50 Years of CSIS: Ideas and Policy in Indonesia, by Peter McCawley.

AuthorGrenville, Steve

50 Years of CSIS: Ideas and Policy in Indonesia, by Peter McCawley. Jakarta: Centre for Strategic and International Studies, 2021. Pp. 342.

To celebrate its first fifty years, Indonesia's Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has published a history authored by the Australian National University's Peter McCawley, a lifetime scholar of Indonesia.

CSIS describes itself as "a policy-oriented research institution that focuses primarily on strategic thinking in international relations, domestic politics and economic issues", but its remit and operations have stretched way beyond those of a conventional think-tank. It has been a direct and influential force in the policymaking process, close to President Suharto for the first two vital decades of his three-decade era and an important policy voice for over fifty years.

Thus, this narrative provides an account of Indonesia's transformation from the economic and political chaos of President Sukarno's Guided Democracy, which had risked turning the country into a failed state and regional pariah, to the Indonesia of today--an economically successful democracy.

In the 1960s, Indonesia transitioned via a dramatic coup attempt that installed the second president, Suharto, accompanied by a bloody score-settling between Muslims (backed by the army) and communists in 1965. Suharto's New Order government tamed hyperinflation and rescheduled the crippling overseas debt. The armed "confrontation" with Malaysia was unwound and the key regional cooperation framework of ASEAN was established, with Indonesia's role reflecting its demographic weight. In all of this, the founders of CSIS played an influential role, beginning even before the Centre was formally created.

Its diverse and unusually close influence reflects the unconventional composition of the founders and supporters. Three were army generals who had long been very close associates of Suharto. Others had been active leaders of the student movement in the 1960s which toppled Sukarno and participated in the dramatic transition to Suharto. Most of the civilian founders were ethnic Chinese who had to work around the tensions implicit in their ethnicity in a society always susceptible to racial division.

A degree of normality had been re-established by 1971, when the CSIS was formally founded. This inauguration coincided with a transition to more orderly policymaking. Suharto was now firmly established in power and held the first election...

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