Facing the changes in Jakarta-Washington ties

Posted by Admin on Tuesday, 20 August 2002 | Opini

Sayidiman Suryohadiprojo
Former Governor,National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas)

There are three important events in history that necessitate reevaluation of the relations between Indonesia and the United States. The first event is the end of the Cold War with the victory of the U.S. and the end of the Soviet superpower. Second is the East Asian economic crisis of 1997 and the subsequent resignation of president Soeharto in 1998. And the third is the Sept. 11 tragedy and the start of the U.S. war against terrorism.

Since the defeat of the Soviet superpower, the U.S. has become the world’s only superpower regarding its military, technology and scientific advances. Although no hegemony will last forever, as with the termination of British supremacy in World War II, we can expect that the U.S. power will remain at least for the next quarter of a century. Alternative superpowers such as China and Japan are unlikely in the next decade.

Indonesia has to face that fact and adjust her attitude accordingly. On the other side there is a growing uneasiness and even resentment among many Indonesians watching and experiencing the arrogance in U.S. behavior after becoming the only superpower.

Moreover, the double standards demonstrated so often in U.S. diplomacy makes it more difficult to maintain the same relations with Americans like we had in the 1950s and 1960s.

The role of the U.S. in the operations of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank has aggravated the bitterness among many Indonesians toward the U.S. The international financial institutions that are supposed to support developing countries to achieve prosperity, and especially to help countries troubled by economic crisis, are instead hampering them with policies that only favor the U.S., and in particular the interests of big capital.

That makes many suspicious of globalization because of its similarity with Americanization. And after Sept. 11 it has become very difficult for an Indonesian Muslim not to feel that the U.S. is making Islam its enemy, despite denials from Washington.

Nevertheless, Indonesia cannot afford to antagonize the U.S. Without becoming a yes-man to U.S. policies, Indonesia should follow what can be called the sophistication of our traditional, active and independent foreign policy.

U.S. foreign policy that promotes democracy and human rights is in accord with Indonesian values as formulated in Pancasila, the basic state philosophy. We also want democracy in which the people are the holders of sovereignty, although the system does not need to be the same as that in the U.S.

Human rights was already a basic objective for Indonesia since the declaration of Pancasila in 1945. That the U.S. in its war against terrorism wants Indonesia to be active in eliminating terrorism in Indonesia does not contradict our interests either. We also do not want our country to be used as an operations arena or a training ground for all kinds of terrorist elements.

This country encountered terrorism long before the U.S.: During the struggle against the Dutch colonial power in the late 1940s we had to endure acts of terror by Dutch forces or Dutch-supported forces. Later came terrorism by Darul Islam rebels in the 1950s, followed in the late 1950s by foreign-supported acts of terror during the PRRI/Permesta rebellion against Jakarta.

More than once was first president Sukarno’s life endangered by terrorism. We have therefore had enough of terrorism and should thus not hesitate to take action against terrorism and also prepare the necessary legal framework.

But Indonesia must also be able to reject or disagree with U.S. policies and intentions that are not in line with our interests and principles. The rejection of U.S. intentions to attack Iraq militarily, recently announced by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is the right attitude. Because Indonesia cannot condone the use of violence in international relations, except in self-defense, even by a superpower.

We must also beware of any U.S. endeavors to play Indonesia off against other nations that are considered by the U.S. as rogue nations or do not have U.S. favor.

Indonesia’s relations with the U.S. should enable us to improve and enhance our progress and prosperity. We must in particular strengthen the economy of the common people, because that should be the basic strength of our nation. We should therefore convince U.S. policymakers to change the behavior and policies of international financial institutions, especially the IMF and the World Bank.

They should be committed to the original purpose of their existence, namely to support developing countries to achieve prosperity and alleviate poverty. We should use our relations with the U.S. to enhance the rule of law by improving the attitude and capabilities of the police and the judiciary. Of high importance is the improvement of education and the development of science and technology. We must convince the U.S. that an advanced Indonesian society does not endanger U.S. interests; as a nation with the world’s largest Muslim population Indonesia could stimulate and promote better relations between the U.S. and Islam in general.

Relations with the U.S. should not weaken Indonesia’s traditional diplomacy in the Third World. Indonesia’s progress should instead enable a more realistic support for developing nations that face the continuous problem of poverty.

Also, Indonesia’s role in the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) should remain strong. What Indonesia did in the early 1990s was generally recognized as bringing many advantages to developing nations through the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and other Third World organizations. That should be revived and even enhanced and improved quantitatively and qualitatively. Indonesia’s role in ASEAN and other regional organizations should make them stronger and able to play a concrete and positive role in ensuring peace and the growth of prosperity in the region. After Indonesia became a victim of the 1997 economic crisis not only did domestic conditions deteriorate, but ASEAN was also weakened.

That became a source of many problems, like the expulsion of illegal Indonesian workers in Malaysia, which could create a disruption of ASEAN. Having said all this, one cannot deny the need for an effective and capable national leadership. Without it, there can be no clear and positive attitude and decision-making in foreign relations. Also there can be no action taken to use relations with the U.S. for our progress.

In the past, an effective, independent and active foreign policy clearly demanded strong leadership in order not to deviate from its course. This is more true today when a sophisticated, independent and active foreign policy should be formulated and implemented. However, there is not much of an alternative for achieving much better conditions of the nation in the future.

Source : The jakarta Post, Aug. 20, 2002

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