United States Policy towards Indonesia in the Truman and Eisenhower Years

By Andrew Roadnight | Go to book overview

6
From Diplomacy to Armed Intervention (January 1956 – May 1958)

Despite the Dulles brothers' concerns, the Administration's realisation of just how little influence it had in Jakarta after the elections forced it to reconsider its policy towards Indonesia. State Department officials concluded that a more positive approach was necessary. In particular, they were worried that Washington's adherence to ‘strict neutrality or strict inactivity’ on all aspects of Dutch–Indonesian relations could end in an ‘explosive anti-Dutch reaction’ which would set back US interests in Indonesia. 1 The Administration also found itself under pressure in the media for its lack of friendliness towards the Sastroamidjojo Government. For example, The New York Times supported criticism of Washington's portrayal of the entire Partai Nasionalis Indonesia (PNI) as fellow-travellers and its failure, thereby, to mobilise nationalism in the struggle against the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI). 2 It was in this context that Cumming was recalled, to Washington, in December 1955, to discuss how the Administration might respond to the new situation.


A tactical reassessment

The State Department's main problem was whether or not to invite Sukarno to visit the US. Although there was a need for the Administration to build a relationship with the Indonesian President, the decision was by no means clear-cut. Those who favoured extending an invitation, like Cumming, knew that Sukarno badly wanted to make an official visit to America, a country whose political traditions he claimed had greatly influenced him. They were also aware that the State Department had received intelligence that the USSR and the People's Republic of China (PRC) might be about to issue invitations of their own and wanted to

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