C-COMPANY: MY UNIT, MY TEAM, MY BROTHERS, MY FAMILY

CAKRA BASKARA SAKTI

PARIKESIT – PERWIRA 2000 KESATRIA TIDAR

- Pedang Perwira, melambangkan bahwa kami adalah Perwira Lulusan Akademi Militer, sekaligus sebagai simbol alat perang yang sewaktu-waktu siap digunakan demi mempertahankan kedaulatan bangsa.

- Perisai Segi Tujuh dengan Dasar Berwarna Merah dan Putih, melambangkan bahwa dengan jiwa Sapta Marga kami siap menjadi perisai negara dari segala bentuk ancaman demi tegaknya Merah Putih di bumi Indonesia.

- Kepala Wayang Parikesit, melambangkan bahwa di dalam setiap tindakan yang kami ambil senantiasa didasarkan pada pemikiran yang matang sehingga dapat memberikan nilai-nilai kebaikan bagi lingkungan sekitar.

- Sayap, melambangkan sebuah harapan agar kami dapat terbang tinggi untuk menggapai cita-cita yang luhur.

- Padi dan Kapas, melambangkan cita-cita luhur bangsa yaitu keadilan dan kesejahteraan bagi seluruh rakyat Indonesia, dimana kami harus mengawal setiap langkah perjuangan bangsa dalam menuju cita-cita tersebut.

- 1997 dan 2000, adalah tahun dimana kami diterima sebagai Taruna di Akademi Militer Magelang, serta tahun dimana kami lulus dan dilantik menjadi Perwira Angkatan Darat oleh Presiden RI di Istana Merdeka, Jakarta.

- Tulisan PARIKESIT di atas Pita Berwarna Merah, PARIKESIT adalah nama Angkatan kami, merupakan kepanjangan dari untaian kata Perwira Duaribu Kesatria Tidar, maksudnya adalah Perwira Lulusan Tahun 2000 dari Akademi Militer (Lembah Tidar) Magelang. Parikesit, kebetulan adalah nama seorang Kesatria yang gagah berani dalam kisah pewayangan. Dia adalah putra dari Raden Abimanyu dan Dewi Utari yang dilahirkan di akhir Perang Bharatayudha. Parikesit dewasa dinobatkan sebagai Raja di Astina (Hastina Pura) dengan gelar Prabu Kresna Dwipayana.

INDONESIAN DEFENSE UNIVERSITY (IDU)

“Indonesian Defense University aims to prepare military and civilian leaders to address national defense and global strategic challenges through comprehensive multi-disciplinary educational programs, professional exchanges, research and outreach in developing a broader security perspective”


The need to enshrine democratic reform practices that has taken root in Indonesia over the past 10 years has required the Indonesian armed forces, Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) to maintain its commitment to reform, to transform itself into a professional and modern military force. Such changes were evident in how the TNI has performed in recent years under the leadership of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which included a new and more humane security approach in areas of conflict such as Aceh and Papua; its leading role in humanitarian relief operations particularly in disaster stricken regions like Aceh, Nias, and Yogyakarta, as well as its credible participation in peacekeeping missions abroad under the UN banner such as in Lebanon.

Clearly there are further steps required for the TNI to undertake to sustain its reform efforts.  In January 2008 the Department of Defense, with the support of President Yudhoyono and the Cabinet, identified, as a critical area of security sector reform policy, the need to upgrade the overall human resource capabilities of the TNI by enhancing the quality of our military education with the long-term aim of transforming the TNI’s military culture. In the past military education was often viewed in a narrow sense. Combat or operational expertise were viewed as paramount and placed at top of the hierarchy of skills necessary for officers to undertake their duties. In today’s global environment, military officers are required to have new perspectives and disciplines to broaden their understanding of a fluid international and security environment where change is an ever-present reality.

To achieve this, therefore together with the TNI and through a good collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the Department of Defense developed a comprehensive and integrated plan on the establishment of a defense-related university. After a series of consultations and feasibility studies, the long-awaited Indonesian Defense University (IDU) came to reality. On March 11, 2009, President Yudhoyono himself officially inaugurated the new university at the State Palace, which was attended by cabinet ministers, ambassadors and defense attachés, flag officers from the three services, students and faculties from a number of prominent universities from Aceh to Papua, as well as representatives from various NGOs and media groups. We wanted to highlight the critical importance of having such an institution, that defense and national security could not be left to the military alone, and that it should be in the interest of all elements of civil society. On this occasion President Yudhoyono also launched the first International Seminar organized by IDU. This event was intended to bring together the perspectives of academic community and policymakers on the relevance of IDU for a 21st century national security strategy in addition to other socialization purposes.

The University is expected to provide a world-class education for future leaders of the country with an increased focus on strategic defense and security issues. Of critical importance, to facilitate better democratic civil-military relations, IDU will include candidates from non-military backgrounds drawing in elements of civil society and facilitating enhanced understanding and collaboration between two critical players that have for so much of Indonesia’s post independence history has had an adversarial relationship.

I have been quite fortunate to be part in the IDU working team, where I could effectively contribute, especially in the planning process, by utilizing my personal experience as a student of a Strategic Studies program at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. To gain insights that would later allow us to enrich the quality of our future university as well as to build up a good international rapport, we paid a number of study visits overseas to institutions that have strong focus on defense and strategic issues, such as the National Defense University (NDU) in Washington DC, US, the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University, as well as the SAFTI Military Institute, Singapore. In addition, our team has also initiated talks with other parties such as the Cranfield University, UK and the Giessen University, Germany. The response that we received was highly encouraging. We also played an active role in establishing good communications with key individuals from these institutes in the process of facilitating positive commitments for future cooperation between their institutes and our IDU.

Not unexpectedly, however, the development of IDU met a number of challenges. The first challenge was how to make IDU a hub for all defense-related studies, which would require a significant reorganization of the existing military educational centers, such as SESKO-TNI (TNI Joint Staff College) and Sekolah Strategi Perang Semesta (School of Total Defense Studies). The other major challenge was the limitation on the budget support. To establish a high quality educational system would require significant investment for recruiting good faculty members as well as getting adequate infrastructures such as the IT systems, books and other academic resources. But we also fully understood that the limited resources must be proportionally allocated for the whole spectrum of defense-related requirements, from the operational and maintenance programs, to modernization of weapon system, to military pay and healthcare.

Establishing communications with various institutions and defense-related academic think tanks and universities was absolutely critical. Particularly important in this regard was the need to source for logistics and human resources to start-up the IDU considering the acute shortages of such resources in Indonesia. Through good relationships with partner institutions and other country governments, we were able to negotiate several technical assistance programs, which help a great deal in terms of designing a relevant curriculum, making available certain international faculty as well as funding assistance for key infrastructures.

In terms of overcoming the challenges associated with the reorganization of military educational institutions, the IDU working team was required to assist in negotiations explaining the merits of the initiative with various interest groups including those who had initially resisted the idea. More importantly, each agency had to be socialized into understanding the benefits of being part of the IDU structure. We also conduct a series of workshops to get buy-in and support from the larger domestic academic community and other elements of civil society.

SEAL OF THE INDONESIAN DEFENSE UNIVERSITY

Torch represents knowledge, as a fundamental structure of the integrity of the country. Shield features an instrument of defense. Globe symbolizes the global security arena. Red and white color signifies the Indonesian flag. Swords stand for weaponry, one of the components of war, which is used as the last resort. Paddy and cotton visualize justice and prosperity, as the ultimate goals of the nation.

The Indonesian Defense University is founded on three basic tenets: identity, nationalism, and integrity. These are the values to be instilled in the future students of the university.

IDENTITY – NATIONALISM – INTEGRITY

The first tenet, identity, refers to the basic values of Indonesian identity as summed up in the national ideology, Pancasila. The cornerstone of Pancasila lies in social justice, which also reflects the national goals as envisioned by our founding fathers. Social justice can be seen not only as an end in itself but also as the means by which growth and development of the nation ought to be achieved. In a sense, prosperity of the nation could only be achieved through sustainable development, and social justice is the key to sustainability. Through growth with social justice, it is hoped that the potentials for frictions within the diverse society and various ethnic groups that make up the social fabric of Indonesia or any other social challenges could be addressed, which in turns result in better security conditions and stability in the provinces throughout the country. In short, social cohesiveness breeds stability and peace. In this regard, both the military and civilian components share equal responsibilities in promoting social justice. Such conceptual understanding of our national identity clearly affects the thinking in our defense strategy formulation and approach. It is therefore essential that future students of IDU have clear understanding of our national identity.

Second, nationalism refers to the sense of belonging to one nation, Indonesia. That Indonesia is one of the few nations that have had to fight for their independence gives great sense of pride to all Indonesians. The Indonesian Defense Force (TNI) was established from a myriad group of student movements, guerilla militias and irregulars representing diverse ethnic, religious and local identities preceding the proclamation of Indonesian independence on August 17, 1945. These disparate forces were imbued with the fighting ethos that defined latter day Indonesian defense policy of “total people’s warfare” and subsequently “total defense and security”. Nationalism was, and continues today, to be the defining basis of the TNI’s world-view. The unity of the people and our national defense forces are seen as key elements to winning our national independence and in overcoming various challenge throughout our nation’s history. This also holds true in times of great difficulties such as those posed by natural disasters. The TNI often becomes the first on the line to work with and lead the local community in disaster relief efforts. It is with this heightened sense of nationalism that future leaders of the nation are expected to undertake their study at IDU and prevail over the challenges that will confront the nation ahead.

Third, integrity could have two meanings: at the individual level, it refers to steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code; and at the national level, it refers to the awareness as a responsible member of the community of nations. In today’s environment of globalization and interdependence, Indonesia has an active role to play in the efforts to preserve and promote international peace. To this end, our country has always maintained adherence to its “bebas-aktif” (independent and proactive) foreign policy. In addition, the increasingly complex global environment brings new and multidimensional challenges to all nation-states alike such as in the case of terrorism and other non-traditional security issues. The ever-fluid geopolitical conditions particularly in the Asia-Pacific region also enter into our geostrategic calculations and pose their own strategic challenges. These are some of the wide range of elements that students of IDU must strive to understand better while maintaining their own individual integrity.

FOR YOU – DEDICATED TO ALL INDONESIAN PEACEKEEPERS

“For You” – Samsons

BENDERA – DEDICATED TO ALL INDONESIAN PEACEKEEPERS

“Bendera” – Cokelat

HOW THE US WON ALL THE BATTLES, BUT LOST THE VIETNAM WAR

“…we were winning the war of attrition. The price that the enemy was prone to pay greatly exceeded our expectations…”

“We were winning on the battlefield, but whether we were winning strategically is another matter”

General Westmoreland,

Commander of US forces in Vietnam, 1964-68,

During an interview with CNN in 1996

“The Americans are winning everything – except the war”

General Moshe Dayan,

Former Chief of the Israeli Defence Force,

After visiting Vietnam as a war correspondent in 1965)

The US defeat in the Vietnam War provides a most compelling example of how victory on the battlefield does not necessarily bring about the desired political objectives that would lead to war success. By all measures, the two sides went into the war with vast discrepancies in military capabilities. The US was the foremost military power in the world, one that had never been militarily defeated in its history. What was frightening about American military power was not just its awesome capabilities that of course included nuclear weapons, but also the huge industrial capacity behind any war effort that it might choose to undertake, one that had brought the major powers of Germany and Japan to their knees a mere sixty years ago.

In contrast, North Vietnam was a peasant society subjected to French colonial rule for much of its recent history, and exhausted from fighting the French, the South Vietnamese and now the Americans for more than a decade.

There were few if any doubts that the American forces would be able to overcome the North Vietnamese and their Viet Cong allies in all the military engagements, and this was what largely transpired. In every major encounter or minor skirmish during the war, the Americans were able to call upon their superior firepower and mobility. Throughout the war, the Americans had total air superiority. Even the 1968 Tet Offensive, celebrated in Vietnamese military folklore today, cannot be construed as an American military defeat. As General Westmoreland made clear during his interview with CNN, the Americans saw it coming and were prepared for it.[1] Indeed, the military outcome of the war was a crushing defeat for the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, who suffered about 35,000 dead, 60,000 wounded and 6,000 captured as prisoners of war without any meaningful operational gains. In comparison, the American and South Vietnamese dead totalled 3,900, of which 1,100 were Americans. Following the offensive, North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap was removed from total command of the war effort, and the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were so operationally crippled that they never attempted another major offensive for the remaining seven years of the war. The overall casualty statistics for the war were just as lopsided in favour of the Americans. 58,000 Americans died in the conflict, while 3.6 million Vietnamese were killed. Yet the period after 1968 saw increasing efforts by the Americans to turn over the fighting to the South Vietnamese, even as President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger tried to achieve an “honourable peace”. The war finally ended with the humiliating American withdrawal from Vietnam and the rapid collapse of the South Vietnamese government in April 1975, as the victorious communist forces marched into Saigon.

To understand why the US lost the war, it is necessary to examine the political objectives of the two protagonists, and their respective strategies to achieve these ends. The US entered the war to stop the spread of communism in Southeast Asia, to prevent the scenario of what President Eisenhower and his advisors had earlier coined as the “Domino Theory” from becoming reality. The US believed that with its superior and proven military capability, it would be able to end the war quickly by defeating the North Vietnamese forces south of the 17th parallel, even without committing its full resources or bringing the war into North Vietnam.[2] As the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong continued fighting, the US stepped up the pressure from 1964/65 onwards through massive bombing operations and the commitment of more ground forces that reached a peak exceeding 500,000 in 1968. The US intention was clear: it adopted a strategy of attrition in a limited war, so as to exploit its overwhelming advantages in mobility and firepower against an overmatched adversary. Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara was reportedly obsessed with the number of enemy forces that were being killed, believing that a 10:1 kill ratio would be the tipping point that would so deplete the enemy that it would have no choice but to sue for peace.

The North Vietnamese and its allies in South Vietnam, on the other hand, saw the war as a continuation of their earlier struggle against the French for national independence. North Vietnamese strategy operated at several levels simultaneously to address both total and limited war objectives. Against the Saigon government, Hanoi’s war aims were total.  They never relented in their objective of destabilising South Vietnam and unifying the country under a single communist system. Hanoi’s war aims against the United States were more limited.  All that was necessary was to compel Washington to withdraw its forces and abandon the Saigon government.  Major battlefield victories were useful, but not necessarily fundamental to achieving these goals.  Ironically, after the Battle of the Ia Drang in November 1965, Hanoi also opted for a war of attrition, believing that their determination and willingness to sacrifice would endure longer than American patience so that, over time, the United States would tire of the war and withdraw. As it turned out, the North Vietnamese strategy proved to be superior, as it compelled the US to reduce its political support and military aid to the Saigon government so by 1975 South Vietnam was abandoned to its enemies.

There are a number of reasons why the US strategy did not succeed. First and foremost, the US failed to appreciate the nature of the conflict from the perspective of its Vietnamese rival, and was guilty of superimposing American beliefs and values into their assessments of Vietnamese behaviour. In assuming that the North Vietnamese would capitulate once a certain threshold of pain in the form of casualties was reached, the Americans did not understand that the Vietnamese were not just fighting as communist guerrillas but also for their survival as a independent nation of people free from external influence, the very same reason that they had fought the French and before that the Chinese for the best part of a thousand years. As General Giap explained, the Vietnamese were prepared to accept such massive casualties because they were involved in a national war of liberation, and that the people participated enthusiastically in the resistance and “consented to make every kind of sacrifice.”[3] Under such circumstances, the Americans belatedly realised that their attrition-based strategy underpinned by a vastly superior kill-ratio was not going to be enough. Secretary of Defence Robert S. McNamara, in a draft Memorandum for the President dated November 17, 1966, wrote, “If MACV estimates of enemy strength are correct, we have not been able to attrite the enemy fast enough to break down their morale and more U.S. forces are unlikely to do so for the foreseeable future… the data suggest that we have no prospects for attriting the enemy force at a rate equal to or greater than its capability to infiltrate and recruit, and this will be true at either the 470,000 personnel level or 570,000.”[4] To drive home the point, consider that the 3.6 million Vietnamese war dead was proportionately equal to 27 million Americans at that time!

In comparison, the Americans demonstrated no such stomach for sustained conflict and the toll of casualties that it would entail. With the Vietnam War being the first major conflict in which the media was able to bring home real-time images from the battlefront, the American people could for the first time see the full horrors of war from their dinner tables. With no signs that victory was in sight, American public opinion turned quickly and strongly against the war, particularly after the Tet Offensive. Once that happened, it was only a matter of time before Americans start to demand that their government cut its losses over a conflict that seemed so far away and in their perception involved such obscure and non-core national interests. With the benefit of hindsight, it is questionable if the US government would have been willing to sustain the escalating body count even without the role played by the media. In truth, the media may simply have brought forward the inevitable and helped to end the conflict earlier, without necessarily changing the eventual outcome.

The propaganda campaign did not only apply to the domestic US audience, it also involved the people in North and South Vietnam.  Away from the battlefield, the war was essentially a struggle over the moral right to govern Vietnam. Failing to fully appreciate this, the US put too much attention on bolstering the military capability of its South Vietnamese allies, and expended too little effort on winning the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese people. The little that they did, such as the strategic hamlet program, focused on isolating the guerrillas from the people and not directly strengthening the moral authority of the South Vietnamese government. Worse, these programmes were not carried out effectively or with any real conviction. This allowed the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong to make extensive use of propaganda to attack the legitimacy of the South Vietnamese government as being corrupt and stooges of American imperialism. Through guerrilla actions and the occasionally spectacular operations like the Tet Offensive, they were able to convince much of the population that the Viet Cong was the real power in the country, and that the incumbent regime in Saigon was unwilling and unable to perform its fundamental security and service functions. While the North Vietnamese were no doubt helped in this by the incompetence and corrupt nature of successive governments in Saigon, there was little doubt that Hanoi held the upper hand in the propaganda war during much of the conflict.

The US was also plagued by the fact that its war goals were never as well defined as nor as consistent as the Vietnamese. While Hanoi remained focused on victory defined as removing the Saigon government and uniting all of Vietnam under a single communist regime, under the successive administrations of presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon American strategy operated toward different goals. Kennedy’s goals were idealistic and driven by a sense of urgency in the face of recent communist gains, as he perceived them.[5] In his inaugural Presidential address in 1961, he had said that the Untied States would “bear any burden…support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty”.[6] Vietnam became the place to make a stand. Johnson, on the other hand, saw Vietnam as a threat to his Great Society. As Valenti noted,” No matter what we turned our hands and mind to, there was Vietnam, its contagion infecting everything that it touched, and it seemed to touch everything”.[7] Accordingly, Johnson limited his war means with strategies designed to prevent a widening of the war and deepening the US involvement. Nixon came to power with a mandate to end the war, and he devised three limited and achievable goals. Firstly, the US would start to withdraw its forces under the so-called Guam Doctrine. Secondly, he would turn the war back over to the Vietnamese through “Vietnamization”. Thirdly, the US would seek the return of American prisoners of war.

Given such diverse war aims, there is little doubt that the US was never as single-minded as the Vietnamese in pursuing its war goals. Indeed, one can argue that the asymmetry of will in favour of the North Vietnamese in the course of the war was as great if not greater than the asymmetry of means enjoyed by the American military forces. American military might and its strategy to make the enemy realise that it could not win a military victory became largely irrelevant, as it could not do enough to degrade the enemy’s will to fight. The situation might have been different if the Americans were able to close the Ho Chi Minh Trail and prevent the resupply of arms and replenishments from outside the country.  But they could not and in the escalating stalemate in which the Americans kept killing more North Vietnamese forces but the North Vietnamese kept coming back for more, the war became a contest of will in which the advantage of time eventually accrued to Hanoi.

In conclusion, the US strategy in the Vietnam War was flawed for a number of reasons. It failed to understand the nature of the conflict and the motivations of its Vietnamese adversary, resulting in a gap between the means with which it was willing to commit and the means that would have been necessary to achieve its ends. Secondly, the US strategy overly focused on the military aspect, in the belief that its superior capability alone would overcome the will of the enemy. By doing so, the US put all their eggs in one basket and did not pay enough attention to shaping the perception of Hanoi nor on winning the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese people. In the final analysis, the asymmetry of means that the US brought into the conflict was more than matched by the asymmetry of will demonstrated by its North Vietnamese adversary and its Viet Cong allies.

(Agus Yudhoyono – Singapore, 2005)


[1] General William Westmoreland, Interview with CNN, 1996, (http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/episodes/11/interviews/westmoreland/).

[2] Mindful of the Chinese response when American troops crossed the 38th parallel during the Korean War, the US wanted to avoid triggering a similar response from China during the Vietnam War.

[3] General Vo Nguyen Giap, People’s War, People’s Army, New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1962, p. 34.

[4] Memorandum for the President, November 17, 1966, in The Pentagon Papers, The Senator Gravel Edition, Volume IV.  Boston: Beacon Press, 1975, pp. 369-71.

[5] These include the Bay of Pig fiasco in April 1961, an unsettling summit with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna in July, renewed threats over Berlin and the raising of the Berlin Wall, and the neutralization of Laos.

[6] Kenney Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961, reprinted in Theodore C. Sorensen, Kennedy. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1965, p. 246.

[7] Valenti quoted in, Frank E. Vandiver, Shadows of Vietnam: Lyndon Johnson’s Wars. College Station, Texas:  Texas A&M University Press, 1997, p. 148.


WINNING THE HEARTS AND MINDS: A LESSON LEARNED FROM LEBANON

In October 2008, I was assigned by the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) HQ’s Peacekeeping Center (Pusat Misi Pemeliharaan Perdamaian / PMPP) to deliver a speech before all the Ambassadors and UN Representatives at a Reception organized by the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to commemorate the anniversary of the United Nations. Below is the script. Here I am highlighting some of the lessons learned from the first contingent of the TNI Peacekeeping forces deployed in Lebanon, Garuda XXIII-A (2006-2007) where I served as the Battalion Operations Officer.

REMARKS ON INDONESIA’S PEACEKEEPING FORCES

AT THE UNITED NATIONS DAY

(OCTOBER 24, 2008)

Introduction

It is a great honor and pleasure for me to stand here before all of our distinguished guests tonight. I would like to take up this rather unique opportunity to deliver a short remarks on behalf of the TNI Garuda XXIII-A peacekeeping force, to share with you all a little about our experience in our participation in UNIFIL peacekeeping missions in Lebanon in 2006-2007. I hope that I would be able to give you some interesting perspectives on UN peacekeeping missions from our own operational experience.

History of Indonesia’s participation in UN Peacekeeping Efforts

Although the term “peacekeeping” defies simple definition and is not found anywhere in the Charter for the United Nations when it was first drawn up in 1945, it is seen by many as a logical outgrowth of Chapter Six of the Charter, which gives the UN the power to mediate international disputes between states and recommend terms of a settlement; stopping short of Chapter seven, which provides the UN the authority to use the armed forces of member states to maintain or restore international peace and security. As former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold put it, peacekeeping efforts belong to “Chapter Six and a Half”, in recognition of its tenuous legitimacy particularly in the context of the then Cold War era.

Indonesia has had a long-standing history in participating in peacekeeping operations. The Preamble of our 1945 Constitution clearly mandates that Indonesia actively participate in the maintenance of international peace and security. Since Indonesia’s independence, this has been a cornerstone in the conduct of our “free and active” (bebas-aktif) foreign policy.  The first Garuda peacekeeping force was dispatched to Sinai in January 1957 as part of the first United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF I), which was established to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities, including the withdrawal of the armed forces of France, Israel and the United Kingdom from Egyptian territory. Since then Indonesia has actively participated in numerous peacekeeping missions, ranging from sending in a small group of military observers to full-fledged participation such as in the case of the latest UNIFIL missions in Lebanon. Through all those missions abroad, the TNI has continually served with distinction and brought pride and international recognition to our nation. It would be interesting to highlight as well that our current President himself took part once by serving as a Chief Military Observer under the United Nation Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in Bosnia in 1995.

Background of Garuda XXIII-A Peacekeeping Force

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was first set up in 1978 following the Security Council resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978). This force was created for three broadly defined purposes: 1) Confirming the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon; 2) Restoring international peace and security; 3) Assisting the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area. Despite the efforts by the UN, the Israeli forces continued to occupy the southern area up to mid-2000 when the Israeli Government decided to withdraw their troops. The Government of Lebanon took the position that, so long as there was no comprehensive peace with Israel, the army would not act as a border guard for Israel and would not be deployed to the border. Hence, near the withdrawal line — or the so-called Blue Line — the authorities have, in effect, left control to Hezbollah. Its members worked in civilian attire and were normally unarmed. They monitored the Blue Line, maintained public order and, in some villages, provided social, medical and education services. Since then the political and security environment remained somewhat calm though fraught with instability with numerous cases of violations and tensions across the border.

The outbreak of an intense armed conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in July 2006 brought worldwide focus once more to the volatile situation in the Middle East. The heavy exchanges of fire along the Blue Line resulted in tremendously high costs in human lives and physical damages. The United Nations brokered a ceasefire between Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon in August 2006. To enforce the ceasefire, the UN Security Council unanimously passed UN Resolution 1701, calling for a full cessation of hostilities and authorizing an increase of UN forces in Lebanon.

As pointed out by the UN Secretary-General the “tragic 34-day conflict has thrown the region back into the instability that prevailed for decades”. Official Lebanese figures showed that 1,187 people had died and 4,092 had been injured in Lebanon as a result of the 34-day conflict. The cessation of hostilities triggered a massive and speedy return of internally displaced persons and refugees back to their areas of origin. According to UNHCR, within days of the ceasefire some 90 per cent of those displaced in Lebanon during the hostilities, which included around 900,000 or one quarter of the population, returned to their homes or were staying nearby. It was estimated then that between 100,000 and 150,000 people remained internally displaced.

With the objectives to help secure a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution to the conflict, the Security Council then created a buffer zone free of “any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL” between the United Nations-drawn Blue Line in southern Lebanon and the Litani river, and called for both Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire and comprehensive solution to the crisis.

Responding to the UN’s request for military personnel and equipment to support the UNIFIL, the Indonesian Government offered a Mechanized Infantry Battalion Task Force of 850 personnel, equipment, and humanitarian supplies. The Contingent, named Garuda XXIII-A, was then dispatched and joined the other UNIFIL participants in southern Lebanon in November 2006.

Challenges Confronting Garuda XXIII-A

In essence, there were four broad main challenges facing the TNI troops participating in peacekeeping missions abroad.

First, there is an inherent requirement to adapt the mindset of our soldiers to grasp the full meaning of peacekeeping as opposed to war-fighting or counterinsurgency operations. For regular military units whose principal responsibilities revolve around maintaining its war-fighting capabilities, there needs to be considerable adjustments to their operational concept. These challenges were made even more difficult by the fact that the TNI, for the first time ever, was fielding a mechanized battalion, comprising components from different parent units (infantry, airborne, cavalry and military police).

Second, as peacekeepers we are bound to uphold the principles of neutrality and impartiality with all the conflicting parties. In the case of the Israeli-Lebanese conflict, the situation was much more complicated due to the peculiar relationships between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Hezbollah on the one side of the Blue Line and the Israelis on the other. The fact was that the LAF had not effectively controlled the southern parts of Lebanon for decades; instead the Hezbollah had filled in that gap since the withdrawal of the Israeli forces in 2000. The instability within the Lebanese government as indicated by a number of political assassinations in recent years and prevailing tensions between different factions (the Sunni, Shiite, and Maronite) hindered further its ability to function as a legitimate authority. The participation of Indonesia, as a country with the largest Islamic population in the world, in the UN-peacekeeping force was initially perceived by the Israelis with suspicion on the ground that it did not have diplomatic ties with Israel. Although, some would openly say that the real reason was that the Israeli government had serious concerns on the ability of Indonesia to maintain neutrality and would side with the Hezbollah. That we had to be able to achieve our objectives and maintain impartiality with any of the conflicting parties was not an easy feat.

The third challenge is in establishing cooperation with the LAF, the UNIFIL forces from other countries and also the various UN agencies involved in the peacekeeping operations. At the time, the UNIFIL comprised military contingents from various countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Ghana, India, China, Nepal, Malaysia, Finland, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, South Korea and a few others. Each contingent is responsible for maintaining security conditions in its designated area of responsibilities between the Blue Line and the Litani River. The differences inherent in such diverse environment clearly posed its own unique challenges. Cooperation among these forces, however, is not only desirable but also mandatory for the success of such peacekeeping operations. We also needed to maintain good communication with UN agencies on the ground to ensure that we could offer needed protection for their personnel as well as to maintain an environment conducive for these agencies to perform their functions in tending to the aid of displaced people, the majority of which include women and children, as well as carrying out other civic activities.

Last but not least, we had to be able to win the hearts and minds of the local population. From the beginning the troops were all aware that the local population needed to be treated with respect and courtesy to gain their trust and cooperation. Soldiers with weapons and armor vehicles are easily feared by the people on the streets, but not necessarily respected nor trusted. We clearly did not want to create an environment of fear for it often led only to resentment or even hatred towards the soldiers, which might ultimately make us legitimate targets of attacks, by unknown armed elements that may be living amongst the population. We knew that to be able to carry out our missions we needed the cooperation of the local population. Thus, the challenge of winning their hearts and minds also became a priority.

Overcoming the Challenges

It has been observed by many, that in its long history of participation in various peacekeeping missions abroad, Indonesia’s military contingent — be it a small group of military observers or a larger maneuver units — has always been able to perform its functions professionally and with distinction. It is not an overstatement to say that in virtually every mission deployment anywhere, the Indonesian contingent has managed to gain the respect and acceptance by the local community as well as by the conflicting parties.

The questions that often come to the minds of many analysts or observers would be: “What is so special about Indonesian contingents? “Are they heavily armed?”; “Are they equipped with the most sophisticated technology on earth?”; “Are they supported with a huge amount of money so that they can “buy” the goodwill of all the hostile factions?”

As a TNI officer, I personally hope that the answers would have been positive “YES, YES, AND YES” to the latter questions. Ideally, we all may share similar hopes for our country to have both strong economy and armed forces. Interestingly, though, the answers to those particular questions are “NO”, or “NOT YET” at least. Naturally, when compared to the strengths of member countries of the NATO clearly we have to work a lot harder to catch up with those. Nevertheless, if we are to evaluate the effectiveness of our peacekeeping forces in the field, we have no reasons to be shy for, because as practical realities have demonstrated time and time again: “Money and Weapons do not serve as the best formula to solve problems, let alone terminating a conflict”. The quality and professionalism of soldiers, especially in carrying out peacekeeping operations, are not simply determined by the level of firepower or sophisticated weaponries.

In a slightly different context, I would also argue that providing large amount of contributions in money and materiel does not necessarily guarantee winning the hearts and minds of the people living in the areas where the peacekeeping force is operating. It is never that simple. There are numerous factors that would determine the successful accomplishment of the main objectives and goals of a peacekeeping operation, which ultimately come down to creating the conditions for sustainable peace and security.

In this regard, the Indonesian contingents dispatched on various peacekeeping missions, despite all the limitations in resources that they have, have continually proven their capabilities to perform to the best of their abilities to bring pride and international recognition to the country as a whole. In many occasions the Indonesian troops have received awards of distinction and public recognition given by the host countries for its professional achievements. Such recognition is indeed a positive evaluation of the active roles of our soldiers on the ground as peacekeepers. In addition, the seriousness, yet courteous attitude, of our troops in carrying out its humanitarian tasks also show a degree of sensitivity and appreciation of the prevailing problems and conditions faced by the community within the conflict-torn areas. Personal approaches or “human touches” through people-to-people contact have also served well and despite the difference in religious, cultural and social values, we were able to bridge the gap without having much difficulty. This is also largely due to the courteous nature and high regards for family values being inseparable parts of the Indonesian culture as well as the fact that the Indonesian troops come from cultural background just as diverse, if not more, as the local population.

Not surprisingly, in carrying out a peacekeeping mission where the grand strategy is to maintain peace and order by persuading armed parties or other hostile elements to back away from aggressive activities, military strength is not a definite measure of success; neither could material contribution alone guarantees the “winning of the hearts and minds” of the people. What appears to be important is the day-to-day conduct of the peacekeepers on the ground; those who uphold the principles of neutrality and impartiality, as well as those who are able to carry all aspects of its operational duties well.  The other important factor is the ability to “go the extra mile” to win over the hearts and minds of the people to contribute voluntarily to the improvement of order and security conditions.

Large contribution in money and materiel may be an added point, but is certainly not a prerequisite requirement for a contingent to gain the respect and trust of the local community. The absence of a level of emotional understanding between the peacekeeping troops and local community may even result in new breeds of problems. For instance, one of the contingents present was not able to gain the sympathy from the people despite continuing efforts to donate funds and building large projects. One would ask “Why?”. Apparently, the behavior and attitudes of its soldiers on the ground, especially in their interactions with the local community did not reflect any kind of emotional empathy towards the people. To put things in perspective, the local community pointed outright in a number of occasions the perceived collective arrogance or a sense of superiority complex by certain personnel even as the contingent was contributing relatively large infrastructure projects. Such feelings of resentment – or even intense dislike in few cases – were bound to be counter-productive towards the objectives and presence of UN peacekeeping forces. In general, such condition may dent the institutional image and credibility of the UN internationally; in particular, such excesses may even increase the security risks of the personnel on the ground.

Our experience on the ground showed that the local population is more receptive to UN contingents who maintain low profile, respect their identity, religions, and cultures, treat them as equals, empathize with their daily problems and more importantly, those who do not make them feel alienated in their own homeland. Even simple gestures such as smiles, handshakes or mere exchanges of greetings are truly appreciated by the local people. Intangible values such as those are often more cherished than hundreds-of-thousand-dollar projects without sincere efforts to reach them.

The officers and men of Garuda XXIII-A were also continually reminded to uphold the principles of impartiality and neutrality during the operations. We were also able to gradually diminish the concerns of the Israelis of our impartiality by demonstrating that our troops always behaved in a professional manner and adhere strictly to the Rules of Engagement (ROE) and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Security conditions in the area of responsibility assigned to us were well maintained. In efforts to establish good cooperation with the LAF and other UNIFIL military contingents, joint patrols were conducted from time to time. These patrols were also invaluable in terms of confidence building between the men out there on the ground. Our officers also participated in joint events that would build and strengthen relationships with other fellow officers from other contingents. Sharing of personal experience among fellow military professionals also helped to bridge the cultural gap that exists between officers from different countries.

During our time in Lebanon, the Indonesian contingent also initiated a different approach with the new “smart-car” programs amongst its other Civilian Military Coordination (CIMIC) efforts. These cars are equipped with books, educational games, computers, and other audio-visual devices. The objective was to reach out to children to lessen the trauma arising from the violent conflict as well as to provide educational values in fun and enjoyable ways. These smart cars were regularly dispatched to various neighborhoods and received warm welcome and support from the children and their parents. Despite the relatively tight budget constraints, such efforts proved to be hugely successful in winning the hearts and minds of the local population.

Closing Remarks

In closing, the challenges confronting the Indonesian Garuda XXIII-A contingent were certainly complex and multi-dimensional. With serious efforts and full commitment, we were able to accomplish the mission in lines with the objectives set out. We returned to our country bringing home invaluable lessons and knowledge which we now share with our fellow officers and men who have since then gone on to replace us in Lebanon. In many ways, we hope all of these would build up the TNI capacity, particularly in its preparation for participation in future peacekeeping operations. What I have shared with you tonight would also hopefully bring some fresh perspectives, which may bring about new ideas that may improve the efficiency of UN peacekeeping efforts in the future.

On behalf of my fellow TNI officers, I would like to say that I am honored to have served in a UN peacekeeping mission where I have gained priceless experience, professional and otherwise, and to have been able to participate directly in our country’s efforts to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security.

I thank you.

(Captain Agus Yudhoyono – Jakarta, October 2008)

(All Pictures by Kang Yoyon)

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