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  • Civil-military Relations in Indonesia: The Politics of Military Operations Other Than War by Muhamad Haripin
  • Natalie Sambhi (bio)
Civil-military Relations in Indonesia: The Politics of Military Operations Other Than War. By Muhamad Haripin. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2020. Hardcover: 174 pp.

In 1998, after three decades of playing a pervasive social, political and economic role in the country, the Indonesian military (TNI) suddenly found itself out of a job—that is, the job of running the country. In the wake of the crippling 1997–98 Asian Financial Crisis, President Soeharto stepped down, paving the way for democratization and reforms. During this reformasi era, the TNI adopted a doctrine known as the "New Paradigm", intended to transition the armed forces away from internal security and politics towards greater professionalization in areas such as external security and peacekeeping. This "refunctionalization" of the military was supposed to play a key role in resetting the armed forces' culture and behaviour. However, this period of internal changes and new laws from 1998 to 2007 pales in comparison to three decades of power and influence, and a mindset of being the "guardian of the nation" cultivated since the 1940s. Despite the appearances of democratic civilian control, particularly during President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's tenure (2004–14), the question remains: Has the Indonesian military really reformed?

Muhamad Haripin's book, Civil-military Relations in Indonesia: The Politics of Military Operations Other Than War, is a fresh take on military reform in the post-Soeharto era. It is a welcome addition to a rich canon of writing on civil-military relations in Indonesia by scholars such as Harold Crouch, Ulf Sundhaussen, Bilveer Singh, Salim Said, Jun Honna, Marcus Mietzner, Evan Laksmana and Lieutenant General (rtd) Agus Widjojo. While his argument is not ground-breaking—that is, despite the onset of democracy, the military has not entirely depoliticized—his approach is novel. Rather than investigate the ways in which the military has crept back into politics or business, Haripin looks at how the TNI has leveraged Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) as a means of maintaining its influence and tempering greater democratic civilian control.

In his view, one of the sources of the military's ongoing influence is the territorial command system—a relic from the Cold War era of greater domestic instability—that allows the military a presence from headquarters to the regional, district, subdistrict and even village levels. This system has not only facilitated intelligence gathering and close contact with the people, but also rent-seeking [End Page 446] opportunities in remote areas, away from the gaze of the capital. Once discussed as an area of reform after 1998, the system has remained firmly intact, and, according to Haripin, has enabled the military to entrench its institutional interests.

Based on his doctoral research, supplemented later with written sources and interviews, Haripin explores three areas of MOOTW purported to be examples of the military's increased postreformasi professionalism: United Nations peacekeeping operations (UNPKO); humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR); and counterterrorism missions (CT). In each case he provides a detailed history of the activity and how it relates to the territorial command system. For example, in the case of peacekeeping, a push for an increased international profile under President Yudhoyono meant greater resources for the Indonesian military. Pointing to its successes as part of UN contingents in places like Lebanon, the TNI argued that community engagement skills gained during time spent in territorial commands directly supported missions abroad, in turn justifying the continued existence of its sprawling domestic presence.

The book's central theme is the Indonesian military's ability to capitalize on its new roles, and how it has successfully rebranded itself—from a repressive, authoritarian New Order force to domestic heroes and international ambassadors in the roles of relief workers and peacekeepers, respectively.

Haripin's enquiry into military professionalism is timely given Indonesia's democratic regression and because the military has become ever more prominent in civilian affairs. Freedom House's 2020 democracy index rated Indonesia as "Partly Free", a concerning assessment given that the country's overall ranking has dropped over the past four years under Jokowi from 65 in...


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pp. 446-448
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