Guerrilla Warfare and the Indonesian Strategic Psyche

Guerrilla Warfare and the Indonesian Strategic Psyche

by Emmet McElhatton, Small Wars Journal

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Some analysts of Indonesian affairs have tried to rebut "the conventional wisdom that Indonesia is simply a violent society" and reject "arguments that locate the origins of violence in cultural characteristics that highlight the irrationality of the Indonesian crowd", asserting instead that military and political elites, predominantly Javanese by implication, use this convenient cultural epithet to mask their role in the instigation, manipulation and coordination of politically expedient violence. Of course all national or ethnic cultures have violent facets, a reflection of both their humanity and their will to survive the depredations of other cultures -- even that most civilised of cultures, the Melians of Thucydides', defended themselves heroically when crunch, in the form of Athens, came calling. This accepted, then Indonesians should not be singled out with a "more violent" tag any more than other comparable societies. Also a reading of all but the most partisan histories of post-war Indonesia demonstrate clearly that the many violent episodes that blot the collective memory are a series of power struggles between opposing elites with the common denominator an Indonesian Army unrestrained in its willingness to use extreme violence to maintain its notion of order.

Acknowledging this, we need also note that there are some aspects to Indonesian social, and particularly martial, culture that do indicate a different approach to violence and its utilisation than the strategic culture of, for example, New Zealand would countenance. For the purposes of this brief survey I will consider the notion of Javanese culture as the dominant force in Indonesian strategic culture and then examine this through a consideration of Indonesian guerrilla warfare theory.

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