The Politics of Military Reform in Post-Suharto Indonesia: Elite Conflict, Nationalism, and Institutional Resistance


Marcus Mietzner

Policy Studies, No. 23


Washington, D.C.: East-West Center

Publication Date: 2006
ISBN: 978-1-932728-44-6
Binding: paper
Pages: x, 86
Free Download: PDF


This study discusses the process of military reform in Indonesia after the fall of Suharto's New Order regime in 1998. The extent of Indonesia's progress in this area has been the subject of heated debate, both in Indonesia and in Western capitals. Human rights organizations and critical academics, on the one hand, have argued that the reforms implemented so far have been largely superficial, and that Indonesia's armed forces remain a highly problematic institution. Foreign proponents of military assistance to Indonesia, on the other hand, have asserted that the military has undergone radical change, as evidenced by its complete extraction from political institutions. This study evaluates the state of military reform eight years after the end of authoritarian rule, pointing to both significant achievements and serious shortcomings. Although the armed forces in the new democratic polity no longer function as the backbone of a powerful centralist regime and have lost many of their previous privileges, the military has been able to protect its core institutional interests by successfully fending off demands to reform the territorial command structure. As the military's primary source of political influence and off-budget revenue, the persistence of the territorial system has ensured that the Indonesian armed forces have not been fully subordinated to democratic civilian control. This ambiguous transition outcome so far poses difficult challenges to domestic and foreign policymakers, who have to find ways of effectively engaging with the military to drive the reform process forward.