chapter
17 Pages

Factionalism

Within Indonesia’s military, there has long been competition between the three services, the army, navy and air force. The army has occupied the preeminent position among the services, through its role in the revolution, its influence in and at times control over the political process, its active dual function, notably through the Territorial structure, and its capacity to conduct private business. As Indonesia is an archipelic state, the navy has also played an important role. Yet because the state has primarily faced problems from within, the role of the navy has largely been to transport soldiers from one point in the archipelago to another. It might be argued that the Navy’s external security role is more important than its simple capacity to transport troops, and this would be correct. But given that Indonesia has not faced a seaborne threat of any type since 1962, and then only in terms of a localised threat from the Dutch in their defence of West Papua, the primary role of the navy does not directly address the overwhelmingly most important function of the military, which is to secure the internal cohesion of the state. Similarly, the air force is able to play a role in both external defence (in theory, as it has never been applied in practice), and in maintaining internal cohesion. Indeed, air power lends the Indonesian military its single greatest tactical advantage over separatists, who have had neither air power nor meaningful air defences.1 That said, conventional attack aircraft have been of limited use against guerrillas, although specifically designed ground attack aircraft such as US-supplied Broncos, the British made Hawk2 and of course helicopters, have assisted the military greatly, especially in East Timor and in terms of transport in Aceh and West Papua. However, as overwhelmingly the largest, the most directly connected, and historically the most politically conservative branch of the armed forces, the army has always dominated the other two services.