THOUGHTS AND COFFEE #6: A case against the military’s newfound ‘proxy war’ obsession

This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post, 22 December 2016.

The Indonesian Military (TNI) has become increasingly obsessed with selling the idea that Indonesia is in the midst of a “proxy war”. Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo has led this charge since 2014, when he traveled around the country to speak about how Indonesia was in the middle of a proxy war. In 2015, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu joined the bandwagon, claiming that the LGBT movement is a form of proxy warfare that is even worse than a nuclear bomb. Recently, Gatot devised a media proxy war defense pact, signed by Nahdatul Ulama, the Teachers Union and the Association of Publishers.

Is a proxy war truly happening in Indonesia? Or is it just an attempt for the military – especially the Army – to regain its political relevance? With such fierce campaigning from the military and government officials, it pays to step back and revisit the concept of proxy wars and how they are waged.

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THOUGHTS AND COFFEE #5: Indonesia’s Global Maritime Fulcrum: An Updated Archipelagic Outlook?

This article was originally published in The Diplomat, 17 December 2016.

Download the PDF here.


The previous Archipelagic Outlook strategy was inward focused; the new policy looks beyond Indonesia’s borders.

A recently published document titled Buku Putih Poros Maritim Dunia [Global Maritime Fulcrum White Paper] finally brings an authoritative voice to Indonesia’s Global Maritime Fulcrum (GMF) vision. The objective-oriented, 53-page publication constructs a narrative on the importance of the seas to Indonesia, the future trajectory of the GMF as Indonesia’s maritime vision, and the possible ways to achieve those ambitious ends.

Although the concept of the GMF was christened by President Joko Widodo, the policy objectives stated in the GMF White Paper are still largely rooted in the Archipelagic Outlook (Wawasan Nusantara). The GMF White Paper lists the Archipelagic Outlook as one of six fundamental principles on which the GMF is supposed to be founded. Is the GMF just really the Archipelagic Outlook with a new coat of paint? Or is it a shift from its predecessor?

Continue reading “THOUGHTS AND COFFEE #5: Indonesia’s Global Maritime Fulcrum: An Updated Archipelagic Outlook?”

THOUGHTS AND COFFEE #4: Towards a ‘greener’ Indonesia?

In October 2016, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) launched their first demonstration against Jakarta’s Chinese-Christian governor, Basuki Purnama, or better known as “Ahok”. Their chant was to not let Jakarta — a city that is by character pluralistic although Muslims and Javanese make up the majority — be governed by a leader who is not Muslim and Javanese. They quoted scripture, specifically a verse from the Quran (Qs. Al-Maidah: 51), which they interpret does not allow Muslims to elect or be led by a leader who is not a Muslim.

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THOUGHTS AND COFFEE #3: Uphill battle for Indonesia’s defense modernization

This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post, 1 November 2016.


The more expert analyses I read on the issue of naval and defense modernization in Indonesia, the more I realize that there are many challenges ahead. Though Jokowi does have a grand maritime vision for the country, there are a lot of challenges ahead before Indonesia can become a global maritime fulcrum in Southeast Asia.

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THOUGHTS AND COFFEE #2: A volatile brew of politics and hardline Islam in Indonesia

The year is 2030, fourteen years after the united uprising of the White Cloaks in Indonesia. Trade with the outside world has stifled. The air is polluted with the continuous raucous calls to prayer. Children and adults travel the streets in constant fear. Women have it the hardest; they have to cover themselves from head to toe in black garb. Any women found not wearing the obligatory black garb, be they of other religious affinity, shall be punished by stoning. Any form of expression that contradicts the values of the White Cloaks is punished by death. Apostasy and atheism are both met with the cold, hard end of a steel cudgel.

Does that sound dystopian enough for you? It might not be fiction for long.

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THOUGHTS AND COFFEE #1: A “David among Goliaths” or Eloquent Web-spinner?

A video (above) has spread overnight of an Indonesian representative to the United Nations General Assembly using their right of reply to a statement made by seven Pacific islands. The countries in question are Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Tongo, Palau, Nauru, and the Marshall Islands. The issue was regarding human rights violations in Papua. They are referring to the continued repression by the Indonesian armed forces against the Papuan separatists (or perhaps, dissidents).

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