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Indonesia Table of Contents


National Defense and Internal Security

Total People's Defense

ABRI's military operations relied on a well-developed doctrine of national defense called Total People's Defense, based on experiences during the struggle for independence. This doctrine proclaimed that Indonesia could neither afford to maintain a large military apparatus nor would it compromise its hard-won independence by sacrificing its nonaligned status and depending on other nations to provide its defense. Instead, the nation would defend itself through a strategy of territorial guerrilla warfare in which the armed forces, deployed throughout the nation, would serve as a cadre force to rally and lead the entire population in a people's war of defense. Military planners envisioned a three-stage war, comprising a short initial period in which an invader would defeat conventional Indonesian resistance and establish its own control, a long period of unconventional, regionally based fighting, and a final phase in which the invaders would eventually be repelled.

The success of this strategy, according to the doctrine, required that a close bond be maintained between citizen and soldier to encourage the support of the entire population and enable the military to manage all war-related resources. In this scenario, the people would provide logistical support, intelligence, and upkeep, and, as resources permitted, some civilians would be organized, trained, and armed to join the guerrilla struggle. In trying to attain these goals, ABRI maintained a territorial organization, run largely by the army, to support public order. This group exercised considerable influence over local decisions regarding such matters as population redistribution, the production of food and strategic materials, and the development of air and sea transportation. Armed forces personnel also continued to engage in large-scale civic action projects involving community and rural development in order to draw closer to the people, to ensure the continued support of the populace, and to develop among military personnel a detailed knowledge of the region to which they were assigned. The largest of these programs, the Armed Forces Enters the Village (AMD) began in 1983 and was to continue indefinitely. It consisted of nationwide civic action campaigns held roughly three times a year to provide assistance in planning and constructing rural and urban projects selected by local villagers.

The Total People's Defense strategy did not apply in some of the major actions Indonesia had engaged in since independence. For example, during the Confrontation with Malaysia from 1963 to 1966, ABRI engaged Malaysian forces in guerrilla warfare without the support of the border peoples of Sarawak and Sabah; in the dispute with the Dutch over West New Guinea in the mid-1960s, ABRI fought against Dutch troops. These conflicts were fought in territory outside the effective jurisdiction of the national government where the Indonesian armed forces lacked the support of the civilian population and where the concept of Total People's Defense could not be implemented. However, because the framers of the 1945 constitution had declared these areas as naturally belonging to Indonesia, national authorities declared that these conflicts were anticolonial wars and in fact represented the completion of the war of independence begun in 1945 (see Sukarno's Foreign Policy , ch. 1; The Constitutional Framework , ch. 4).

Data as of November 1992