American Visions of the Netherlands East Indies/Indonesia: US Foreign Policy and Indonesian Nationalism, 1920-1949

American Visions of the Netherlands East Indies/Indonesia: US Foreign Policy and Indonesian Nationalism, 1920-1949

American Visions of the Netherlands East Indies/Indonesia: US Foreign Policy and Indonesian Nationalism, 1920-1949

American Visions of the Netherlands East Indies/Indonesia: US Foreign Policy and Indonesian Nationalism, 1920-1949

Synopsis

The result of a Fulbright senior research fellowship celebrating the simultaneous 50th anniversaries of the Fulbright Exchange Foundation and the Indonesian Republic, this book offers a new perspective on American attitudes toward Dutch colonial rule and Indonesia's struggle for independence. Drawing on extensive research in American, Dutch, Indonesian, and Australian diplomatic records and archival documents, as well as the archives of the United Nations, the authors give a new overview of the political background and changing rationale of American foreign policies.

Excerpt

This book examines American perceptions of the Netherlands East Indies/Indonesia and indirectly, the Dutch nation in northern Europe itself. It covers the period from the 1920’s through the end of the year 1948, when US foreign policymakers in the Truman Administration had completed their gradual political reorientation from a residual pro-Dutch stance to a position that supported the imminent independence of the Indonesian Republic. Once this dramatic transition in Washington’s perspectives on the Indonesian archipelago’s decolonization had occurred, the transfer of sovereignty to the United States of Indonesia would take place exactly one year later, on December 27, 1949. The book does so by means of an inquiry into US foreign policy assessments of the political conditions in the Indonesian Republic – or the Netherlands East Indies – within the context of the Southeast Asian region in general. Its purpose is to place the American role in the Indonesian Republic’s postwar struggle for independence in a longer chronological framework, in order to enhance our understanding of the political background and changing rationale of America’s foreign policies.

In the imagination of a range of US politicians and foreign policymakers, as well as a segment of the American public since the early twentieth century, the Dutch East Indies and its record of what was generally viewed as judicious colonial governance occupied a special place in the annals of European imperialism in Asia. After praising Dutch colonial management to the high heavens during the 1920’s, it was true that American diplomatic judgments struck a different tone during the following decade, when US Foreign Service officers in Java and Sumatra issued pointed criticism of the Dutch colonial government for violating the principles of due process of law in its arbitrary treatment of Indonesian nationalists. Within the course of World War II, however, analysts in Washington DC resuscitated the relatively positive reputation of Dutch colonial administrators, particularly when compared with British civil servants in India, Burma, and the Strait Settlements, or with French colonial managers in Indochina.

The conclusion of World War II in Europe and Asia inaugurated a season of extraordinary political turmoil. In Germany, in the wake of the Western Alliance’s defeat of Hitler’s Nazi forces, this delicate moment was called Nullpunkt or zero hour. In Batavia and Hanoi, Japan’s abrupt unconditional surrender to the Western Allies generated a similar political vacuum. This sudden window of opportunity prompted nationalist leaders, backed by popular support at the grassroots . . .

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