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Economists with Guns: Authoritarian Development and U.S.-Indonesian Relations, 1960-1968
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The book shows how the U.S. tried to use foreign aid to build up Indonesian anti-Communist groups and to link Indonesia to global markets and U.S.-supported security alliances. I took off one star mainly because the analysis, based largely on declassified U.S. documents, is heavily Washington-centric. Indonesian players have walk-on roles when they appear in U.S. memos and cables, but they don't star in the show. Unfortunately, presenting the story through a U.S. lens could mislead careless readers into thinking that Washington was pulling the strings in Jakarta. In reality, the U.S. embassy was often behind the curve and had little influence on local events, which unfolded according to their own logic. This situation only changed in 1966/67, when national bankruptcy forced the new military government to seek help from donors such as the U.S., Japan, and the IMF.
The book's DC-centric bias is most egregious in the retelling of the Indonesian Army's massacre of Communists in 1965/66. As the book makes clear, the U.S. cheered on and extended limited covert support to the killers. Our behavior was disgraceful.Read more ›