Back to the Barracks: Getting the Indonesian Military Out of Politics, 1998-2000

In May 1998, Indonesia’s armed forces, which had marched in lockstep with the Suharto regime for more than three decades, were poised to begin a stunning about-face. Suharto, a former major general, had resigned when antigovernment protests rapidly escalated, and his departure opened the door for a small group of military leaders to implement reforms they had discussed quietly for years. Agus Widjojo, one of the officers, drafted a plan that would change the relationship between civilian government and the armed forces. His New Paradigm reform agenda called for eliminating the military from many aspects of politics and governance in which it had long played a dominant role. From 1998 to 2000, the military severed its ties with the ruling party, agreed to reduce its representation in the parliament, ordered active-duty officers to leave many posts in civilian government, and separated the police from the armed forces. The changes represented a major break with the past and set the stage for civilian-led reforms to enhance elected government’s control over military institutions and defense policy.

This teaching case is available here.

Authored by Tristan Dreisbach.

Published by Innovations for Successful Societies.

Indonesia, Politics, SecurityNYSEAN