Incisive, Principled Analysis of Global Conflicts

Accountability in Indonesia
By Michael Shank

Washington Post [WEBSITE VERSION]
February 2, 2008

The death of Indonesia's former president Suharto reminds us of the end of a bloody era, but a more pernicious foreign policy practice persists: that of American alliances with military dictatorships ["Indonesia's Despotic 'Father of Development,' " news story, Jan. 28]. That Mr. Suharto was an American ally is no secret; aided by Washington, hundreds of thousands of East Timorese were slaughtered.

But hindsight has not hastened moral realignment: Direct military aid to Jakarta continues with few accountability mechanisms to ensure military responsibility.

This year, Congress doubled its direct military aid to Jakarta. Of the $15.7 million, a small portion was withheld to urge President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to account for human rights violations by the military and provide public access to Papua province. Neither request has been met, nor is there any sign that Mr. Yudhoyono, a former general, will give ground.

The Indonesian military's chokehold on the country -- whether in aiding and abetting illicit and destructive resource extraction or in abusing and killing human rights activists -- must be loosened. Mr. Yudhoyono is no Suharto. But the Americans remain complicit in military abuses in Indonesia unless accountability takes priority.

Mr. Suharto's death may bury bad blood, but, more important, it serves as a reminder of a failed foreign policy. It is not too late to make amends.

Government Relations Adviser
Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution