Subject: Oklahoman editorial: An End to 'living dangerously'

An end to `living dangerously'

Editorial, "The Sunday Oklahoman" by Patrick B. McGuigan Sunday, November 7, 1999

(This is the principal newspaper in Oklahoma City. OK USA. It is very conservative.)

It may take years, even decades, to end the misery in East Timor, an oppressed nation now gaining independence from Indonesia. It could take just as long to bring a more just and decent political order to Indonesia as a whole.

With a practical eye on mainland China's expansive ambitions toward regional neighbors, especially the democratic Republic based on Taiwan, U.S. policy makers must not neglect opportunities to advance U.S. interests throughout southeast Asia. Without over-extending our own military, America should support a more stable, secure, prosperous and democratic future for a vital region of the planet. Reasonable steps could, in the short-term, make U.S. policy toward the authoritarian Indonesian regime (where modest signs of reform have just appeared) more rational and humane.

In a visit to Oklahoma City last week, journalist Alan (sic., actually Allan) Nairn recounted eventful years in southeast Asia, and this decade's frequent outbursts by the Indonesian military. A nascent and troubled economic powerhouse, Indonesia's political reality is not yet all that far removed moved from the image indelibly sketched in "The Year of Living Dangerously," one of actor Mel Gibson's initial film successes.

In an interview with your humble servant, Nairn compared the Indonesian government/military to the old Russian Soviet regime, where communist party apparatchiks served as ideological commissars in the Red Army, curbing liberty-sensitive thinking. For the sake of retaining control, leading elements of the Indonesian military have operated in much the same way to thwart any pro-liberty tendencies. (Indonesia's military order might even be compared to the middle eastern nation of Turkey, where secularists often claim they are the only factor thwarting the rise of militant Islam and regional destabilization.)

The result of the military's dominant position within Indonesia has been the strangulation of personal and economic freedom in a nation full of both intelligent people and suffering multitudes. As students and other reformers have in recent years protested oppression throughout the country, and as East Timor's people sought freedom for their island (which only fell under Indonesian rule 24 years ago), the military resorted to sporadic atrocities.

Growing brutality by the Indonesian military, including profound horrors within East Timor, has motivated Congress to cut back support to the regime this decade. A United Nations peace-keeping force has capped violence in East Timor, but long-term solutions can only come from establishment of the rule of law, meaningful elections and civilian control of the military. While assuredly guarding our own strategic in interests and avoiding new military entanglements; the U.S. - including our own military, which has previously supplied weapons to Indonesia's military - should seek a more positive role.

Congress should ban or severely restrict military and economic aid until key conditions are met, including a secure East Timor, final withdrawal of Indonesian troops, removal of restrictions on outside humanitarian aid, return of refugees displaced by the military and movement toward independence for East Timor (ratified overwhelmingly by voters there on Aug. 30).

There are companion measures to accomplish these goals. S. 1568 has the support of Sens. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and Russell Feingold, D-Wis. It passed the Foreign Relations Committee and is pending on the Senate floor. H.R. 2895, pending in the House International Relations Committee, is supported by Reps. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and others. One of the great pro-life leaders in Congress, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., has also worked to make national policy more sensitive and sensible. The broad spectrum represented by these members of Congress strengthens the base for an effective and moral policy direction more in keeping with America's own national traditions and interests.

Members of the Oklahoma delegation are encouraged to support such efforts. Congress should pass a unified package. The president should sign it, and his State Department should be directed to support this new direction in national policy.

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