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Salim Said

This paper attempts to briefly examine the political role of the Indonesian military
from its inception to its dominant position in Indonesian politics today. It also
attempts to discuss whether or not it would continue to play the same role in the
future. The paper will be divided into three sections: the political role of the military
during the revolution, the increased political involvement of the military, conflicting
of the military role and the possibility of future change.

Role of the Indonesian

Military Between 1945-49

Although the military has dominated political life in Indonesia only in 1965, its clear,
involvement in politics was during the revolutionary period, i.e. before Indonesia
attained its independence.
In fact, it was during that period that civil-military
relations in Indonesia were shaped. The relations can be explained by the interaction
between two factors: the involvement in politics of the Indonesian military since its
inception and the weakness of civilian institutions. The military's involvement in
politics, in turn, can be explained by several characteristics of the Indonesian military
and its history since its inception in the early days of the revolution.
The Indonesian army was a self-created army in the sense that it was established
neither by the government nor by a political party. Instead, the military created, armed
and organized itself out of the shambles of the Japanese-trained
Indonesian militia
following the surrender of the Japanese and the proclamation of independence (1945),
when the newly organized government was reluctant to raise an army. The central
government under Sukarno, which was afraid of antagonizing the Allies, wanted to
achieve independence peacefully. The youth then took the initiative to arm themselves
and defend the country.
Because the reluctant government did not give proper guidance to the military,
the military had to elect its own Panglima Besar (Armed Forces Commander). The
man elected was Sudirman, a former school teacher turned battalion commander
during the Japanese period. As the Armed Forces Commander, Sudirman assumed
the highest position in the military by way of election, and only later was he confirmed
by the government in his position. General Sudirman's actions were the behaviour
of an army commander who, while recognizing the authority of the political leadership, also saw himself as more than a mere government soldier.

17 .

The political behaviour of Sudirman as a logical consequence of the self'

creation of the army could not have developed as it did had it not been for the weakness
of political and governmental institutions. This weakness not only caused the government to lose control of the military but also convinced the officers under Sudirman
to pursue their own policy of independence from the government.
The experience in the guerrilla war following the Dutch attack on the Republican
areas which began on 19 December 1948 and lasted until 11August
1949 is also
important in understanding the military behaviour after independence. The guerrilla
war was an opportunity for General Sudirman to demonstrate the autonomy of the
army, that is, when the political leadership decided to surrender to the Dutch
colonial army, Sudirman and his forces went to the jungle to fight a guerrilla war.
Even before the Dutch attack, Sudirman had prepared for the worse. He
instructed his deputy, Nasution, to deal with the Dutch. Basically there were two
things Nasution did to implement these instructions. First, he reorganized the army
into two forces, the mobile army and the territorial army. Second, he prepared the
people for a total war.
The separation between the mobile and the territorial army was conceptualized
based on a strategy of a war of attrition, in which the mobile army or the shock troops
would concentrate on attacking the enemy wherever they were, while the territorial
troops would be posted in definite locations to be the nucleus of the people's resistance
against the enemy.
After the Dutch attack, the army in Java which was already divided into four
divisions, was given the power to govern the island in a time of emergency. Nasution
as the Commander of the Java Army was the highest military as well as government
authority during the emergency. Under him were the four divisional commanders,
who were appointed as the military governors for their respective areas. Right below
the divisional commanders and the military governor were STM (Sub Territorium
Militer, Sub Regional Military Command) commanders who paralleled the Resident
as the head of a Keresidenan (residency). Below this there was the Kabupaten (district)
which was paralleled by the KDM (Komando District Militer, District Military
Command). One level below was the Kecamatan (sub-district) and it was matched
by Nasution with the KODM (Komando Order Distrik Militer, Sub-District Military
see Figure 1.
Command) All of the civilian heads of the above-mentioned
governmental structure, from
governor down to_camat (sub-district head) were subordinated to the officials of the
military government. Thus the governor became a mere advisor to the divisional
commander and military governor; the resident and adviser to the STM commander;
the bupati (District head) of the KDM commander;
the camat of the KODM
Only the lurah (the village's head) could still function more or less as usual. But
unlike before, during the guerrilla war, the lurah was controlled not by the camat
anymore but by the commander of the KODM. And around the lurah there were
some pemuda who were already trained as the village cadres by the army. These village
cadres were the extension of the KODM to supervise the day to day operation of
the lurah.' I

Figure 1

The Structure of the Military

War, 1948-49


in Java during the Guerrilla

of the
Compared with the military governmental structure, the organization
mobile troops during the guerrilla war was far simpler. Under the divisional
commander there were what was called at that time Wehrkreise (independent units)
whose area paralleled the residency of the STM. Most of the time, the commander
of the Wehrkreise was also the Commander of the STM. All of the fighting units
in the Wehrkreise were operationally under the command of the Commander of the
Wehrkreise. Due to the failure of the reorganization
as initiated by Nasution, the
each Wehrkreise
troops. Thus the mobile troops were
not only assigned to fight the enemy but also to assist the Military Government, a
task which was supposedly assigned to the territorial army. The task of the Military
Government itself was basically to make sure that the following three principles would
be implemented:
First, the Republic would continue to resist as a state and by
using the instruments of a state. Second, no matter how
difficult the circumstances of the war became, the administration
would have to continue - even for instance, in regions which
had become isolated, were frequented by Dutch patrols, or in
which permanent Dutch military posts had been established.

To this end, civil servants at all levels would have to be paralleled
by military personnel, and extensive authority should be
delegated to the regions. Third, the military administration was
first of all a means of resistance, that is, a means for mobilizing
and organizing all fighting forces and a means for using local
resources in the resistance.'
The guerrilla war experience - in which a military government was created in turn created a model of civil-military relations, which is characterized by military
control over the political system throughout the Republican controlled area. It has
since played an influential role in shaping the army leaders' conception of how they
should relate to civilian society. After the late 1950s, parts of the model were once
again put into practice. Since 1966 the model has been the most important element
in the structure and practice of Indonesian government.
The decision by Sudirman to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Dutch when
the civilian leaders decided to surrender to the Dutch colonial army that stormed the
Republican stronghold in December 1948 can only be understood in the context of
weak civilian and governmental constitutions. Basically there are two reasons for this
In Indonesia, unlike India where the British Raj created the Indian Civil Service
and even allowed the Indian Congress (Party) to develop long before independence,
the Dutch in Indonesia systematically denied the nationalist movement a chance to
grow. There was to be sure, a corps of indigenous civil servants cultivated by the
Dutch colonial authority, but this body was devastated by the Japanese occupation
forces and what was left was torn apart by unleashed popular power in the early days
of the Revolution.
But the immediate cause of the weakness of civilian institutions was the sudden
system in November 1945 from the American style
change of the governmental
presidential system
European parliamentary system. The new system allowed
the creation of many political parties, some of which joined the government and others
the opposition camp. The constant bickering between the opposition and the parties
in the government under the ever present threat that Dutch might annihilate of the
newly born Republic, not only caused the government to lose control over the already
politicized army, but also convinced the military to pursue its own policies independent of the government as much as it could.
In this connection it is interesting to compare the Israeli and Indonesian armies
in their first few months. Unlike Indonesia, Israel under Prime Minister David Ben
Gurion was able to put the Israeli Defense Force under the government's
And because of this the political involvement of the Israeli officers could be
successfully contained.
I would argue that the Indonesian military experience during the Revolution
makes ABRI (Indonesian Armed Forces) unique among Third World military, not
only in its origin but also in the way in which civil-military relations developed after
independence was won. Unlike other military, the military in Indonesia acted as one
of the several recognized political forces since its inception. Although soon after
independence, its role was curtailed for a while but it gradually emerged again.


Role of the Military Before the 1965 Coup

Following the transfer of sovereignty in December 1949 and the establishment of the
Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia in August 1950, the political role of the
military was severely curtailed, if not completely cut off. There were three reasons
for this. First, the constitution - known as the 1950 Provisional Constitution
was clearly based on the Western Liberal democratic tradition in which the military
was subordinated to civilian supremacy. Remembering that period more than twenty
years later, T. B. Simatupang, the Chief of Staff at that time, wrote:
In the early fifties we were observing the eagerness [of the
military] to concentrate attention on the development of military
expertise. That approach was based on an assumption that the
political groups would institutionalize the political system and
manage to develop the society, the economy, and the culture.
Had the "experiment" succeeded our situation today would be
different.' J
Second, the army was in the hands of the modernizers, officers like Nasution and
and reorganization
Simatupang who were the motor behind the rationalization
1948. Third, after the death of Sudirman in January 1950, the military lost its irreplaceable father who never hesitated to oppose the government whenever he thought
one of its policies would victimize the army. The death of Sudirman also meant the
loss of the indispensible unifier for the heterogeneous army. It was this lack of unity
that made the army the object of civilian interventions for many years, until Suharto,
in 1969 finally succeeded in unifying the army under his control.
Despite the three factors working together to weaken the military, it never
abandoned politics completely. As early as the formation of the first cabinet of the
unitary state in 1950 under Prime Minister Mohammad Natsir, the military was
involved in deciding who the defense minister should be. The candidate from
Natsir's party was finally replaced by a person acceptable to the army.4 4
In the early 1950s two events occurred which had a critical impact on the
direction of civil-military relations. These were the October 17, 1952 incident and
the so-called June Affair in 1955.
In order to understand the background of the October 17 incident we first have
to know the attitude of the military toward the civilian politicians right after the
transfer of sovereignty. The bitter experiences with the "surrender"
of Sukarno on
December 18, 1948, the cease fire of 1949 and the powerful position of the civilian
politicians under the new constitution were the background for the affair. Moreover,
most of the members of the provisional Parliament at that time and some of the
ministers did not belong to the groups genuinely fighting for independence. This is
easy to understand if we know that the Republic of Indonesia post-1950 was a product of an integration between the original Republic, whose capital was Yogyakarta,
and the areas formerly under the federal states created by the Dutch. As we have
already seen, during the revolution, in order to contain the original Republic, the
Dutch had been creating many states all over Indonesia. It was to those many states
- joined together with the original Republic as the United States of Indonesia that the Dutch transferred sovereignty at the end of 1949. But those many states

existed only for a very short period. Within a year following the transfer of sovereignty'
all of those states dissolved themselves and merged with the Republic of Indonesia.'
The 17th of October incident, the first open conflict between the army and the
Indonesia came into being when the procivilian politicians in post-independence
visional Parliament discussed a topic which was regarded by the army as its internal
problem. The topic was the modernization of the army. This idea as developed by
Nasution, then Commander of the Army, was opposed by a certain group inside the
army itself. The latter group had close contact with President Sukarno and with a
certain group on the opposition side of Parliament. It was really as a result of a letter
sent by the latter group that the Parliament started to discuss the military problem." 6
and several regional commanders were very irritated by this
Army Headquarters
action of Parliament. On October 17, 1952, the officers from Army Headquarters
together with some regional commanders went to the palace to see President Sukarno
and asked him to assume power and dissolve the provisional Parliament. Sukarno
did not succumb to the military pressure, and Nasution, as the highest ranking
officer from Army Headquarters,
resigned thereafter.7
Commenting on the failure of the October 17, 1952 incident, an observer wrote

As to the officers, they failed to achieve their purpose not only

because the president was able to intimidate them by his
magnetic hold on the masses but also - perhaps primarily
- because of the lack of consensus and discipline among
themselves.... To illustrate, while Colonel Nasution, Chief of
Staff of the Army, was being hostile to Parliament and inclining
towards an authoritarian and militaristic approach, Major
General Simatupang, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, was
arguing against a military dictatorship.'
As a result of the October 17, 1952 incident, "... the overall bargaining strength of
the army vis-'a-vis everyone else in the political arena was seriously impaired".9 And
it was that weak bargaining position of the army that became the root of another
conflict between the army and the government.
On July 31, 1953 a new cabinet came into being with Iwa Kusuma Sumantri,
a well-known leftist, as Minister of Defense. There were two policies of Kusuma
Sumantri that irritated the Army. First was his open sympathy to the leftist group
which consisted of people who were involved in the 1948 communist rebellion in
Madiun. The second was the policy whereby the Minister maintained or even deepened
the cleavage between the pro- and the anti-October 17 groups. Looking back to this
the then Prime Minister, wrote:
period Ali Sastroamijoyo,
Naturally, Iwa's policy produced an uneasy feeling in the
army as a whole, and it was this perhaps which caused a growing
desire within the army to make peace among themselves so that
TNI would become united and strong again and could withstand strongly and resolutely the interference of politicians in
army affairs. The idea of restoring the unity of the army had
developed in the middle of 1954, but it was not until February
17, 1955 that it took on a more concrete form, when a meeting
held in Yogya was attended by more than 250 TNI officers.




Feith writes that:

The conference in Yogyakarta showed the army determined to
close its ranks in the face of outsiders, so determined indeed
that "the anti-October 17 group" was prepared to go along with
a return of the "pro-October 17 group" to a position of
Commenting on the result of the conference, Nasution in his memoir writes:
With the unity of the TNI, the palace [meaning: President
Sukarno] and the parties could not again freely intervene into
internal TNI problems. '2
It turned out that Nasution was wrong. On June 10, 1955, the government decided
to appoint Colonel Bambang Utoyo, a man of fairly low seniority as an officer, to
become Chief-of-Staff.
The appointment was clearly in defiance of the leaders of the
Jogyakarta conference, and Bambang Utojo initially refused
it. But a little later he agreed. Bambang Utojo was formally
installed as Chief-of-Staff on the morning of June 27, 1955.
At the same time he was made a major general. But the army
was not there to see it, except for some five or six officers
invited. So effective was the boycott, carried out on orders of
Acting Chief-of-Staff Zulkifli Lubis, that no military band could
be found to play the national anthem."
The boycott, which later became known as the "June Affair", resulted in a debate '
for the cabinet. To a foreign observer,
The June 27, 1955 affair can be considered to be the dividing
line between the period when the army was mainly concerned
with resisting political interference in its internal affairs and the
period when it began to play an active role in politics."
Before the cabinet left office in March 1957, Prime Minister Ali Sastroamijoyo
had proclaimed nationwide martial law. The reasons for this state of seige were not
only because of the June Affair, and with it the political offensive of the officers,
but also because of the developments in the regions and their relations vis--vis the
capital. The bad relations developing between the center and the regions ultimately
ended in the PRRI/Permesta
rebellion in several parts of the country
Martial law gave the military an opportunity to exercise more power. Together
with the President, who under the parliamentary
government was constitutionally
weak but personally very influential, the military initiated a return to the strong
presidential system of the revolutionary period. But even before the return to the old
1945 constitution there were already some generals in the cabinet.'6 To justify that,
Nasution, after being returned as the Chief-of-Staff of the Army in 1955, had declared
in November 12, 1958 the "Middle Way" principle. According to Nasution he was
essentially making clear the position of the army in the society, namely:
... not just the "civilian tool" like in the Western countries,
nor a "military regime" which dominates the state power, but
as one of many forces in the society, the force for the struggle
of the people [kekuatan perjuangan rakyat] which works
together with other people's forces [kekuatan rakyat lainnya] . ' '


In July 1959 President Sukarno formally declared the return of the country to
the 1945 revolutionary constitution in which the president played the central role.
The decision was made after the Constitutional
Council, the body elected in 1955
to draw a new contitution, failed to reach consensus on which constitution to adopt.
In 1960 President Sukarno banned several parties, the most important among them
being Masyumi (the modernist Muslim Party) and the PSI (the Socialist Party of
Indonesia). The reason given for the ban was that both parties had some important
leaders involved in the regional rebellions. With the Nationalist Party (PNI) weak
and divided, this decision left the Communist Party (PKI) as the only powerful party
in Indonesia.
The period from 1959 until 1965 in Indonesian political history is known as the
period of Guided Democracy. During this period,
President Sukarno and the army leadership under Major
General (subsequently Lieutenant General and later General)
Nasution were the principal power elements in government....
Soekarno continued to lack a political organization of his
own. In order to maximize his influence vis-2?-visthe army,
therefore, he needed to find support from political groups hostile
to the army....
But it was the PKI which provided Soekarno with his best
organized, most vociferous, and most reliable body of support
against the army leaders. Hence it was that the President
repeatedly shielded the PKI against the effort of Nasution and
his associates to reduce its power."
Sukarno stayed in power as long as he could manage to balance these forces.
Once the balance became unbalanced,
as happened in October 1965 after the
assassination of six generals from Army Headquarters by a group of young officers
apparently in alliance with the Communist Party, Sukarno was no longer in control.'9
After months of intensive psychological warfare between Sukarno and the
Army, on March 11, 1966, Sukarno finally authorized General Suharto, then Chiefof-Staff of the Army, to take any action he felt necessary for the country on behalf
of Sukarno. The first action Suharto took was to disband the PKI. With no PKI and
a weak Sukarno, the military stood unchallenged on the stage of Indonesian politics.

The Changing


of the Indonesian



Beginning in 1957, martial law legalized the entry of the officers into politics. But
General Nasution - who had been reinstated as the Army Chief of Staff in 1955
- still needed a doctrine to justify the
political role of the military in terms of its
own history and experiences. It was here that he looked back to the period of 1945-49.
From this time on the name of Sudirman reappeared again as the symbol of the
autonomy of the army vis-'a-vis the politicians who controlled the government. It is
interesting to see that the reappearance of Sudirman's name in the Indonesian political
arena coincided with a political situation which in the eyes of the officers very much
resembled the situation in the early days of the revolution. And their reaction was
simply a repetition of Sudirman's reaction in the forties.



In the late fifties the military were (once again) angry at the
confusion of political parties, the corruption, the ideological
strife, the political instability, all of which they believed, in
simplistic fashion, was to blame for the lack of progress in the
At the same time, while conducting operations against the rebels - DI/TII, RMS,
Nasution slowly adjusted his guerrilla concept into an anti-guerrilla
PRRI/Permesta tactic, complete with a military territorial staff paralleling the civilian government.
A clear picture of the military's socio-political role was not presented until
Nasution's "Middle Way" speech in November 1958. By that time military officers
had already started to occupy many positions which normally belonged to the civilian
domain. One month before Nasution made his historic speech at the National Military
Academy in Magelang, Central Java, Lt. Col. Isman was already dispatched to New
York to be the adviser to the Indonesian delegation at the United Nations. Even before
of Dutch companies, many officers had
that, as the result of the nationalization
when Nasution in his speech insisted that
company managers.21
the military would not be purely a spectator but must be granted the opportunity
to participate in the government on an individual basis to make use of its non-military
skills, Nasution was simply seeking the justification for a new development that had
already become a reality.
In the midst of news about coups in many newly independent states at that time,
the "Middle Way" speech was looked upon as a lesser evil compared to a total military
takeover. It is no wonder that within three days after Nasution's speech Prime Minister,
Djuanda came up with his approval. 22
The next step taken by Nasution after his "Middle Way" speech was to launch
the idea of abandoning the liberal democratic system through the readoption of the
revolutionary Constitution of 1945. The reason given by Nasution for this step was
as follows:
... to regain the unity and the spirit of national strugglc, to
cultivate a stable government ideally and structurally after the
liberal system failed to bring about stabilization .... 11
In practical terms, the return to the 1945 Constitution was a part of Nasution's
strategy in his effort to give the military a legal socio-political
position in the
under the 1945 Constitution there are
country. Following Nasution's interpretation,
three kinds of political representation:
political parties; functional groups; and the
representatives of the regions. The Armed Forces of the Republic of Indonesia, for
Nasution, are clearly part of the functional groups. Other members were peasants,
artists, journalists,
religious scholars, workers, women, youth and intellectuals. 24
While working toward the reenactment of the 1945 Constitution, Nasution was
also busy reviving and redefining his old theory of guerrilla war and territorial
management. And since his "Middle Way" policy stipulated the involvement of the
military in all aspects of public life, there seemed to be no better way to implement
it than the revival of the practice and the experience of the guerrilla war of 1948-49
in the form of territorial management.
Right after the "Middle Way" speech
Nasution instructed the Seskoad (Army Staff and Command School) in Bandung
to prepare a doctrine through which the "Middle Way" policy could be carried out

based on the experiences in the revolution. While Seskoad worked slowly to con- '
struct the doctrine, Nasution in his many speeches never failed to propagate his
guerrilla war and territorial management concept. In one of his speeches in 1960,
Nasution said that
A state which realizes that it is poorly armed, equipped and
organized would practice Territorial Warfare against its
opponents who are superior in number of arms, equipment and
good organization, etc.
Territorial warfare absolutely requires territorial support
and service from the whole people in the territory.."
In order to have territorial support and service from the whole people there are several
requirements proposed by Nasution. The number one requirement is what he calls
the territorial elements, elaborated as follows:
... Indonesia is divided into Military District Commands with
their organization from top to bottom. The task of each com.
mand is to build up its own territory to prepare itself to face
any possibility such as rebellions" foreign attacks, etc.?6
The above-mentioned quotation very much reminds us of the Wehrkreise system
which was practised by the Indonesian army during the Guerrilla War in 1948-49.
As we already know the Wehrkreise system was a system developed by Nasution
during the revolution to cope with the situation in which the enemy, the Dutch
colonial army, was far superior to the Indonesian guerrilla army. With the Wehrkreise
system it was expected that each area could fight independently from other units.
It was based on that system that Nasution developed a network of military government in which the civilian government was subordinated to the military government
by having a parallel military governmental apparatus to control every level of civiliar
In March 1962 Seskoad finally produced the doctrine which was called "The
For those who are familiar with Nasution's
Doctrine of Territorial Warfare".
this doctrine is no more than a refineof
ment of the old one. The most important and decisive part of the doctrine for the
future socio-political role of the military is point 4 of Part One from Book One which
reads as follows:
For the successful implementation of territorial warfare,
attention must be given to the following:
1. Stabilization in the political field.
2. Consciousness that the Pantjasila is our only ideology and
that it has but one official interpretation.
3. A single authoritative leadership which is constantly felt.
4. Complete integration of the three services (land, sea and air)
and their utilization in territorial warfare on the basis of the
capability of the state.
5. Planned over-all development which in turn will maximize
the resources for territorial warfare.
6. Territorial management which will permit self sufficiency
in carrying out territorial war.2'

In the previous pages we have already seen how Nasution had promoted the
idea of readopting the revolutionary Constitution of 1945. By doing that Nasution
not only had envisaged the socio-political role of the army under the revolutionary
constitution, but also expected that at the same time there would be a "stabilization
in the political field" (point one as quoted above) since it was expected that the
ideological conflicts of liberal democracy would be eliminated by adopting Pancasila
as the "only ideology and that it has but one official interpretation"
(point two).
Point three, on leadership, while reminding us of the traumatic experience of the
army during the revolution when there was no unified political and military leadership, at the same time must also be seen as in support of Sukarno's leadership and
his doctrine of Guided Democracy in which the army had a socio-political role.
It is against this background, (points two and three) that we have to understand
Nasution's drive to minimize the position of the political parties and their ideologies
and to maximize the role of the functional groups in the Indonesian political arena.
Thus in his speech at Seskoad on August 7, 1961, Nasution clearly says that
... in thinking about the challenge inherent in the ideals of
Guided Democracy, and with this concept of guidance and this
method of consultation, we believe that it is no longer necessary
to have various parties and ideologies. We have in our Pantjasila
and in our revolutionary ideals, one basis and objective for our
revolution, one national mission. There is no need for anything
else. The principles and objectives parties adhered to in the past
are no longer necessary, and since they are no longer necessary,
our society can be divided along the lines of its work in the
revolution. 28
A point which very much reminds us of the practice of guerrilla war in 1948-49 is
It is based on this point that we should underpoint six, territorial management.
stand the recreation of the territorial apparatus of the army to parallel the civilian
government apparatus. Thus following the adoption of the "Middle Way" policy
the army started to create military commands (Kodam, Komando Daerah Militer,
Regional Military Command) in each province. Beneath the Kodam is Korem
(Komando Resort Militer, Sub-Regional Military Command), paralleling the Residency
of the civilian government's administrative structure. Next comes Kodim (Komando
Distrik Militer, District Military Command), the counterpart of the civilian kabupaten
(district). Under the district are two more levels of civilian government, the kecamatan
and kelurahan (village). These levels are paralleled respectively by
Koramil (Komando Rayon Militer, Sub-District Military Command) and Babinsa
(Bintara Pembina Desa, Village Development Non-Commissioned
Officers) - see
Figure 2.
At each level of this governmental and military structure there is a council whose
members include the highest official in the civilian government, the chief of police,
the military commander, the chief prosecutor, and the head of the court. The council
is known as Muspida (Musyawarah Pimpinan Daerah, Council of Regional Leadership) and the chairman of this Council is always the military commander. This system,
reintroduced in the late 1950's, still exists today.
The territorial apparatus created nation-wide following the "Middle Way" policy
was formally organized to sustain military operations against the PRRI/Permesta

Figure 2


Civil Bureaucracy

and Army Territorial


rebellion of the late 1950's. But the rebellion was successfully crushed and martial
law lifted in the early sixties. The army, already recognized as a functional group
under the revolutionary Constitution of 1945, now used the territorial apparatus to
compete with the PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia, Indonesian Communist Party)
which became very powerful during the Guided Democracy era."
In the last days of Guided Democracy, when the PKI had already outmaneuvered
the other political parties, and Sukarno was perceived by many as very sympathetic
to the communists, it was to the Army that most of non-communist
Indonesia looked. It was then no wonder that following the abortive
especially the elites
coup d'tat of October 1, 1965, the Army got the whole-hearted support of noncommunist Indonesians to crush the PKI as well as to depose Sukarno.
Only four months following the transfer of power from Sukarno to General
Suharto on March 11, 1966, Seskoad in Bandung held an important seminar to review
the army doctrine. This seminar is known as the Second Army Seminar, since the
first seminar was held in 1965 a few months before the abortive coup .d'iat. There
were two reasons to have the second seminar; first, the product of the first seminar
was heavily contaminated with the leftist jargon of Guided Democracy. Second, the
first seminar was held under the assumption that the Army was only one out of many
functional groups in the country. The debacle of the PKI and the fall of Sukarno
brought Indonesia into a completely new era in which the Army found itself to be
the dominant political force in the country. For this they needed a new doctrine. The
basic ideas of guerrilla warfare and territorial management were still there, but the
new doctrine, christened Tri Ubaya Cakti (Three Sacred Efforts), does not only talk
about the Army as one of many functional groups but already outlines the policies

which should be followed by the Army in running the country. Thus in the first part
of the doctrine one can read the new self perception of the Army as follows:
In these days all of the people's hopes are addressed to ABRI
[A ngkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia, Armed Forces of the
Republic of Indonesia] in general and TNI-AD [Tentara
National Indonesia, Indonesian National Army] in particular.
Hope for the ABRI there is only one alternative. That is to
realize what the people have entrusted to ABRI. And because
of that ABRI is compelled to construct and cultivate a respectable government, a government which is powerful and
To justify the dominant position of the military in Indonesian politics since
October 1965, the officers started to refer to their experiences with the civilian
politicians during as well as after the revolution. Commenting on the divisive nature
and the disintegrative effects of the political parties, General Ali Murtopo, then a
political adviser to Gereral Suharto, wrote that
From the history of our country we can conclude that it is only
because of the presence of ABRI that the disintegration heading
toward the destruction of our country several times could be
avoided. Historically speaking ABRI is the only group in society
which was born together with the new institution, namely the
state based on Pancasila.... It is because ABRI has the ability
and tradition to overcome [mengatasil groups' ideologies and
interests that make it the leader of the country."
In addition to being the unifier (pemersatu) of the country, ABRI was also called
Indonesia's savior (penyelamat). In this case the officers then mention their experiences
in fighting the Dutch army during the revolution, the communist rebellion in 1948,
the DI/TII for many years, the regional rebellion of PRRI/Permesta
in the late
fifties and the recent abortive coup of October 1965. J2
Besides being the unifier and savior, ABRI also claimed to be the dinamisator.
With this they really mean that ABRI, as explained by President Suharto in 1969,
wants to make the society dynamic by "leading by example in the front, inspiring
in the midst of the people, and encouraging from behind (Ing Ngarso Sung 7hlodo,
Ing Madyo Mangun Karso, Tht Wuri Handayani)".11
The New Order: Conflicting Interpretations
Possibility of Future Change

and the

Against this background of events and ideological change we can clearly understand
why the Western theories of civil-military relations are not satisfying in explaining
the political role of Indonesian militaiy. Even civilian politicians and intellectuals
do not talk about an immediate alternative to military rule, because nobody can
"The only group that can run Indonesia is ABRI," says
present an alternative.
Dr. Yuwono Sudarsono, a political scientist at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta."
And most of the intellectuals apparently agree with him.
civilians as well as military officers
What many people are concerned about - is the interpretation of the Dual Function or Dwi Fungsi, as the
present New Order


version of the doctrine is called. Before we come to the disagreement, we first halve
to remember that the Army doctrine of non-military involvement is a document that
has been adjusted again and again to the latest political position of the military. The
"Middle Way" speech was made when the military already occupied a wide range
of non-military positions, notably as managers of the former Dutch companies. "The
doctrine of 1960 was introduced
Territorial Warfare and Territorial Management"
when the network of territorial apparatus was already there when the military officers already occupied all kinds of civilian positions except the Presidency. And when
in 1966 Seskoad revised the old doctrine to accommodate the latest developments,
the military was already the sole power holder of the country. Thus the Dual Function in Panglima Sudirman's era was different from Nasution's era, and both of them
were different from Suharto's time.
It is interesting to see that since 1966 there has been no significant change in
the doctrine itself. This certainly can be understood by the unchanging political
dominance of ABRI from that time on. But this by no means indicates that there
are no changes taking place. Only now are changes taking place in the implementation of the doctrine. A good example of this adjustment in implementation occurred
in the late 1960's when the government of General Suharto finally had to compromise
with the political parties to adopt the proportional representation system instead of
the single district system as intended by the Army before. In return for this concession
the Army was guaranteed 100 seats in the parliament and did not have to contest
To the critics of the Suharto government,
military as well as civilian, the
compromise on the election system is perceived as the beginning of a series of continuing adjustments made by the government in interpreting and implementing the
Dual Function which is taken to be a way to perpetuate the reign of the present
of the Dual Function of the Indonesian
Discussing the various interpretations
Armed Forces one cannot avoid bringing in Gen. Nasution. Nasution is certainly not
the only critic of the way the military-dominated
interprets and
implements the Dual Function, since there are many retired generals who have
organized themselves to voice their concern to the government. But from all those
criticizing the government it is only Nasution who has a clear idea of how the Dual
Function should be carried out.
It is an irony in Indonesian history that Nasution, who conceptualized the political
ideology of the military, and led them into the political arena in the 1950's, at the
end became a bitter critic of the implementation of his brainchild. As early as 1966,
in his lecture at Seskoad, Nasution already warned his colleagues about the need for
the "purification
of the meaning and the implementation"
of the Dual Function
has been explained by him in many
What Nasution means by "purification"
articles, lectures, pamphlets and interviews. In one of his interviews Nasution made
it very clear that the political function of ABRI should be interpreted in terms of
Section 2 of the 1945 Constitution. This section of the constitution deals with functional group political representation.'6
And if ABRI were to adhere to this section
of the constitution, according to Nasution, then the political role of ABRI will only


be visible in the MPR (Majelis Permusyawaratan
Rakyat, People's Consultative
Assembly) and not in day to day politics. By doing this, according to Nasution again,
the legitimacy of ABRI's political role is not derived only from its historical role during
the revolution, but more than that it will have the guarantee of the constitution.',
Another point of Nasution's criticism of the government is the position of ABRI
toward relationship between the political parties and the state party Golkar (Golongan
Karya, Functional Groups). According to Nasution, ABRI should not favor one
political group over another, especially during elections. This criticism came about
after seeing ABRI openly backing Golkar in all elections held in Indonesia since the
military came to power.
Since Nasution's criticism and also similar criticisms from other retired generals
have been discussed elsewhere, it is not necessary here to go beyond what has been
outlined above." What is more interesting if we are trying to assess the possibility
of future change is to find. out the government reaction to the criticism.
But before we proceed to the government reaction to their critics, one thing should
first be said. While almost no civilians have been involved in the debate on the interpretation or misinterpretation of the Dwi Fungsi, the criticism from inside - Nasution
and many other retired generals - does have a spill-over effect outside the military
circle. Thus when students openly criticized Suharto in 1978, they were not against
the military and the Dual Function but merely against Suharto's policy of running
the country. In the streets of Jakarta and Bandung in 1978 one could see posters
and logos on the T-shirts of the students: "Bring ABRI back to the people." This
is clearly another way of expressing what Nasution had said many times in the late
seventies, that is that the way the Dual Function is now implemented only puts ABRI
in the same position as the Dutch colonial army, an army which was used by the
government to implement its policies. This, according to Nasution, is contrary to
Panglima Besar Sudirman's position, namely that the Indonesian Army should not
be a "dead tool" in the hands of the government.
The government reaction to the student criticism was dramatic and decisive. In
1978 many students were arrested, some were tried. When the recalcitrant were finally
taken care of, the time for explanation arrived. No less than President Suharto himself
came up with a clear answer to his critics. On March 27, 1980, in addressing an
eastern Sumatra, President
Armed Forces "Commanders'
Call" in Pakanbaru,
Suharto made it clear that ABRI as the apparatus of national defense stands above
all groups. But ABRI as a functional group must choose a trusted partner, a partner
who is clearly working for Pancasila.11
A complete reaction to the critics of Suharto's interpretation of the Dual Function
only appeared in public when Pejuang dan Prajurit (Fighter and Soldier), a book
edited by Brigadier General Nugroho Notosusanto, was published in 1984. Curiously
enough the book, prepared in the Defense Department, claimed not to be the official
voice of the government, even though, as a manuscript, it was already widely discussed
before being published. The book is really a
inside the military establishment
reasons and explanations for ABRI to play a
repetition of the many already
is very tautological and pedantic, redundant
non-military role. In this
with quotations from everybody
writing could be used to support ABRI's
military's political role, the book
political role. But for the

is essentially prepared to counter Nasution and some other retired generals' continued
On page 180 of the book, for instance, Nasution is not only shown to contradict
himself through a comparison of his statements made at different times, but also
his idea that ABRI should stay away from day to day politics is labeled unrealistic,
showing only that Nasution does not know what political life is about. Interestingly
enough, right after discrediting Nasution, the book praised Lt. General (ret.)
T. B. Simatupang as an example of a person with a positive approach to the military's
socio-political role. Apparently Simatupang is praised for having said that:
In projecting the TNI's role in the future in the Pancasila state
which is developing itself, we can have a negative and a positive
approach. The negative approach discusses ways to diminish
and to end the non-military role of the army in the future. The
positive approach discusses how we can make use of the TNI,
besides the other social forces in the society, to overcome our
weakness as a nation, especially in the political field. By
advancing in political development, the socio-political role of
the TNI will certainly, even though slowly, decrease.""
Unlike Nasution, Simatupang, who openly does not like the term Dual Function
never discussed the Dual Function
("to give it a name is to make it permanent"),
in detail. This certainly put him in a favorable position in the eyes of the government
vis--vis Nasution who keeps the government irritated with his very specific criticisms.
of the Dual Function, Nugroho's book
On the differences in interpretation
military officers there are varying opinions
about the proper political role of ABRI .4' But despite that, the book clearly shows
that there is nobody entertaining the idea of abandoning the Dual Function. This
time not for historical reasons - that since the revolutionary period ABRI already
has two functions - but because
... if ABRI's socio-political function is dropped, and ABRI only
acts as the tool of the government, then if political turbulence
occurs in which social forces oppose each other because of their
interests contradicting each other diametrically, is there any
other potential [power] that can play the role of moderator and
Thus we then can conclude that the military has no plan to abandon the power
in their hands, which is not surprising. What is surprising - in comparative perspective
- is that by holding that power the Indonesian military does not have the problem
of legitimacy like the one disturbing ruling militaries in most other third world
countries. And as we have seen in the previous pages, most politically conscious
Indonesians also do not question the legitimacy of the military in politics. What they
and the implementation
of the doctrine,
.are concerned about is the interpretation
not the doctrine itself.
What will be the form of future military participation
in politics? According
to Ali Murtopo,
The statements of the leaders of ABRI already have made it
clear that the Dual Function will be there to stay. And this is
justified by the constitution...."


But at the same time General Murtopo also writes that the dominant position of ABRI
in the country's politics is a different story. ABRI became dominant, according to
Murtopo, because the situation forced it to come to that position. And this is because
"until now we have not yet had civilian political groups which have clear and firm
Because of this, writes Murtopo further,
We can logically conclude that it is very possible that the
dominant position of ABRI will decrease and even disappear,
if the situation becomes normal, and if the civilian political
groups free themselves from the elements of subversion, and
if they can prove that they. are better than now."
For General Benny Murdani, the present ABRI Commander, the Dual Function
is a state of mind and not something physical. "The physical part of it is the byproduct
of the state of mind," he said in an interview with the author. It is because of this
that General Murdani is not surprised to see multiple interpretations
of the Dual
Function. General Murdani basically sees three interpretations
currently circulating
in society. First is Nasution's interpretation.
On this Murdani says,


General Nasution left the service more than ten years ago. He
has busied himself reading books on philosophy and then
reaches a conclusion. But that conclusion will probably only
be applicable twenty five years from now."
The second interpretation is the "shallow" one, namely understanding the Dual Function only as a way to provide patronage to the military personnel by placing them
is certainly the result of the fact that most of
in civilian posts. This interpretation
the important positions in Indonesian civilian bureaucracy are being taken by the
military officers, active as well as retired ones. "This is a clearly wrong interpretation,"
snapped Murdani. According to the General, the placement of so many officers in
the civilian posts since 1965 should be seen in the context of the purge of the
bureaucracy of communist elements and the followers of Sukarno following the
abortive coup of October 1965. The third interpretation, according to Murdani, comes
from people "Who know nothing and talk as if the Dual Function will stay forever
as it is today." By saying this Gen. Murdani is clearly referring to some high ranking
military officers who do not see any possible change in the shape of Indonesian civilmilitary relations in the future. For Murdani what will happen in the future will not
solely be determined by ABRI. "Let the coming generation decide what will be good
for our country in the future," said the General.
Will military dominance be a long term characteristic of Indonesian politics?
The answer, apparently, is yes. The legitimacy is there and the civilian political force
is yet to come. And as the civilians are still standing on the fringe of the political
arena, the inner dynamic of power will clearly originate and circulate among the
military officers themselves. In this case the most likely debate to have our attention
in the near future will be the debate about interpretation
and implementation
history of the military
doctrine that has always adjusted
development, hope is still there
that as the society changes and as the civilians become ready, the doctrine will be
adjusted once again.




1.For a detailed treatment of the political role of the Indonesian military between 1945-49,please see
my unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, "The Genesis of Power: Civil-MilitaryRelations in Indonesia
During the Revolution for Independence, 1945-1949" (Ph.D. thesis submitted to The Ohio State
University, 1985).
2. T. B. Simatupang,ReportFrom Banarair ExperiencesDuring TheF?ople's War(translatedby Benedict
Anderson and Elizabeth Graves), Modern Indonesia Project, Southeast Asia Program, Cornell
University, New York, 1972, p. 130.
3. T. B. Simatupang, Peranan Angkatan Perang Dalam Negara Pancasila yang Membangun (Jakarta:
Yayasan Idayu, 1980), p. 21.
4. According to M. Natsir, T. B. Simatupang, the Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff at that time, refused
the candidate of Natsir for the position of defense minister. Natsir then had to accept thecandidate
of Simatupang, namelySultan HamengkubuwonoIX. M. Natsir, interview,Jakarta, September22,
5. Herbert Feith, The Decline of Constitutional Democracyin Indonesia (Ithaca and London: Cornell
University Press, 1962),pp. 58-77.
6. Dr. A. H. Nasution, Memenuhi Panggilan 1gas, Vol. 3 (Jakarta: Gunung Agung, 1983),p. 179.
7. Feith, The Decline, pp. 246-73; Nasution, Memenuhi Panggilan 1gas, Vol. 3, pp. 1-214.
8. Guy J. Pauker, "The Role of the Military in Indonesia" in John J. Johnson (ed.), The Role of the
Military in UnderdevelopedCountries (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1962),
pp. 208-209.
9. Feith, The Decline, p. 395.
10. Ali Sastroamijoyo,Milestoneson My Journey (St. Lucia, Queensland:Universityof QueenslandPress,
1979),pp. 272-73.
11. Feith, The Decline, p. 398.
12. Nasution, Memenuhi Panggilan 1gas, Vol. 3, p. 277.
13. Feith, The Decline, p. 399.
14. Pauker, The Role, p. 211.
15. Feith, The Decline, pp. 487-555.
16. The first two Generalsto be membersof cabinet wereSambas Atmadinata from the Army and Nazir
from the Navy. They were sworn in on April 9, 1957.See Nugroho Notosusanto (ed.), Pejuang Dan
Prajurit (Jakarta: Sinar Harapan, 1984),p. 76.
17. A. H. Nasution, Tonggak TonggakDwi Fungsi (Jakarta, mimeo, 1981), p. 17. See also Daniel
S. Lev, The Transition To Guided Democracy:Indonesian Politics, 195 7-1959(Ithaca, New York:
Southeast Asia Program, Department of Asian Studies, Cornell University, 1966),pp. 191-92.
18. Feith, The Decline, pp. 591-92.
19. See Donald Hindley, "Political Power and the October 1965Coup in Indonesia", Journal of Asian
Studies XXXVI, No. 2 (Feb. 1967):237-49; Justus M. van der Kroef, "Interpretation of the 1965
Coup: A Reviewof Literature", Pacific Affairs 43, No. 4 (Winter 1970-71):557-77; van der Kroef,
"Origin of the 1965Coup in Indonesia:Probabilitiesand Alternatives",Journal of South East Studies
III, No. 2 (Sept. 1972):277-98; B. R. O'G. Anderson and Ruth McVey,A Preliminary Analysis of
the October 1, 1965, Coup in Indonesia (Ithaca, New York: Modern Indonesia Project, Cornell
University, 1971).
20. Lev, The Transition, p. 59.
21. Ibid., p. 192.
22. Ibid., p. 193.
23. Dr. A. H. Nasution, Kekarjaan ABRI (Jakarta: Seruling Masa, 1971), p. 18.
24. Idem., Toward The Pieople'sArmy (Jakarta: C. V. Delegasi, 1964),p. 20.
25. Ibid., p. 39.
26. Nasution, Toward,p. 43.
27. Guy J. Pauker, The Indonesian Doctrine of Territorial WarfareAnd TerritorialManagement (Santa
Monica, California: The Rand Corporation, 1973),p. 56.
28. Pauker, The Indonesian Doctrine, p. 170.
29. SeeHerbert Feith, "Dynamicsof GuidedDemocracy"in Ruth T. McVey(ed.), Indonesia(NewHaven:


Southeast Asia Studies, Yale University, 1963),pp. 336-42.
30. Indonesia, Angkatan Darat, Seskoad, Doktrin Perdjuangan TNI-AD "Tri Ubaya Cakti" (Jakarta:
Angkatan Darat, 1966), p. 10.
31. Ali Moertopo, Strategi Politik Nasional (Jakarta: Yayasan Proklamasi, CSIS, 1974),pp. 108-109.
32. Nasution, Kekarjaan ABRI, p. 41.
33. Nugroho Notosusanto (ed.), Pejuang Dan Prajurit (Jakarta: Sinar Harapan, 1984),p. 288. On the
self-perceptionof ABRI as savior, unifier and dinamisator, see R. William Liddle, "Soeharto's
Indonesia:Personal Rule and Political Institutions", Pacific Affairs 58, No. 1 (Spring1985):84-85.
34. Quoted in Notosusanto (ed.), Pejuang, p. 162.
35. David Jenkins, Suharto and His Generals,IndonesianMilitaryPolitics 1975-1983(Ithaca, New York:
Cornell Modern Indonesia Project, 1984),p. 216.
36. Section Two of the 1945constitution reads as follows:
1. The membership of the Provisional People's Consultative Assembly consists of members of
Parliamentplusregionaldelegationsand groupsaccordingto the regulationsestablishedby the law.
2. The ProvisionalPeople's ConsultativeAssemblyholds a meetingat least once in five years in the
capital of the state.
3. All the decisions of the Provisional People's Consultative Assembly shall be decided by the
majority [my emphasis].
Thus when the army talks about the functional groups and their relation to the constitution, they
reallyare referringto article two of the 1945Constitution. It is clear that the word groups (golongangolongan) does not specify who belongs to it.
37. A. H. Nasution, "Dwi FungsiABRI: Pada Mulanyadan Kini", Prisma IX, No. 12(December1980):
38. Jenkins, Suharto and His Generals, p. 217.
39. ApparentlySuharto did not concernhimselfwith the possibilityof a conflictof interestbetweenABRI's
position as defender of the country on the one hand and as a social force on the other.
40. Quoted in Notosusanto (ed.), Pejuang dan Prajurit, pp. 180-81..
41. Notosusanto (ed.), Pejuang dan Prajurit, p. 334.
42. Ibid., p. 349.
43. Moertopo, Strategi Politik, p. 123.
44. Ibid., p. 124.
45. General Benny Murdani, interview, Jakarta, November 13, 1984.