Indonesia, a typical Third World country with a colonial past, is economically underdeveloped, deeply divided along ethnic, religious, and cultural lines, and therefore still uncertain about political structures and goals. To explore the role of the military in Indonesia this chapter provides a historical overview and investigates the reasons for, and modes of, military intervention, the military's achievements and failures while in political control, and the prospects of its retreat to the barracks.
Opposition to Dutch colonial overlordship in this century came in three distinct waves: It began in the 1910s with native Moslem traders and manufacturers protesting against economic advantages granted to immigrant Chinese entrepreneurs, a movement that soon came to articulate political demands, including that for national independence. But before Moslem political aspiration could come near fruition, Communists had infiltrated the Syarikat Islam, taking over whole branches, and by 1926-27 had launched their first "revolution." The third wave, ideologically determined by secular nationalism, was led by Sukarno, Hatta and Sutan Syahrir. The colonial authorities had no difficulties in containing all three waves, especially as they occurred separately.
The breakthrough for Indonesian nationalists came when in 1942 the Netherlands East Indies were overrun by the Japanese, who enlisted native support for their war effort by delegating administrative responsibilities to indigenous elites, recruiting local youths into auxiliary military organizations and allowing Sukarno and Hatta to prepare for national independence.
An event of lasting effect was when Sukarno, the undisputed leader of the