Instability In Indonesia: Is It Inevitable? Part II


Part I

Indonesia adapted to the end of the Cold War in a pretty stable and prosperous manner, not being negatively affected by any of the immediate aftermath. In fact, the end of the Cold War actually increased its regional standing through the expansion of the ASEAN trade bloc to the countries of Indochina and Myanmar. Jakarta was able to gain a certain amount of asymmetrical clout through being the largest country of the enlarged organization, and seemingly also one of the most politically stable. All in all, Indonesia superficially appeared to be in quite an enviable position, although deep undercurrents of disaster were violently churning just below the surface.

1997 Asian Economic Crisis Provokes Anti-Suharto Riots

The 1997 Asian economic meltdown that was discussed at the very beginning of the ASEAN section of the research had the effect of catalyzing these destabilizing processes and creating the social preconditions for a forthcoming regime change maneuver. The Indonesian currency was hit hard by the regional effects of this financial conflagration, which in turn led to explosive inflation and rampant unemployment. The economic boom that characterized the earlier part of the decade had abruptly stopped and begun to reverse itself with equal force, creating a panic among many whereby a craze-inducing run on the stores was set in motion. The social chaos that this induced prompted the opposition to step up their anti-government activities, which in turn led to a state backlash. Through a cascading series of grassroots events, Medan, Jakarta, and Surakarta erupted in violence in May 1998 and hundreds of people were killed, arrested, and injured. Chinese businesses were particularly targeted by the rioters due to the assumption that this supposedly ‘better off’ demographic had access to critical food and supplies that the rest of the population didn’t. The ensuing chaos was too much for Suharto to handle and he decided to resign at the end of the month, ending over thirty consecutive years in power and leaving the country on the brink of disaster at the end of the “New Order”.

The chain of destabilizing regime change events that were first set off by the regional economic crisis may have portended a new wave of asymmetrical post-modern warfare that had yet to be mastered, a sort of trial run for a forthcoming and more focused attempt. This was spoken about earlier in the work, but to conceptually simplify the specifics of what’s being directly referred to at this time, a regional economic crisis was the trigger for anti-government protests in Malaysia and Indonesia. The former had behaved relatively independent under the leadership of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed (and therefore was seen as a potential threat vis-à-vis the Wolfowitz Doctrine) while the latter was a promising economic giant presided over by an aging and unpopular leader that would inevitably be replaced in the coming years. From the strategic perspective of American policy makers, a regime change in both countries would be preferable – in Malaysia because its independent policies prevented it from coming under Western tutelage, and in Indonesia because the stale “New Order” was bound to be replaced sooner or later and it was thought to be more advantageous for the US to have a guiding role in this transition by ‘wiping the plate clean’, completely getting rid of the ‘old guard’, and working to place a new and fresh generation into power via pro-Western “liberal-democratic” means.

The latter objective of ‘spreading democracy’ is always preferable for American intelligence agencies because it provides them an easily manipulatable format with which to ‘democratically’ enact changes in an existing government, be it to support their desired candidate for whatever particular office it may be or to disrupt an opponent’s campaign, both of which can be done via ‘plausibly deniable’ and internationally recognized ‘legitimate’ ways. Indonesia was obviously forecast to play a growing role in the future world order due to its geostrategic position, enormous population, and well-endowed natural resource wealth, and the US establishment interminably maintained a fear that the rise of another Sukarno could wrest the country away from their grip and undermine Washington’s grand strategy. It’s better for the US to have a weakened, albeit still strategically aligned, partner with which to do business and whose model is susceptible to the CIA’s ‘democratic engineering’ than to allow it to uninterruptedly continue its existence as a potentially strong and stable state with a difficult-to-influence leadership transition model that might somehow fall under or choose to side with a non-Western power. Indonesia’s post-independence historical model was such that only a dramatic event could alter the traditionally strong role of the President and spearhead the constitutional changes necessary for limiting the leader’s power.

As assessed from this angle, it makes perfect sense why the US would be interested in Suharto’s violent overthrow, which not only produced the required legal amendments after the fact and for these exact reasons (and ushered in the period of “Reformasi” to go along with it), but also provided more valuable field testing for the CIA’s region-wide situational preconditioning model, which had up to then been used against the Soviet Union, the Communist Bloc, and the former Yugoslavia. Utilizing economic warfare as a means for ‘justifying’ ‘democratic’ multistate (or multi-unit in the case of previously unified Yugoslavia) regime change operations would later become the US’ favored coup method, with forthcoming applications in the ‘traditional’ Color Revolutions in Serbia and the former Soviet space (Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan), the failed ‘Central Asian Spring’ of 2010, and then the “Arab Spring” of 2011.

Ethnic Conflicts Explode

The situationally engineered overthrow of Suharto created a governing void that decreased the authorities’ hold over the ethnically diverse and identity-conflicting peripheral provinces. Deeply rooted animosities between locals and their transmigrant neighbors came to the fore in the aftermath of the state’s unprecedented weakening, and as a result, large-scale and geographically broad violence began to break out. The beginning of 1999 saw conflict erupting in the Maluku islands, where the Muslim and Christian communities started killing one another due to long-bubbling tensions. For the most part, the Christians were native to Ambon island and the surrounding areas that were affected, while the Muslims were transmigrants or their descendants. Violence started in the first quarter of the year then returned in the late summer/early fall and continued to the end of the year. In North Maluku, a new majority-Muslim province that was just created that year out of Maluku proper, a wave of rolling religious and ethnic conflicts crested from August until November, sometimes overlapping, sometimes not. For example, Christians and Muslims of the same ethnicity were slaughtering one another, but at other times the conflict was between different regional ethnic communities and had nothing to do with religion.

A similar sort of conflict had also broken out in mid-March in West Kalimantan, the official designation for the western part of Indonesian-administrated Borneo. Around 3,000 Muslim Madurese transmigrants were killed by local Dayaks during the Sambas Riots, in what was sadly just the latest in a chain of violence that had periodically been sparked off since the 1960s. The saliency of it occurring in 1999 is that it proves that the self-evident weakening of the state after Suharto’s overthrow gave the impression to various identity groups that they now had the ‘opportunity’ to exact their local vengeances. The situation once more boiled over in 2001 with the Sampit Conflict, during which 100s were killed and around 100,000 Madurese had to flee Central Kalimantan. It’s notable that if one looks at a map of Indonesia and locates these conflict zones, then they’d see that it really does ring around the entire periphery. If one counts the ethno-religious tensions in Sulawesi island that culminated in the May 2000 Walisongo Christian-on-Muslim school massacre and factors in the near-constant threat of violence in West Papua (kept under control chiefly due to the heavy military presence in the province), then almost all of the former “East Indonesia” and its adjoining territories (West Kalimantan and West Papua) were affected by some type of ethno-religious conflict during this time.

It makes one wonder whether or not the US had stoked any of these conflicts or had advance premonitions (if not outright intentions) that something like this would happen after Suharto’s manipulated departure. It conceivably looks to be the case that American intelligence was testing the theory of managed chaos and observing its ‘natural’ spread throughout the archipelago, monitoring which latent conflicts were successfully aroused and which dodged the bullet and remained dormant. From a strategic vantage point, the socio-demographic feedback that the US would have received simply by watching this process unfold would have been invaluable in helping to craft forthcoming region-wide destabilization plans, to say nothing of the value that such information would have acquired if the US had a role in instigating any of the said conflicts and ‘testing’ their given variables. In hindsight, it certainly appears as though this was one of the US’ objectives (whether it was a primary, partial, or tangential one is moot in this context), and the surrounding and pre-scheduled events in East Timor, around which the aforementioned ethno-religious violence may have been timed, convincingly make it seem as though this was indeed the case.

East Timor Independence Referendum And The Potential Unravelling Of Indonesia

Suharto’s briefly tenured successor, Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, initiated an historic feat by putting Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor up to a democratic vote in the besieged province, announcing his intentions in late-January 1999 to hold a referendum on whether the territory should be independent or receive heightened autonomy from Jakarta. It was later agreed that the vote would be held on 30 August of that year. The reasons for this decision are aplenty, but they’re broadly understood as being part of the “Reformasi” period of change that was initiated after Suharto’s overthrow, whereby the new authorities began brainstorming ways to transform (or as they termed it, ‘reform’) the country. It’s not at all to infer that this particular decision was necessarily negative and shouldn’t have been made, but that it should be seen as being part of the basket of changes that the US wanted the post-Suharto government to initiate. In this instance, it was one that was welcomed by the international community after awareness about the illegal and ultra-violent Indonesian occupation began to gradually attract increased worldwide attention after the Cold War.

If the reader accepts the author’s main thesis about the US testing and deploying the new ‘superweapon’ of ‘managed chaos’ all across the world in the post-Cold War era, then it’s natural to conclude that it had an ulterior strategic motive for going along with what otherwise seemed like a conventionally humanitarian move. The reader would do well to remember that the US never evokes ‘human rights’ and ‘international justice’ without some cynical sort of reason, and this despite whether or not others are even aware of what it’s ultimately up to. Interestingly enough, as viewed in the context of the event timeline of domestic destabilization earlier elaborated upon, there’s a possibility that East Timor’s warranted independence later in the year could have been exploited by the US to create a pretext for other troublesome islands to secede as well, albeit this time ones which were formally and historically a part of Indonesian and not technically occupied by it.

The violence in Maluku and North Maluku certainly raises this intriguing prospect, and it’s curious to wonder whether or not the rioters on either side of the conflict there (but more so in Maluku than North Maluku [which began to be destabilized right when the East Timor referendum was to be held]) were inspired by the forthcoming vote and may have thought they could use its precedent to push for their own autonomy or independence. It also can’t be discounted that any potential organizers of the island violence and their affiliated ‘narrative writers’ in the international mainstream media may have also had this in mind at the time as well, especially if one considers the earlier theory that the US was using the post-Suharto environment as a tropical testing ground for various degrees of chaos theory implementation and/or ‘natural’ field observance. 

Under this specific branch of scenarios, Washington may have wanted to stretch the limit of public opinion and see how far it could take the recently unveiled media stratagem of “humanitarian intervention” in the event that something ‘went wrong’ with the vote (as would later happen). It should be recalled that it was in March 1999 that the US began its War on Yugoslavia ostensibly under the publicly presentable and totally fabricated pretext of ‘preventing genocide’. With East Timor, at least such claims would have historically been true, and in both instances (Yugoslavia and Indonesia), the information operations necessary for convincing the general public of the potential need for a militant intervention had already been prepared in advance.

For a brief moment of time, however, it looked as though the US was actually ready for a militant intervention in East Timor, albeit under less conspicuous anti-state grounds than ones used against Yugoslavia earlier that year. When the referendum resulted in over three-quarters of the population voting for independence, frenzied pro-Indonesian mobs and military-affiliated militias wracked havoc throughout the occupied territory and started randomly killing the locals. Some estimates state that around 1,400 people died in the under one-month period between the referendum and the introduction of an Australian-led force on 20 September. Referred to as International Force for East Timor (or INTERFET), it wasn’t UN-sanctioned and was more of a ‘coalition of the willing’ that also included Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, the UK, France, Germany, and a handful of others. The US “Led From Behind” via intelligence and logistical support but didn’t actively take part in the operation, but the fact that it was playing coy about doing so until about one week before the mission was formally launched may indicate that it understood the strategic value of implicitly threatening to do so.

The once-strong Indonesian state, which previously would never have allowed a multinational coalition to ‘liberate’/re-occupy its own occupied territory (no matter how wrong and unjust it was for it to do so in the first place), had now been reduced to scrambling all of its allied militias out of the zone and holding its breath that the East Timorese island foothold wouldn’t be used for launching other formal or asymmetrical destabilization operations further into the peripheral insular interior. This fear never fully panned out, but strategically speaking, it was definitely a risk that the Indonesian military accounted for and had prepared a contingency response if need be. After all, it’s was commonly understood among experts that Indonesia was “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” leave East Timor after having occupied it for so long, since the thinking went that the liberation of this territory might set off a chain reaction in the former lands of “East Indonesia” that might lead to a rapid unravelling of the unitary Indonesian state (whether in terms of formal secessionism or a return to federalism).

In the situational context of what was unfolding in that part of the country at the moment (the North Maluku and Maluku ethno-religious clashes and the foreign intervention in East Timor), the disintegrative processes could have been taken to their conclusion if the US had mustered the political will to do so, but it opted instead to remain passive after the fact and gain valuable field data about its new asymmetrical weapon of chaos. Additionally, it may have been that influential forces in Washington realized that the cost-benefit analysis (in terms of the military resources necessary for procuring a given natural resource or strategic end) wasn’t acceptable for the necessary commitment, especially as plans were already underway for tightening the noose around Russia and re-instigating a hot war in the Mideast. Rather, it may have been assumed, it was decided that the strategic goal of weakening the structure of the Indonesian state was already accomplished and that the final ethno-religious centrifugal hit could indefinitely wait to be unleashed until later, perhaps if necessary to pull Indonesia away from China in a forthcoming scenario. For the time being, a weakened, subservient, but still-unitary Indonesia that was firmly in the pro-Western orbit and outfitted with a rotating ‘liberal-democratic’ government was seen as the most preferable strategic ‘solution’ for the US’ pre-Pivot to Asia policy in ASEAN.

The Dawn Of Wahhabist Terrorism

The last of the post-Suharto crises to rock Indonesia was the emergence of Wahhabist terrorism as a major source of instability, especially in the sense that it was one which captivated worldwide attention after 9/11. Jemaah Islamiyah is perhaps the most notorious ‘homegrown’ terrorist group in the country, although it does have sizeable ties with Al Qaeda and other likeminded foreign organizations. The group skyrocketed to international attention after it staged the 2002 Bali bombings, but it had earlier become infamous in Indonesia for the 2000 Christmas Eve bombings that targeted churches and other soft targets in nine separate cities, including Jakarta. Seeing as how Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country, it has a greater risk than any other that even a statistically insignificant proportion of terrorist-supporting citizens could wrack disproportionate damage on the country.

For example, if even 0.5% of the people are susceptible to the violent Wahhabist ideology (which is a conservative number, if anything), then that means that 1.25 million people out of the total 250 million citizens in the country could become potential terrorists, terrorist financiers, or supportive operators. With the massive population density present in Java and most of Sumatra, it means that this ultra-minority percentage of the population could inflict terrible harm to the rest of the country throughout the coordinated targeting of multiple soft areas such as cafes, churches, and schools. Worse still, they may not even have to go abroad for their training, as Al Qaeda, ISIL, and their affiliated groups could easily train in one of Indonesia’s thousands of islands, most of which are uninhabited, or even in tense Sulawesi, if not in nearby Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. Indonesia is frankly much too populous and geographically large for the government to fully monitor, and it’s inevitable that certain blind spots will be or are already being exploited by Wahhabist terrorist groups, be they Jemmah Islamiyah, Al Qaeda, ISIL, their affiliates, a new organization, and/or a hybrid combination thereof. 

The View From Jakarta

At this point, quite a lot of history and other national specifics have been laid out in the research, and it’s a given that the reader might feel slightly overwhelmed with everything they’ve encountered so far. The inclusion of so much information was necessary in order to create the strategic backdrop for exploring the Hybrid War threats to Indonesia, the primary purpose of this text. Before getting to that point, however, it’s beneficial to summarize everything that’s been learned up until this time and present it from the perspective of Jakarta’s decision makers. This will help the reader to better comprehend the strategic imperatives of the state and more wholly understand how the forthcoming Hybrid War scenarios pose the direst of dangers to the country’s existence.

The Core Basics:

Indonesia is a geographically broad country filled with thousands of islands and thousands of square miles of seas, but at the end of the day, its core concentration lies in Java and the southern part of Sumatra. If one includes the entirety of the latter island, then these two pieces of land combined comprise around 80% of the country’s total population and economy. Looked at in this way, what may have initially seemed like a staggeringly large country is reduced instead to the study of the two largest islands entirely under Jakarta’s domain, with the rest of the space essentially being relegated as the literal and figurative periphery of Indonesian affairs. Ironic as it is, these two islands constitute only 31.5% of Indonesia’s total landmass, further highlighting just how densely populated and economically productive they are when compared to the rest of the country.

Therefore, from a security standpoint, Wahhabist terrorism on either of these two islands appears to warrant the greatest urgency for the state. As was mentioned just earlier, a small number of radicals could inflict an exponentially destructive amount of force with relatively minimal effort, which of course necessitates that this threat be taken as seriously as possible and a large number of security resources directed towards tackling it. There’s no disputing the logic in this decision since it’s obvious that any country should place a heightened priority towards defending 80% of its population and economy more so than the other 20%, especially if this is densely concentrated enough as to make it practical to do so (being only 31.5% of the given physical territory), but one mustn’t forget the festering problems in the periphery that could easily get out of hand and endanger the entire state’s stability.

If religious tension (in the sense of co-confessional moderates versus misguided radicals) is a threat in the core territories of Java and Sumatra, then the periphery must confront not only this problem (as it has threatened to arise in Sulawesi), but also ethno-religious conflict between disparate identity groups. In some cases there’s an overlap of religion and identity such as when a certain ethnic group largely practices a given religion and these combined ethno-religious factors of differentness form a source of conflict (e.g. the Javanese transmigrants are overwhelming Muslim whereas their recipient host population is mostly Christian and of a different ethnicity), but in the other instances there’s no such double-layered  difference between the antagonists and the only element of separateness is solely religion or ethnicity (e.g. the 2010 Muslim-on-Muslim riots between the Tidung natives and Bugimigrants in Tarakan, North Kalimantan). Both situations present a dilemma for decision makers to rectify, with each having their respective challenges standing in the way of communal reconciliation.

Pancasila As Indonesia’s Panacea?:

The multisided identity conflicts that Indonesia faces have been known about for a long time, and the godfather of the state, Sukarno, was wisely aware of them as well. He knew that no polity had managed to formally unify the region’s islands to the extent that the Dutch had been able to with their East Indies colony, and that the only way to maintain the unified state that he envisioned was to employ an inclusionary and effective ideology, ergo the pronouncement of the Pancasila. To refresh the reader’s memory, the work earlier described this as being Indonesia’s constitutionally incorporated unofficially ideology that stipulates that the country must remain a monotheistic, nationalist, just, welfare state that practices representative democracy. Having been made aware of just how deep Indonesia’s identity divisions run, it should make sense to the reader why the government would need to resort to ideology to keep the peace and sustain nominal unity.

In the absence of a strong state (like had happened after the situational preconditioning that made Suharto’s overthrow possible), there’s no authoritative entity to enforce the existentially necessary ideology that had kept Indonesia together for so long, which is why identity conflicts exploded in the years after his political demise. As an individual man, Suharto himself didn’t have any particularly commendable leadership characteristics that played a decisive role one way or another in maintaining the country’s unity (except, one could cynically say, his penchant for overbearing state-directed violence), but what’s important to realize is that he represented the national strongman, of which there have only been two in Indonesia’s modern history. The structural stability that came with a long-serving leader presiding over the ethno-religiously and geographically divided state is what’s chiefly important when discussing Suharto’s role over Indonesian affairs, and his abrupt resignation at the heat of the unprecedentedly violent protests on Sumatra and Java (recall that this the national core) shook the system to its foundations and exposed it to its most vulnerable state since the brief federalist United States of Indonesia period.

In the post-Suharto period of “Reformasi”, it’s been all but compulsory for the country’s leadership to espouse and physically practice one or two of Pancasila’s principles in order to maintain the country in its present governing-administrative and physical form. The two ideals that were most commonly exercised after 1999 were nationalism (as in a unified Indonesian identity transcending religion and ethnicity) and representative democracy. As could be expected, nationalism took the form of enforcing the country’s unity and putting down the chaotic riots that broke out in North Maluku and Maluku, whereas representative democracy could most clearly be seen by the series of constitutional amendments that were passed in the following years, most of which broke Indonesia closer to fulfilling this ideal in a more substantial manner than its symbolic practice in the past decades. Related to this idea has been the systemic decentralization of administrative responsibilities in spearheading the establishment of 8 new provinces since 1999, in one case in order to dilute Papuan nationalism (hence the creation of West Papua Province), but in the others in order to more effectively govern the given states and appease concerns that had arisen or had the potentially to destabilizingly do so in the future. Regardless of whatever tactical reason is being employed at a certain time, viewed in sense of the general picture, it appears as though the “Reformasi” governments in Indonesia have been even more dependent on Pancasila’s precepts (in whatever form they’re practiced or symbolically evoked) than their two pre-1999 predecessors were.

The Fine Line Between Decentralization And Devolution:

Having expanded on the role of Pancasila in recent Indonesian history, it’s now time to speak a bit more specifically about the last aspect of its practice that had been described, the decentralization of certain administrative regions into new governing entities. It’s true that this is an effective solution to stymying certain identity conflicts and paying preemptive token service to any nascent but possibly one day effective independence or regionalist movements, but there’s also a dual side to this practice that observers may not be aware of. If taken to too far of an extreme, decentralization can cross over into the slippery territory of devolution, whereby the unitary government grants or is pressured to grant autonomy or de-facto privileges thereof to certain regions, which could thus set off a chain reaction of copy-cat movements if it’s not kept tightly under control. The threat of Wahhabist violence is also pronounced, but the nature of that particular danger is less of a geo-demographic issue that can be rectified via an administrative reform than an ideological virus that must be fought against in a completely different manner.

East Timor

East Timor, West Papua, and Aceh are perfect precedents for this, but thus far the government has succeeded in convincing the citizenry that they were isolated cases that called for exceptional solutions. Portugal’s prior possession had never been integrated into the Dutch-unified East Indies space, and thus was an historical-regional anomaly in many ways. Even so, after the government decided to put its decades-long occupation up to a democratic vote there, it still offered residents what would have at that time been an unprecedented autonomous regime. Although they didn’t agree to it, the government set its own precedent by proposing such a measure.

West Papua

Afterwards, the former colony of Netherlands New Guinea was granted autonomy in 2001, but this still hasn’t been enough to placate the people’s yearnings. Also, the supposed autonomy was never granted in practice to the substantial extent that Indonesia routinely tries to present it as on both the world and domestic stages. Nevertheless, even if one cynically sees it as only being a symbolic public relations gesture, then it’s still much more than other beleaguered provinces have received, particularly North Maluku and Maluku after their identity destabilizations (which, it must be noted, never took a particularly anti-government and/or separatist/autonomist platform).


The same can’t be said for Aceh, which like the work earlier described, had fought against Jakarta since right around the time of East Timor’s struggle, but ended up agreeing to and consequently receiving actual broad-based autonomy. To reference what was mentioned before, Aceh is the only region in Indonesia that implements Sharia law to all of the people within its territory (both Muslims and non-Muslims alike) and for every kind of crime. Additionally, it also has the right to receive 70% of all energy revenue that the state derives from the province, which makes it doubly unique in the country in terms of its administrative privileges.

Structural Summary

To reiterate the pattern that’s been explicitly expressed so far, the only regions that have been offered autonomy (whether of the symbolic or substantial forms) have been the ones that seriously rebelled against the government at one time. Intercommunal bloodletting like the kind present in North Maluku, Maluku, Sulawesi, and Kalimantan, while undermining state stability due to the contagion effect of identity conflict that it could spark elsewhere in the country, doesn’t explicitly pose as much of a threat to Indonesia’s unity as the anti-state rebellions/liberation campaigns (however the reader personally describes them) in East Timor, West Papua, and Aceh.

Going Too Far

Proposing autonomy in one form or another may seem like or actually has been the proper solution in each case, but the central government can’t continue to do this each and every time an anti-government insurgency sprouts up. If it did, then the end result would be that the most of the country would end up “autonomous”, essentially setting the stage for a federalized entity quite similar to the fleeting United States of Indonesia period, albeit likely without the geographically large and nominally unified “East Indonesia” administrative entity.

There’s always the risk that the government could be pressured to go too far, too fast, and this in turn could unintentionally (or purposefully so, if it’s engineered from abroad and for this very reason) create a semi-uncontrollable momentum towards what would in effect be a state-breaking federalization that could administratively undermine the entire country if implemented clumsily enough like in Bosnia. The difference between the Federation of Bosnia & Herzegovina and any theoretical Indonesian Federation is that the second one is the geo-maritime gatekeeper between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the two littoral areas predicted to be the engines of the 21st-century global economy.

Jakarta’s Worst Nightmare:

The last thing that Indonesia’s leaders want to have happen is that the governing-administrative model devolves to the point of becoming unmanageable. The federalization fear that was described above could likely only come about via a series of nationwide destabilizations, whether synchronized with one another or separately carried, and only in the scenario that the country and its military are too weak to propose anything other than autonomy as a solution. The catalyst for debilitating the state to the point where it’s largely helpless in effectively defending its integrity and/or is distracted with a swarm of crises is to manufacture another economic meltdown similar to the one from 1997, whether or not it goes regional or global in its aftershocks or originates outside of or inside of Indonesia. It’s also not clear at this point whether it would be more effective for the autonomist-federalist cause if this happens before or during a series of nationwide identity clashes (be they coordinated with others or independently carried out), but either way, this is the decisive scenario development that would need to take place in order to actualize Jakarta’s greatest fear.

In the eventuality that this occurs for whatever the strategic reason may be (even if the scenario spirals out of control and negates its intended objectives), an incoherent and semi-functioning failing state at this key global junction would create a disastrous and easily manipulatable situation which could predictably impact quite negatively on the global economy. The external actors that hold sway over the federalized remnants of the once-unified country would be in a major position to influence trade between these two oceans, alternatively obstructing their competitors’ routes (e.g. blocking the Straits of Malacca and Sunda with calculated ship sinkings) while securing their own heavily defended detours (e.g. via the ‘island-fortresses’ that they may occupy in “East Indonesia”) in order to tax and control the trade that resultantly passes by them.

This reality would have been preceded by a scramble for maritime influence unseen before in history, with the only relative comparison being the Scramble for Africa which took place over a much larger space and decades-long period. Instead, the ‘Scramble for (Former) Indonesia’ would be a lot quicker and concentrated in a much tighter space, possibly even set off by a rapid Yugoslav-like dissolution of the unitary Indonesian state and/or its autonomous-federal entities in this scenario. Conceivably, the ‘rationale’ of “humanitarian intervention” could be called upon by outside powers in intervene in any of the given quasi-independent island states or chains there, modeled off of the approach that was utilized in East Timor in 1999 and 2006, and conceptually even in the footsteps of the 2003 Solomon Islands operation (all three of which were led by Australia, one of the US’ Lead From Behind partners). Each of the presumed rival actors partaking in this scramble would eventually seek to consolidate their gains after some point, which might lead to unexpected alliances between various parties, either of the formal nature or something more tacit such as limited anti-piracy missions that belie deeper cooperation.