- Civil-Military Relations in Indonesia after the Reform Period
Indonesia, Indonesian Military, TNI, Civil-Military Relations
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This article analyzes civil-military relations in Indonesia by examining the creeping renewal of military involvement in national policy implementation and the key drivers that contribute to this trend.
For much of Indonesia's post-independence history, the military has been the country's dominant institution. After President Suharto's New Order collapsed in 1998, the country introduced frameworks to strengthen oversight of the military, professionalize it, and make it accountable to civilian authority. However, President Joko Widodo and other national leaders have continued to employ political patronage toward high-ranking officers to strengthen their own power bases. Moreover, devolved authority, complex bureaucracy, and a lack of capacity often hinder the implementation of high-profile national policies at the local level. To address these shortcomings, leaders have turned to expanding the role of the military in policy implementation. At the same time, regulatory loopholes provide room for the government to lure the military out of the barracks and conversely allow the military to continue its nondefense engagement. This has given rise to a new civil-military relationship characterized by need-based and transactional fusionism, in which the military is equal rather than subordinate to civilian authority.
• Despite extensive reform efforts aimed at abolishing its traditional dual-function doctrine, the Indonesian military is experiencing a resurgence of involvement in nondefense areas.
• Considering that there is no clear oversight or legal framework to regulate military assistance in nondefense policies, there is a probability that the military will override civilian authority. In this way, the military may seek to dominate government institutions and policies that intersect with its security interests.
• Growing military involvement in nondefense policy in the form of need-based and transaction fusionism creates a dependency mentality and prolongs deficiencies in civilian institutions.
• There is a need to implement existing laws and introduce innovations in doctrine to reduce the propensity for the military to intervene in civilian affairs. [End Page 50]
For most of its post-independence existence, the Indonesian military (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, or TNI) has been deeply involved in civilian matters. Although its sociopolitical role was abolished and some degree of civilian authority over the military was established after the fall of President Suharto's New Order regime, which was sustained for more than three decades by draconian military rule, the TNI has again begun to demonstrate increased involvement in nondefense policy. Under the leadership of President Joko Widodo, known popularly as Jokowi, the TNI has signed more than a dozen memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with various civilian institutions and ministries in sectors ranging from agriculture to infrastructure development. Despite extensive efforts aimed at abolishing the dual-function doctrine and ending military involvement in social, business, and political affairs, among other areas, these reforms have failed to fully curb the resurgence of military involvement in nondefense policy.1 This raises a number of questions: Why does the military continue to be active in nondefense affairs despite reform of the security sector? What factors drive or enable the growing involvement of the TNI? What does this trend portend for the pattern of civil-military relations in Indonesia?
This article primarily argues that political considerations are driving civilian authorities at both the central and regional levels to solicit assistance from the military. President Jokowi seeks to strengthen his political base in order to balance against powerful vested interests confronting him and to ensure that his high-profile policies are enforced down to the local level. Additionally, despite the proliferation of local governments and government agencies, these institutions lack the administrative and management capacity to implement and enforce policies, given the complex bureaucratic process, sheer size, and dispersed makeup of the archipelagic country. As such, involving the military in national policy is driven by political necessity.2 Regulatory loopholes left unaddressed by recent security sector reforms have also enabled the civilian government to lure the military partially out of the barracks and provided opportunities for the military to continue its [End Page 51...