Date: Sun, 18 Mar 2001 12:22:04 -0800
      To: "Conference act.indonesia" <>
Subject: Re: New military operations in Aceh and the ExxonMobil factor
(reeditted to eliminate typos and mounted 20-Apr-01)
> ExxonMobil's announcement that it was suspending operations in Aceh because > of the security situation came within hours of the announcement in Jakarta > on 12 March that the Wahid cabinet had formally branded GAM as a > 'separatist movement', giving the armed forces the go-ahead to carry out > --correction: > 8 March, four days before the cabinet's decision to launch 'limited > military operations' in Aceh, not 'within hours of the cabinet
Indeed, the fantastic nimbleness of the Indonesian government to even react preemptively (hours BEFORE) would alone have signified a major revolution. But even as it is, the already amazingly prompt "four days after" clearly demonstrates the nervousness of the Indonesian elite, for heaven's sake not to unfavourably impress the new Washington administration. (otherwise they wait till the number of victims exceeds 400 dead before raising an eyebrow).
The howler of the day, that the Indonesian government at last noticed that GAM is a separatist organization, on the other hand, should probably not be seen as testifying to particularly slothful data processing, but more to formulational ineptness (a perennial problem since the school for diplomats set up by Haji Agus Salim — Carmel Budiardjo was one of the English teachers — was dissolved by the Soeharto regime).
As for apprehensions with regard to political handicraft on the Potomac, these may perhaps be understandable — I think too, that Bush Senior made two grave mistakes in Irak: he started a war when he shouldn't have, then he stopped it without bringing it to the logical end. But it doesn't seem productive to speculate over whether Colin Powell might or might not have learned from that experience. Anyway, the most widely spread Washington insider secret these days is that rumours of Bush Junior's alleged intellectual simplicity are a gros disinformation.
The US establishment went through an arduous process of reassessment of objectives and values since the end of the cold war, as it began to appreciate consequences of its responsibility as sole superpower. Now, this may indeed have mainly proceeded under a Democrat administration, but that which has been replaced is the president and his cabinet, not the expertise-carrying ministerial and diplomatic rank-and-file. So, as always, one must not regard past opposition slogans as too programmatic for policies after change-over to government. Beside that, House and Senate are pretty evenly divided, making insufficiently worked out unilateral decisions reassuringly difficult to set through.
With special regard to Indonesia, the really neat enactment of feeding that Washington Post editorial in manipulated form to the Indon. press, about the US govt. contemplating reinstalling the Indonesian military to power, followed by elaborate official denials, was simply 1A. It electrified the entire Indon. military and civil establishment into top gear, all ears and antennas spread wide to catch the faintest hint of a wish from Uncle Sam.
To evaluate the significance of any situation in politics with regard to future perspectives, it seems to usually help if one simply assumes that all sides will do what is in their respective best egoistic interests, provided they are bright enough to figure out what that is, I think.
One shouldn't let oneself be fooled, of course, by recent reassurances of military speakers that they have turned a new leaf and now require additional authority to be able to warrant peace and security in troubled regions, after having been lambasted for failure to react in Central Kalimantan. A summary review of the past years will reveal that this is the n-th replay of a relatively stale old tune they have grown used to getting away with. But this time, they may be in for a surprise, at least in Aceh.
Upto now, they were nominally responsible to the Indonesian state, that means factually to noone other than themselves. So they were free to "pacify" in a fashion that either pushed the population into the arms of the rebels, or invoked the kind of peace one finds in cemetries. Now they have to perform to the satisfaction of Exxon and Uncle Sam. But Exxon does not run its gas and petroleum works for the fun of it, and I imagine that every day of non-production means tangible losses to the company. Companies the size of Exxon have means to express their dissatisfaction. They want results, and will hardly be inclined to be as apologetic of military bungling as the Jakarta establishment has been obliged to be. They will hardly be able to resume production with dead or rebelliously outraged workers, or at scorched installations.
So perhaps we should simply sit back and watch the militaries extricate themselves out of the predicament into which they have so enthusiastically plunged themselves headlong. Who knows, a stricter master with means to set its will through may perhaps work wonders on the military.
I anticipate the logical objection, that the military has already been used quite effectively by large companies as police against protesters and the population in general. But even if Exxon would be satisfied with that, it would already be an improvement. At least, the Acehnese get a spell of peace for a change. But in fact, one has come along a bit further now, particularly in the course of the US reassessing its role as superpower. Anyway, whether it is Exxon in Aceh, or Freeport-McMoran in West Papua, they will have to gather the same lessons in responsibility as Shell in Nigeria. The more one globalizes, the more the world becomes one, and thoughtless policies at one end of the world have repercussions at the other, also at home.
Not that such things happen on their own, of course, and Shell too used a good deal of convincing from Greenpeace. But that is, after all, the actual objective, not to put the Shells and Exxons out of business, but to get them to operate in an acceptable responsible fashion. Ultimately, in their own interests......
Salam, Waruno