Civilians must be more aware of defense needs

Posted by Admin on Wednesday, 23 April 2003 | Opini

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Wed, 04/23/2003 11:19 AM

Sayidiman Suryohadiprojo, Former Governor, National Resilience Institute, (Lemhanas), Jakarta

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Defense published its first Defense White Book, titled The Defense of the Nation in the 21st Century. This is a commendable performance by the ministry that deserves our praise. The ministry considers the publication of the White Book important to inform the nation about national defense and the need for its integrated implementation. The second purpose of the book is to inform the international community about Indonesia’s defense policy.

Minister Matori Abdul Djalil stated that the title implies the readiness of the people to defend the nation with all its mental and physical strength. This statement reflects an attempt to influence the people to fully participate in the nation’s defense.

But whether people would want to do so depends on whether there are conditions that people feel are worth fighting for — for instance, if they feel that life would be much worse than it is now if the country was conquered by another nation. People might not be fully satisfied with their present conditions, but they may retain hope if they still trust and believe that their leaders are trying to make things better.

The White Book makes it clear that the government, meaning the President and the House of Representatives, is in charge of national defense, with the Indonesian Military (TNI) as an apparatus in the defense system. Since the government is in the hands of civilians, national defense is under civilian control.

It is now the task of civilians with defense functions, to become truly knowledgeable of defense matters. Civilians who are elected or appointed as defense functionaries must have at least knowledge of military strategy and defense management.

This is still a weakness in Indonesia and that has become a source of unnecessary misunderstanding and conflict. The military must have the conviction that the civilians in control have strong aspirations to develop an effective defense system, understand the defense problems and are willing to support the establishment of an up-to-date military with adequate land, naval and air forces.

The civilian leaders must be ready to listen and argue with the military leaders if necessary, without suspecting the latter of disloyalty. They should learn from former president Sukarno and vice president Mohamad Hatta when they had to face then Gen. Sudirman with his strong criticism of government intentions.

Both knew that Gen. Sudirman and the TNI argued for the sake of the nation, but would always remain loyal and obey all the government policies once the government made its decision.

In today’s context, the White Book was finished before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. There are, therefore, some judgments about strategic conditions that are not realistic enough. There is, for instance, no consideration about the new U.S. doctrine of preemptive strikes and the possibility of violations of international laws.

The Book did not visualize that the United Nations as the highest international body would not and could not stop or punish the U.S. from (allegedly) violating international laws. Of course, Indonesia must belong to those nations that aspire to have a more viable and effectively functioning UN.

But in the near future we cannot fully rely on the UN if Indonesia becomes a victim of a preemptive strike. The experience of Iraq has demonstrated the importance of national resilience of each nation state. The aggressive U.S. behavior led to serious disagreements in other international bodies, like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Organization of Islamic Conference and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The White Book considers small the possibility of outside or foreign threats to Indonesia’s sovereignty. This consideration may be valid when the White Book was written, but it is no longer the case now. Not only should Indonesia prepare itself seriously against internal security problems, which are, in principle, a National Police function, and with TNI support if necessary, but the TNI has to prepare itself more intensively against possible preemptive strikes from outside its borders.

The deterrence of such strikes requires the establishment of strong and effective TNI forces on land, sea and air. These forces must consist of regular forces equipped with the highest technology the nation can acquire, which can execute conventional as well as non-conventional warfare.

Regular forces must be supported by territorial forces on land and possibly at sea to augment the strength of the regular forces. This territorial warfare strategy depends very much on the defense role of the people, which can only be achieved if the TNI is close to the people and has its full confidence. That will also enable the start of a compulsory military service which will strengthen the nature of the TNI as a People’s Armed Force. A strong and effective defense system will become a leverage and support the nation’s diplomacy. Diplomacy, along with defense capabilities, will hopefully deter ambitious nations from considering a pre-emptive strike on Indonesia.

The Book’s estimate of a low probability of outside attacks has consequently neglected an appropriate consideration of technology acquisition. It is high time for Indonesia to develop its technological capabilities. India, for a long time a nation with lower gross national product per capita than Indonesia, has for more than 20 years, been able to manufacture most of its own weapons systems. We must start to buy the technology we need in countries interested enough to sell and must later develop our own production capabilities.

Of course, this all requires money, but money will come if the economic development makes progress. That is why we need civilians in control of the defense establishment with strong aspirations to build an effective defense organization with a well-equipped and trained TNI as its nucleus. That happened in India — why should it not happen in Indonesia?

The very humble estimate of the Book for a defense budget of 3.86 percent of the GNP for the next 10 years to 15 years seems to be quite unrealistic compared to what our neighboring countries are doing and amid possible threats on the horizon.

Of course, it also depends very much on the size of Indonesia’s GNP which is why the national economy must increase in size and productivity.

In spite of the shortcomings, the Defense White Book has made a very valuable contribution to the start of a much better defense organization.

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