How a Great Power Falls Apart
Decline Is Invisible From the Inside
THE Republic of Indonesia, born immediately after World War II when a colony became a free country, strongly desires peace. Only in a peaceful atmosphere can it rehabilitate its war-damaged economy and lift its citizens out of the poverty in which they have lived so long. Even when Indonesians were struggling to free themselves from the control of the Netherlands, freedom was not their only objective. Leaders of the national movement always insisted that an independent and sovereign Indonesia was simply a prerequisite to the achievement of a pattern of living that would guarantee the prosperity of the people. Their slogan was "A sovereign, independent, just and prosperous Indonesia." Now that the country has sovereign and independent status, its citizens--of whom there are more than 75,000,000--demand that their government carry out the twin ideals of social justice and prosperity.
The Republic of Indonesia realizes that coöperation with other countries is essential if these ideals are to become a reality. It has made the United Nations the focal point of its over-all policy of seeking good relations with all other nations. More specifically, its objectives in foreign policy are: 1, to defend the freedom of the people and guard the safety of the state; 2, to obtain from overseas those articles of daily necessity required for increasing the standard of living of the population--food, especially rice, consumer goods of various kinds, medicines, and so on; 3, to obtain capital equipment to rebuild what had been destroyed or damaged, and capital for industrialization, new construction and the partial mechanization of agriculture; 4, to strengthen principles of international law and to aid in achieving social justice on an international scale, in line with the U.N. Charter, with special reference to Articles 1, 2 and 55, in particular by endeavoring within the U.N. framework to help people still living within the colonial system to achieve freedom; 5, to place special emphasis on initiating good relations with neighboring countries, the majority of which have in the past occupied a position similar to Indonesia; and 6, to seek fraternity among nations through the realization of the ideals enshrined in the Panchasila (Five Postulates) which constitute the basic Indonesian philosophy. In short, Indonesia will pursue a policy of peace and of friendship with all nations on a basis of mutual respect and noninterference with each other's structure of government.
As a people just become free from colonialism, Indonesians are jealous of their country's independence. Slogans such as "liberty," "humanity," "social justice," "the brotherhood of nations" and "lasting peace," which were a sustaining force in the Indonesian national movement, are looked upon as ideals to be translated into practice. The Indonesian people, therefore, place a high value on international intercourse and are confident that what they long for in this respect will eventually become a reality. All these feelings help determine the country's foreign policy and the means employed to carry it out.
It is possible that, viewed from the angle of Realpolitik, some of these aims seem to lie outside the realm of "real and practical policy." The student of history, however, is conscious that much which was previously considered utopian or impossible has come to pass. Who would have believed 15 years ago that India, Burma, Ceylon, Pakistan and Indonesia would become independent and sovereign? Who would then have thought it possible that Indonesia, assisted by the Netherlands itself, would be accepted as a member of an international organization such as the United Nations? Many ideas tabu to classical economists and put down as pure Socialist dreams have today become accepted in capitalist countries as a means of achieving "industrial peace." The development and acceptance of what is called "social security" is an instance. The influence of such ideas is to be found in the Charter of the United Nations and in the work of the I.L.O. The goals of "higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development" are set down in Article 55 of the Charter of the United Nations. Most of the nations of the world assume today that the attainment of these ideals should be stimulated by government and not handed over, as previously, to the "free play of economic forces."
The objectives which the Republic of Indonesia seeks to achieve through its foreign policy should therefore not be considered merely utopian. But while some are of topical importance, others are ideals for future realization. For this reason the foreign policy of the Republic has short-term and long-term aspects. The short-term policy relates to matters which must be translated into practice now or in the near future--those affecting Indonesia's particular interests or those connected with international tensions capable of affecting the peace of the world. But longterm objectives, which require a change in the spirit of international thinking and morality, must also be emphasized in order that they will receive attention. Thus the long-term policy is intimately bound up with the short-term policy.
Talk of the brotherhood of man in a world in which racial discrimination makes possible the existence of such a policy as "apartheid," or talk of everlasting peace in the atmosphere of the cold war, indeed seems incongruous. Be that as it may, the Republic of Indonesia feels it its duty to strengthen the ideals of peace, however weak its voice or feeble its power. It believes that these ideals will become reality in the long run. It believes in the common sense of mankind. The peoples' desire for peace, as opposed to their lust for war, becomes stronger from century to century. Evil often prevails over the forces for good and destroys what civilization has built up over the ages. But man, rational by nature, will eventually make a positive and definite choice of good over evil, peace over war. The discovery of weapons of war which become progressively more terrifying and destructive will strengthen men's love of peace and arouse hatred of war. It is this conviction that leads the Republic of Indonesia to believe that the struggle for world peace is today a policy based on reality.
This explains why the Republic of Indonesia has not aligned itself with either the American bloc or the Russian bloc in the existing conflict, and why it is not prepared to participate in any third bloc designed to act as a counterpoise to the two giant blocs. To do that would merely create new suspicions and new enmities. And though Indonesia's policy has often been termed one of neutrality, it is not that either. "Neutrality" has a precise meaning in international law, defining a condition of impartiality toward belligerent states. Writing in the "Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences," Philip C. Jessup states that "the modern legal status of neutrality implies the impartiality of one state towards two or more belligerent states." And he says truly that "it may well be argued that in the present or future conditions of world solidarity, neutrality is an antisocial status." As a member of the United Nations, the Republic of Indonesia cannot adopt an attitude of neutrality. It is committed to international solidarity. Articles 41 and 43 of the U. N. Charter do not give any option to the course of action open to a member when the Security Council has declared the behavior of another state to be unlawful.
But in practice, of course, international solidarity has not been achieved; world solidarity has cracked into two pieces. Under present conditions it would not be possible for Indonesia to be other than neutral if a war broke out. The existence of war is a special case in the life of nations.
Unfortunately, Indonesia has to face a situation entirely different from the one forecast during the years of World War II. The world envisaged then is reflected in the ideology of the Charter, but the postwar world is characterized by the conflict between the American and the Soviet blocs. The opposition between the two, due to different economic systems, has been heightened by a conflict of ideologies in every particular. The cold war is an ideological war--the "free world" versus "the peoples' democracies." The Western countries with similar culture and political concepts seek safety alongside the United States, which possesses great economic and industrial power. The Communist states behind the Iron Curtain form a compact bloc stretching from Middle Europe to the Pacific Ocean and covering a large portion of Asia, with a total population of not less than 800,000,000 souls--an almost limitless reserve of manpower for their armed forces. In such a situation, international life is dominated by power politics.
Western nations tend to hold that there is no middle position for the weaker countries, and that they must choose between the one bloc or the other. It seems logical to them that nations which desire to enjoy independence should choose the free world, and they remind neutral countries of the fate of Belgium and the Netherlands in the Second World War. As already stated, however, the policy of the Republic of Indonesia is not one of neutrality, because it is not constructed in reference to belligerent states but for the purpose of strengthening and upholding peace. Indonesia plays no favorites between the two opposed blocs and follows its own path through the various international problems. It terms this policy "independent," and further characterizes it by describing it as independent and "active." By active is meant the effort to work energetically for the preservation of peace and the relaxation of tension generated by the two blocs, through endeavors supported if possible by the majority of the members of the United Nations. As an illustration of this policy may be cited the efforts made by Indonesia, in concert with the Arab and Asian countries, to put an end to the war in Korea.
This island archipelago is in a very different kind of position from that in which the Netherlands and Belgium found themselves at the beginning of World War II. It does not share a common boundary with any of the possible belligerents. Indonesia, it may be said, is bounded by the British Navy and the American Navy, which control the Indian and Pacific Oceans. But no one can say that Britain and the United States have evil designs on Indonesia. On the contrary, they are desirous of seeing Indonesia remain independent and become prosperous. Are they not the very people who hold that the infiltration of Communism can be prevented only by raising the economic level of the masses?
Further, Indonesia does not have common frontiers with Soviet Russia or China. A direct threat from that direction to Indonesian independence neither exists nor is possible. Only the domestic Communist movement is a political factor in Indonesia, but in this regard Indonesia's position is no different from that of the other democratic countries. Consequently, there is no pressing need for her to make a choice between the two big blocs. Her independent policy keeps her from enmity with either party, preserves her from the damage to her own interests that would follow from taking sides, and permits her to be friends with all nations on a basis of mutual respect. The desire to put political relations with other nations on a footing of mutual respect, despite differences in the governmental structure and ideology, is a primary factor in this approach to international relations. Nations recently become independent are strongly influenced by national sentiment and feel the need to maintain their self-respect. The memory of the colonial status that bound them for centuries makes them resist anything they consider an attempt to colonize them again, whether by economic or ideological domination. This psychological factor profoundly influences Indonesia in her insistence upon an independent policy.
The foundation of this policy was laid by the Indonesian Government in 1948, while it was still engaged in a struggle against the Netherlands to maintain its new independence and at the same time to free the whole of the Indonesian people from foreign rule. (As a consequence of the first Netherlands' military action and steady whittling away of its territories, the Republic of Indonesia found itself at that time confined to extreme West and Middle Java and North and Central Sumatra.) While the leftist parties under the leadership of the Communist Party of Indonesia were ranged in opposition, the Indonesian Government made the following policy statement to the Working Committee of the Provisional Parliament on September 2, 1948:
Have the Indonesian people fighting for their freedom no other course of action open to them than to choose between being pro-Russian or pro-American? Is there no other position that can be taken in the pursuit of our national ideals? The Indonesian Government is of opinion that the position to be taken is that Indonesia should not be a passive party in the area of international politics but that it should be an active agent entitled to decide its own standpoint. . . . The policy of the Republic of Indonesia must be resolved in the light of its own interests and should be executed in consonance with the situations and facts it has to face . . . . The lines of Indonesia's policy cannot be determined by the bent of the policy of some other country which has its own interests to service.
Prime Minister Wilopo, who assumed office on May 22, 1952, redefined the Government's independent policy in the following significant words:
When the Government stated that its conduct of foreign affairs would be in an "independent" manner, the underlying idea was to make it clear that, in face of the fact that there are two opposed trends in international circles which have given rise to two blocs--the Western bloc with the United States and its allies, and the Eastern bloc with its adherents--the Republic of Indonesia has decided to adopt an independent attitude in the sense that:
(a) it does not permanently take sides by pledging itself to either of the two blocs which are in controversy with each other;
(b) it does not pledge itself permanently to keep aloof or to remain neutral in every incident which may arise out of controversy between the two blocs.
On the other hand, as it has subsequently turned out that the statement regarding an "independent attitude"--the nature of which is wholly negative --has given rise to misunderstanding, or at least some doubt, among political parties in our own country or between one or both of the opposed blocs, the Government has given the additional clarification that its "independent attitude" is of a positive nature in the sense that, when a problem or incident arises due to the controversy between the two blocs--or which more or less has a bearing on such a controversy--the Republic of Indonesia will continue to base its attitude on its independence of action, taking into consideration:
(a) its own conception of its aim and purpose as a sincere, loyal and serious member of the United Nations, and
(b) its belief in the importance of this state and nation as a factor of great influence in the immediate as well as remote future.
In view of its purpose and aim as a member of the United Nations, our Republic will rally to or support every effort within the framework of the United Nations to do away with, or at least grind off, the sharpness of the controversy between the two trends or blocs, so as to ward off as much as possible the cropping up of a large-scale conflict that may set off a third world war.
As regards its belief in the importance of this state and nation, the Republic of Indonesia will adopt a definite standpoint and strive for a decision or settlement of every problem and incident in order to preserve, protect and, wherever possible, enhance and strengthen the interests of the state and its people in keeping with the conditions or pledges which it may have to accept when arriving at the decision or settlement indicated above.
First and foremost, we must see that the independence, sovereignty and territory of the state will not be infringed upon or threatened, and that the Republic of Indonesia does not become involved in any armed conflict except for the defense of its independence and sovereignty against a direct attack launched from without or within.
It will be seen from the above statement that the independent policy is only one aspect of the Indonesian foreign policy, which as a whole centers around a policy of peace that will guarantee the country's freedom. As a young state not possessed of sufficient military strength to defend the multitude of islands, large and small, which compose its territory, the Republic thus seeks to safeguard its independence. Its armed forces are wholly defensive; its foreign policy aims to prevent the country from being attacked. Indonesians believe that the possibility of attack will be minimized so long as the country adheres to its independent policy and actively tries to prevent the outbreak of World War III.
Inherent in this independent policy is an endeavor to seek friendship with peoples belonging to either bloc, or to none, on a basis of respect for each other's independence. In the process of strengthening such friendships, Indonesia is prepared to receive intellectual, material and moral assistance from any country whatsoever, provided there is no lessening of, or threat to, her independence and sovereignty. Indeed, we are aware that at present, when the task of national construction is just beginning to be tackled, we are receiving more from the international world than we can give to it. But the time will come when we shall make a real contribution to world progress and to the strengthening of international organizations.
Of course, foreign policy is not determined just by hopes and desires, nor by the likes and dislikes of statesmen and national leaders. Objective factors play a great part in determining its nature and keeping it on a given course despite changes in the complexion of political parties or of the group that holds power at a given moment. Postwar conditions have supplied one such set of factors for Indonesia. When the Kingdom of the Netherlands transferred sovereignty on December 27, 1949, the new régime inherited a devastated land. Furthermore, it found itself with an empty treasury; the budget for 1950 envisaged a deficit of 1.5 billion guilders, approximately 17 percent of the total--a huge sum for a poor nation that had no facilities for raising capital within the country. The Government marshalled all its energies to increase domestic production, but, as could have been guessed, the transfer of sovereignty had a strong influence on the labor movement in Indonesia, for workers had never been permitted to organize freely and had had to subsist on extremely low wages. Labor hoped that the changed political situation would bring about immediate economic benefit, and the stringent circumstances in which the whole country was placed by continuously rising prices fanned discontent. Along with claims for increased wages which were reasonable enough in the circumstances, there were demands for nationalization of industries and for a change in the management of various businesses which, labor felt, were refusing to abandon the old colonial attitude. This feeling was exploited by radical leaders bent on creating turmoil, and there were political strikes along with those prompted by understandable economic motives.
The task of creating order was a difficult one. While the Netherlands troops were still in Indonesia, there was an uprising calling itself the "Army of the Just King" under the leadership of a man named Westerling, an ex-captain of the Netherlands Army, who hoped to seize Bandung. This comitadji was supported by other former members of the Netherlands Army, and there was a mutiny in Makassar, capital city of the Celebes, led by an Indonesian captain of the Netherlands forces there,[i] evidently coördinated with Westerling's activities around Bandung. Not long after that, a unit of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army in the island of Ambon carried out a coup d'état for the purpose of setting up a "Republic of the South Moluccas." All these difficulties were overcome, but at the cost of much effort.
In addition to these uprisings, there has been an insurrectionary movement termed the Darul Islam which has been especially active in West Java, Middle Java and South Celebes. The objective of its members is the overthrow of the Republic and the establishment of an Indonesian Islamic state according to their special conceptions. Remnants of the former "Army of the Just King," under the leadership of a Netherlander named Van Kleef, united themselves with this movement. It has done much damage, terrorizing the people and showing no respect for human life. The Indonesian Government has been doing its best to put an end to it and successive Cabinets have given the question of security priority.
Although Indonesia had been administered as one unit up to the Japanese occupation, the rise of nationalism led the Netherlands Government to believe that cutting up the archipelago would help in perpetuating its rule. Following two military actions in 1947 and 1948, therefore, it split Indonesia into 16 separate units, linked administratively on a federal basis. The mutinies in Bandung and Makassar prompted a strong demand by the people, first in West Java and East Indonesia and then throughout the whole country, that the Indonesian Government put an end to this arrangement to divide and rule. Although a federal system is, in fact, suitable for such a far-flung archipelago as Indonesia, and might be expected to strengthen the feeling of unity, the manner and timing of the move by the Netherlands Indies Government had aroused such antipathy toward ideas of federation that it was found necessary to make the change from a federal to a unitary state before a constituent assembly could be formed to draw up a definitive constitution.
These are instances of the problems that beset the young Republic. Internal consolidation is the primary task. The Government must concentrate on the task of building up the nation, and it must show evidence of economic and social betterment if it is to offset the influence of agitation by radical circles. A foreign policy that aligned the country with either bloc of the Great Powers would render this internal task infinitely more difficult.
Influencing this decision to pursue an independent policy is, again, the historic ideal of peace and friendship with all races which is so deeply imbedded in the Indonesian people. And it is reinforced by the objective facts of Indonesia's geographical situation. Nature has ordained that Indonesia, lying between two continents--the Asian mainland and Australia--and washed by the waters of two vast oceans--the Indian and the Pacific--must maintain intercourse with lands stretching in a great circle around it. From time immemorial, it has had relationships with all of them, varied as they are. Its position at the very heart of a network of communications has for centuries made the archipelago a halting place for all races and a staging base in international travel. When one considers that the territory of Indonesia extends for more than 3,000 miles and is composed of thousands of islands, large and small, the magnitude of the problem of maintaining the security of the country is apparent. So extensive an area cannot be defended purely by military strength.
For economic reasons also, Indonesia must have relationships with diverse countries. The land is rich in natural resources and raw materials, but the country has not reached the stage where it can convert its raw materials into finished industrial goods. A large portion of its economy is still dependent on export. Indonesia cannot possibly reconcile herself to being tied to the economies of a few nations, all the more so because certain articles of export such as rubber are subject to much fluctuation in price. Only by adhering to a peaceful yet independent policy can Indonesia adequately safeguard its economic interests.
Last but not least of the factors which shape the foreign policy of the Indonesian Republic is the Panchasila, the Five Postulates that constitute the basic national philosophy, referred to at the beginning of this article. No group that holds the reins of government in the Republic, no matter what its political affiliations, will be able to carry on the affairs of state if it does not strive to act in harmony with these principles.
This is not the place to elaborate the state philosophy of the Republic of Indonesia, but a few of its aspects must be mentioned, for our friends abroad will never really understand our policies unless they realize how important these principles are to us. The Panchasila, contained in the preamble to the Constitution, carries the acknowledgment that the Indonesian Republic is based upon belief in Divine Omnipotence, humanism, nationalism, democracy and social justice. Acknowledgment of Divine Omnipotence does not mean that Indonesia is a theocratic state. It should be construed as a declaration by the Indonesian people to the effect that the majority of them believe in God, and, as a corollary, acknowledge the existence of certain basic moral values. Thereby the Indonesian nation acknowledges the existence of a Hidden Power that guides mankind in its actions toward the path of truth, justice, goodness and honesty. By making belief in Divine Omnipotence the first of the Five Postulates, the Indonesian people have placed national policy on a strong moral base.
The other Postulates--humanism, nationalism, democracy and social justice-- derive from the ideals that animated the Indonesian national movement and gave content and spirit to its struggle. All who took part in that struggle pledged themselves to put these ideals into practice as soon as a free Indonesia had been achieved. The Panchasila was accepted "in order to enjoy prosperity, peace and freedom in society and in the completely sovereign and constitutional State of Free Indonesia which shall be governed by justice." The objectives were embodied in the Constitution, to give continuous guidance to the administration and be incorporated in governmental programs. The ideal of "prosperity" cannot be realized to the full without international coöperation, but our own domestic efforts can take us toward it. Realization of the ideals of "peace" and of a "free Indonesia" depend partially on our relations with the outside world.
The Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia, devised in harmony with the ideals of the Panchasila, has provided that the foreign policy of the country will be worked out in a democratic manner through partnership between the executive and legislative branches of the government. Governmental action looking to treaties and agreements with foreign countries is carefully scrutinized by Parliament. Unless otherwise specified by legislation, agreements and treaties are invalid until ratified by Parliament. Similarly Indonesian participation in an existing international agreement, or abrogation of any agreement or treaty, will have to be carried out under constitutional forms. There is almost no possibility that the government could enter into a secret treaty or agreement without the awareness of Parliament. In order to strengthen the ideals of peace and international solidarity, the Constitution provides that the "Government shall work for the inclusion of the Republic of Indonesia in international organizations," and shall "endeavor to solve its differences with other states in a peaceful manner, and in that connection to ask for and accept international arbitration or the jurisdiction of international courts."
The provisions of the Constitution show clearly that the aim of Indonesian foreign policy is to strengthen the ideals of peace and international solidarity as laid down in the Charter of the United Nations. The country's "independent and active" policy is an expression of these aims. Internal consolidation is, to some extent, dependent upon the success of this independent policy; and, conversely, Indonesia will assume international significance, morally and materially, only when internal consolidation has been achieved. The Republic of Indonesia is aware that it is too weak a state to exert an effective influence on the relationships of the two opposed blocs in international politics, but it believes in the moral strength of its policy of conciliation.
[i] The Netherlands army of more than 100,000 men was constituted in two sections, one made up entirely of Netherlanders called the Royal Netherlands Army, and another known as the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army composed largely of Indonesians with Netherlands officers in the upper echelons. By the terms of the Round Table Agreement, Indonesians serving in the latter were permitted to opt for integration into the army of the Republic.