A Tour of Duty: Changing Patterns of Military Politics in Indonesia in the 1990s

A Tour of Duty: Changing Patterns of Military Politics in Indonesia in the 1990s

A Tour of Duty: Changing Patterns of Military Politics in Indonesia in the 1990s

A Tour of Duty: Changing Patterns of Military Politics in Indonesia in the 1990s

Excerpt

On October 1, 1965, in response to an attempted coup by low-ranking officers, Major General Soeharto seized command of the Indonesian military. Having quashed the attempted coup and squarely pinned blame for the coup and the murders of senior generals on the Indonesian Communist Party, Soeharto and the Army proceeded to conduct and direct a massacre of horrifying proportions. In March 1966, Soeharto forced then-President Sukarno to relinquish executive authority. Two years later Soeharto had himself appointed President of Indonesia. On May 21, 1998, thirty-two years after coming to power, General Soeharto was forced to resign in the face of nation-wide outrage, protests, and riots against his corrupt and authoritarian rule.

Over a span of three decades the Soeharto regime distinguished itself from many other authoritarian states. Retired from active military service in 1976, Soeharto was only rarely referred to as a general, preferring the internationally approved title of President. National parliamentary elections were held every five years, though carefully orchestrated to ensure that the ruling party, Golkar, won by a comfortable margin. During this time, the Indonesian military transformed itself from a poorly trained force characterized by its origins in guerrilla warfare into a modern standing military. The Army successfully passed leadership from the Angkatan 1945 (Generation of 1945), which fought in the revolution against Dutch colonial rule, to a younger generation of academy-trained officers.

During the past three decades, the military in general and the Army in particular have played a central role in Indonesian politics.

1 One notable recent exception occurred on October 5, 1997, Indonesian Armed Forces Day, when Soeharto wore a military uniform and was promoted to five-star general.

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