In debate, Romney says handle Pakistan like Indonesia in the 1960s
In last night's Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney cited the US role in Indonesia in the 1960s as a good model for Pakistan. But that might not be the best place to look for answers.
(Page 2 of 2)
While that's a controversial claim, what's solid is what came next: the systematic destruction of Indonesia's nascent democratic institutions and political parties (which had already been taking a beating under Sukarno); state repression of opponents with torture, targeted killings, and long jail terms; and a military-backed dictatorship that persisted until a popular uprising in 1998 pushed Suharto, finally, from power. Since then, Indonesia has made steady, if imperfect, progress towards full civilian control of its military and democracy.Skip to next paragraph
The Arab League observer mission in Syria is likely to fail
Egypt's military rulers crack down on democracy groups
Iran's threats over Strait of Hormuz? Understandable, but not easy
Eastern Libya poll indicates political Islam will closely follow democracy
Iraq's Maliki threatens, Sunnis grumble, and Baghdad goes boom
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
All along the US was a close friend and military backer of Suharto's "New Order," as he called it. US mining and oil firms received favored treatment in Indonesia, and when Suharto invaded and annexed tiny East Timor in 1975, the US looked the other way.
Down the decades the US also poured economic aid into Indonesia (as did the World Bank and various UN agencies) and on Suharto's watch, the economic circumstances of average Indonesians improved markedly. But it came at the cost of military dictatorship, something the US and many others were more than happy to live with in the context of the cold war and rivalry with both the Soviet Union and China.
Military's role in Pakistan
Today, Pakistan's civilian leaders are in a shaky position, with fears of another military coup rampant. Senior officers appear to conduct their own security policy, outside of any constraints placed by President Asif Ali Zardari, and those policies appear to include backing the Taliban and providing safe-haven to militants like the deceased Mr. Bin Laden. Just this week, Pakistani Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani lost his job over allegations that he was acting as a go-between for Mr. Zardari with the US on efforts to guard against Pakistan's military seizing power.
With Pakistan still struggling against military rule – and with support for civilian rule being a stated goal of successive US administrations – the American role in Indonesia in the 1960s might not be the best place to look for answers.
Get daily or weekly updates from CSMonitor.com delivered to your inbox. Sign up today.