Thank you very much for that introduction. And a special thanks to the Indonesian Council on World Affairs for organizing this event on relatively short notice. And it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak here today.
Earlier this afternoon, I met with the defense minister, the coordinating minister, and the president. We discussed a range of security issues that affect our respective nations and Southeast Asia more broadly – issues that I’d like to discuss this afternoon.
A seasoned observer of Indonesia once remarked, “When you meet someone who declares they are an Indonesian expert, be careful.” That is still good advice. I certainly am not an expert on this nation. But I do know that the American and Indonesian peoples share the same principles of tolerance, pluralism, and religious freedom that Indonesia embodied in its basic charter, the principles of the pancasila. We held to these beliefs even if, at various times in our histories, our respective governments’ actions did not always match these ideals.
Indonesia's conduct of foreign policy also reflects the values of its people: a strong tradition of consultation, deliberation, and respect for differing opinions among your neighbors in Southeast Asia. For the United States, Indonesia continues to be a close friend and partner – one with important regional, and global, roles.
The ties between our two governments go back almost six decades, when America supported Indonesian independence after World War II despite our close ties to the Dutch. Today’s friendship rests on past links and old affinities, but also has assumed new prominence and importance in the last few years.
This country has seen extraordinary changes over the past decade – first and foremost, a profound transition from decades of military-dominated rule to its current standing as one of the world’s newest and most vital democracies. This shift has been all the more remarkable given that, during this time period, Indonesia experienced:
· A devastating tsunami;
· One of the world’s most severe monetary and banking crises;
· A rise in extremist activity, including a number of terrorist attacks;
· A transforming experiment in government decentralization; and
· Major reforms within the armed forces – a process that has helped restore military-to-military relationships between our two countries.
These internal changes have played out against the backdrop of great shifts in the region as a whole. Since the end of the Cold War, Asia’s security environment has undergone remarkable change – spurred in part by globalization and by the technological revolution of the last two decades. In recent years, the nations of Asia have, for the most part, achieved unprecedented wealth and stature as they have forged more mature political, economic, and military institutions.
A pan-Asian spirit and set of overlapping and often informal institutions have arisen as the nations of the region increasingly look to cooperation with each other to solve problems – with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations being one example.
Simultaneously, when it comes to freedom, or standards of living, or security, the people of Asia are expecting more from themselves – and from their governments. Your president noted as much when he said: “All over the world, people are seized with a desire to take their destiny in their own hands, to personally choose who will govern them, and to take part in the decision-making processes that affect their lives.”
All the while, new centers of power, as well as new sources of instability, are altering Asia’s strategic landscape:
· There is the rise of India – now a close partner of the United States, and a major military and economic power in its own right;
· China has emerged as an economic colossus and is translating commercial success into growing political influence and military might;
· Russia – also a Pacific nation – has rebounded from the chaos and destitution of the post-Soviet period with new wealth, ambitions, and assertiveness on the international stage;
· North Korea continues to be an isolated, desolate exception to the growing prosperity and freedom of the region. It is a threat to its democratic neighbor to the south and to others. By developing the capability to build, and possibly proliferate, nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, North Korea has become a regional problem with very serious global implications.
Furthermore, in Asia the traditional dilemmas posed by rising, resurgent, or rogue nation states coexist with a range of diverse, unconventional threats that transcend national borders. Some are ancient – such as piracy, ethnic strife, and poverty. Others are of more recent vintage: terrorist networks harnessing new technologies; weapons proliferation; environmental degradation; and the emergence of deadly and contagious diseases that can spread more rapidly than ever before in human history.
What these challenges have in common is that they simply cannot be overcome by one, or even two countries, no matter how wealthy or powerful. They require multiple nations acting with uncommon unity – developing areas where each partner can bring its unique capabilities to bear.
This prompts three questions I would like to explore with the remainder of my time: First, what is the role of the United States in this transformed and shifting environment? Second, what new capabilities and approaches to security are we pursuing in light of Asia’s new realities? And third, where does America’s partnership with Indonesia fit into this wider context?
I should start by reaffirming that the United States is and always will be a Pacific nation. America has paid a significant price in blood and treasure to fight aggression, deter potential adversaries, extend freedom, and maintain the peace and prosperity of this part of the world. We have done so over many generations and across many presidential administrations. Our commitment to the region is just as strong today as it has ever been. And I am confident that commitment will remain strong in the future.
The challenge for the United States has been to fashion defense policies that adapt to these new security realities – but do so in a way that preserves and protects our fundamental – and enduring – interests and values on the Pacific Rim.
Consider our relationships with long-standing treaty allies Japan and South Korea. We entered into these alliances in the early years of the Cold War when both nations were impoverished and virtually destroyed.
Of course, Korea and Japan have since become economic powerhouses with modern, well-trained and equipped armed forces. But when President Bush took office, U.S. troops were still based more or less where they had been for the past half century. As Korea and Japan are more willing and able to take responsibility for their own defense, we have reduced the size and role of our armed forces in each country to a posture that is more appropriate to that of a partner, as opposed to a patron or a protector.
These changes do not alter our fundamental commitment to the security of these allies or to protecting our interests in northwest Asia. Our treaty guarantees to Korea and Japan, as well as to Australia, are as solemn and firm as ever. In the central and western Pacific, we are actually increasing our military presence, with new air, naval, and marine assets based over the horizon in Guam – prepared to respond to a number of contingencies, natural or man-made.
What we have seen in Asia in recent years is a very real shift that reflects new thinking in U.S. defense strategy overall. A shift away from the permanent presence of, and direct action by, U.S. forces – and toward the building of the capacity of partners to better defend themselves. A shift away from conventional military deterrence as traditionally understood – think of mechanized divisions poised along the Korean demilitarized zone or the central plains of Germany. A shift toward a mix of the so-called “hard” and “soft” elements of national power – where military, diplomatic, economic, cultural, and humanitarian elements are integrated in an effort to ensure long-term security based on our own capabilities but also on the enhanced capabilities of our partners. It is an approach that brings together various parts of the United States government to work more closely with diverse partners with a range of shared interests – from old allies such as Australia to former enemies like Vietnam.
When my colleague, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, spoke to this council two years ago, she discussed a host of issues from education to economics to democracy. While my main topic today is security, it has become clear in the last two decades that “security” encompasses far more than just military power. This comprehensive approach to security mirrors the current Indonesian model: As your president said before this council with his first major foreign policy speech: “we cannot have security without development, nor can we have development without security, nor can we have both of them without respect for human right[s].” Indonesia’s previous leaders also made the same point.
In this vein, the United States military – even with ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq – is engaged with more Asian governments doing more things in more constructive ways than at any time in our history. Which brings me to the second topic I want to discuss: capabilities and new approaches to security.
One of the areas in which we are most engaged is maritime security – and efforts to combat piracy and proliferation. United States Pacific Command works closely with a number of nations – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and more – to provide the training and equipment – from radars to patrol craft – enabling them to assert control over waterways that have been used by drug smugglers, weapons smugglers, and terrorists. The United States has also provided assistance designed to help Indonesia work with Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and others to secure and improve transit routes such as the Strait of Malacca.
In addition to improving the capabilities of our Southeast Asian partners, we are encouraging them wherever possible to partner and cooperate more with their neighbors and other nations. Here we are trying to overcome the conventions and habits of the Cold War. For decades after World War II, Asia’s security architecture mostly reflected a “hub and spokes” model, with the United States as the “hub” and the “spokes” representing a series of bilateral alliances with other countries that did not necessarily cooperate much with each other. Moving forward, we would like to see a good deal more cooperation among our allies and security partners – more multilateral ties rather than hubs and spokes. This does not mean any weakening of our bilateral ties, but rather enhancing security by adding to them multilateral cooperation.
The many ASEAN regional security workshops provide one example – and I should add that ASEAN would not have emerged or survived without Indonesian leadership.
Another example of multilateral cooperation is the trilateral security dialogue between the United States, Japan, and Australia. Or consider our annual “Cobra Gold” exercise with Thailand, which began a quarter century ago as a strictly bilateral, mostly conventional set of military maneuvers between the United States and Thailand. By last year, however, it involved 20 participating and observing nations – including Indonesia – and ranged from combat training to humanitarian assistance.
These kinds of efforts have faced no shortage of obstacles. Countries have sometimes found it hard to work with us, or with each other. But we believe that the nations of the region must move in a more multilateral direction in order to deal with the most pressing threats in this era.
One of those central threats, and one that cannot be overcome without close cooperation between and among countries, is of course terrorism – as an ideological movement, as a criminal enterprise, as a scourge that transcends borders, peoples, and religions. Terrorists have learned to use to their advantage the strengths of modern and modernizing societies – our technology and infrastructure, and in the case of democracies, our freedoms and openness.
They are not necessarily seeking to take over and rule countries, as was the case with the leaders of aggressor states and guerrilla movements of the 20th Century – such as Mao Tse-Tung, Ho Chi Minh, or Kim Il Sung. Instead, Al Qaeda and like-minded regional groups such as Abu Sayyaf look to weaken states, in order to take advantage of lawlessness and vacuums of authority that may result. And they pursue that goal whatever the cost.
Many of the challenges I have mentioned – terrorism, maritime security issues, and others – are of special importance in this archipelago. With its pluralistic population, its historical leadership role in Southeast Asia, and its vast geography, Indonesia is considered by many to be an indicator of the health of the entire region. And so the final question I want to address is how the United States can work with Indonesia in the future.
For many years, one of the pillars of Indonesia has been the military. In recent times, the Indonesian military has become more capable, more professional, and more comfortable under civilian leadership. Aside from the Philippines, Indonesia is the largest recipient of U.S. security assistance in the region. And last year, President Bush and President Yudhoyono agreed to expand our military-to-military relations.
I should note that some of our friends here may believe that America continues to restrict arms sales to Indonesia. That is not the case. Full normalization of military-to-military ties occurred in November 2005 – and the arms embargo ended at that time. There are, however, statutory guidelines that sometimes impede our efforts to follow through on military sales – something that happens with many other nations and a problem we are working to fix. Delays also occur due to bureaucratic inertia. As many have learned, dealing with an entity as cumbersome as the United States government is not a mission for either the impatient or the faint of heart.
Through our own military transformation efforts in recent years, we have gained fresh appreciation for the reality that changing the habits of any large, established institution is exceedingly difficult. At the same time, some traditions must be preserved. From our earliest days, Americans have believed that, in a democracy, the armed forces must be firmly, and unquestionably, under civilian control. This is a tradition that took firm root in our Revolutionary War some 230 years ago when the commander of the American army, George Washington, subordinated himself to the elected national legislature. A French observer wrote at the time, “This is the seventh year that he has commanded the army, and that he has obeyed the Congress; more need not be said.”
In addition to the importance of civilian control of the military, there cannot even be a taint of corruption or a hint of tolerance for human-rights abuses. In our own case, we insist upon investigating and prosecuting allegations of corruption or abuse within our armed forces – as painful as that process may be. Along with civilian control, integrity and strict adherence to regulations and the law are the foundation upon which a professional military must be built in a democracy.
As Indonesia and the United States work more closely together, I invite our Indonesian friends to take two steps in particular. First, we are ready to help you continue the process of defense reform. Second, we are ready to help you in specific defense capabilities, especially in the airlift and maritime domains. Any initiative along these lines by the government of Indonesia will be met with strong United States support.
We regard the development of the Indonesian armed forces as both a key component of our relationship going forward, and a vital aspect of Indonesia’s emergence as a prosperous and stable democracy with global reach. We greatly value Indonesia’s peacekeeping roles across the world, in UN missions in Lebanon, Congo, Liberia, Georgia, Nepal, and Sudan. Indeed, the decision to extend Indonesian participation in Lebanon has greatly helped efforts to stabilize that troubled country. We support your nation taking on more global responsibilities in the future, and we are committed to helping accelerate this process wherever we can.
I would like to close by taking a step back and speaking in more general terms about American foreign policy. It is no secret that we are engaged across the globe – in many more countries than the ones that garner daily headlines. At times, this leads people to question our motives – to ask why we are engaged in certain places, and for what purpose.
When all is said and done, I believe that an underlying theme of American history is that we are compelled to defend our security and our interests in ways that, in the long run, lead to the spread of democratic values and institutions. That is to say, the spread of freedom and security in places like Indonesia both manifests our ideals and protects our interests.
Throughout more than two centuries, the United States has made its share of mistakes. From time to time, we have strayed from our ideals and we have been arrogant in dealing with others. In the end, we have always realized that our own democracy’s strength ultimately depends on the strength and independence of other democracies around the world – including new ones such as Indonesia.
Indeed, in carefully calibrating and refining all of these important relationships, we are guided by one imperative: to make each more relevant, more resilient, more responsive, and more enduring. That imperative applies with special force here in Southeast Asia’s bedrock country.
And so, I will finish by saying of our friend and partner, Indonesia raya, merdeka, merdeka. Thank you.