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Finalising the nation: The Indonesian military as the guarantor of national unity

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The Indonesian military sees itself as the guarantor of national unity, the state's last line of defence against separatist movements. This paper argues that the military's methods for maintaining national unity have been counterproductive. Its counter-insurgency wars in Aceh and Papua have exacerbated the sense of alienation from Indonesia that the people in these provinces have felt. In this post-Suharto era of political reform, the military has been unable to recognise that its old methods have failed, even after its obvious failure in East Timor, whose people, after living under a 24-year military occupation, rejected continued integration with Indonesia in a referendum in 1999. The fact that the politicians in the legislative and executive branches of the state have tended to encourage the military to persist with its old methods suggests that the military by itself should not be faulted. Only political resolutions, such as the Helsinki agreement for ending the conflict in Aceh – an agreement that resulted more from the devastation of the December 2004 tsunami than from the Indonesian military's counter-insurgency warfare – offer any guarantee of national unity.
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Keywords: Aceh; East Timor; Indonesian military; Papua; counter-insurgency warfare

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of History, University of British Columbia, Rm 1297, 1873 East Mall, Vancouver BC, Canada V6T-1Z1., Email:

Publication date: 2007-04-01

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