counterparts, see this [limited cooperation for a strictly limited purpose] as the thin end of the wedge to expand military relations more generally, without regard to whether the Indonesian military really is committed to reforming itself."

Sensibly said.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:58 PM | | Comments (0)