Civil-military Relations in Indonesia: The Politics of Military Operations Other Than War.

AuthorSambhi, Natalie
PositionBook review

Civil-military Relations in Indonesia: The Politics of Military Operations Other Than War. By Muhamad Haripin. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2020. Hardcover: 174pp.

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...

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