United States Policy towards Indonesia in the Truman and Eisenhower Years

By Andrew Roadnight | Go to book overview
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3
Washington Forces Independence (January December 1949)

Dutch troops made rapid advances into Republican territory, taking the nationalists' capital, Yogyakarta, where Sukarno, Hatta and other Republican leaders had decided to remain to await capture. As the assault continued, all of the Republic's main population centres were occupied but the Dutch were unable to inflict a decisive defeat on the Indonesian forces, which melted away and prepared to launch a guerrilla war. As Cochran had predicted, the Truman Administration reacted angrily to the Dutch action, but Washington's immediate response did not flow from a principled support for Indonesian nationalism. Rather, it was conditioned by the complete collapse of its strategy of using friendly persuasion to nudge the Dutch into an accommodation with the Republic and by the domestic and international reaction to the Dutch action. Nevertheless, despite its vociferous and public hostility to the second police action, the Truman Administration's outrage soon petered out and gave way to diplomatic manoeuvring and renewed deference to the Dutch.


Washington assesses the damage

The second Dutch police action shattered US policy in the region and also delivered a hammer blow to Washington's hopes for a peaceful transition to independence. It had been Washington's fervent hope that it would be able to avoid direct association with the process of decolonisation in Southeast Asia but the Dutch had managed, according to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to bring this ‘problem sharply into focus’. Not only would the Administration's past policy in relation to the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) now be scrutinised publicly but its response to the Dutch use of force would also be subjected to close attention.

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