In This Review

The Politics of Post-Suharto Indonesia
The Politics of Post-Suharto Indonesia
Edited by Jonathan Paris and Adam Schwarz
Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1999, 150 pp.
Post-Soeharto Indonesia: Renewal or Chaos?
Post-Soeharto Indonesia: Renewal or Chaos?
Edited by Geoff Forrester
St. Martin's, 1999, 260 pp.
Indonesia: The Challenge of Change
Indonesia: The Challenge of Change
Edited by Richard Wheeler Baker, J. Kristiadi, Douglas E. Ra
St. Martin's, 1999, 327 pp.

These three symposium volumes were initially intended to explain Indonesia's "miracle" economy, but by the time the authors met, their challenge had become to forecast post-Suharto Indonesia's future. The enduring value of their endeavors is not so much the test of prediction but the new information that the regime's breakdown has exposed. The Paris-Schwarz report vividly captures the dynamics of the crisis, especially in William Liddle's chapter on Suharto's failure in leadership and John Bresnan's insightful analysis of the IMF and U.S. policy prescriptions during the turmoil. The book by Baker et al. examines how twelve different institutions -- from the bureaucracy to the army to the Muslim political parties -- face the challenge of change, offering solid academic studies that contain a mass of information and insights. Finally, the Foster collection is, more than the others, explicitly directed to foreseeing the future -- with reasonable success in predicting the elections, but not the shocking horror of East Timor. All of the studies show that although it is possible to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the various actors and institutions, it is extremely difficult to foresee the final equilibrium of all these forces -- since Indonesia's possibilities range from reinvigorated stability to chaos and national disintegration.