Garuda rising
How peacekeeping is helping the Indonesian military modernize
April-July 2016
By: Callum Cashel

First, it is pivotal to outline the broad goals of the TNI and the governing framework that underpins them, before examining how the military is changing to achieve these aims. Indonesia’s 2008 defense white paper provides five strategic goals: implement a deterrence capability; position the TNI to respond to military aggression from foreign states; enable the TNI to respond to military threats that challenge Indonesian interests; to meet nonmilitary threats to Indonesian security; and bring about world peace and regional stability. Of these goals, the implementation of a deterrence capability transcends all of them, as a functional offensive deterrent should be able to respond to a broad spectrum of security contingencies. As such, it is a primary focus of this essay.

This essay argues that peacekeeping operations should be positioned as a focus of modernization. A robust operations program has important knock-on benefits including vital combat-esque experience for soldiers, a streamlined procurement strategy and modernizing doctrine. While this may be a controversial notion, the current reality for Indonesia’s Armed Forces is that its only international field deployments have been peacekeeping operations. Emphasizing peacekeeping operations gives clear direction for Indonesia’s modernization efforts and arguably addresses other important matters by extension. It is more valuable than a sense of doing the right thing on the world stage.

Deterrence capability

The 2006 deployment of Konga XXIII-A, through to the recently completely mission of Konga XXIII-I, serves as an excellent example of the TNI’s ability to project and sustain a mechanized battalion somewhere as remote as Lebanon. Here we explore this capability to demonstrate that it can be applied to the development of a functioning conventional deterrence strategy. If Indonesia has a deterrence capability that can respond to a range of threats from within the immediate region, this would go a long way toward the TNI achieving the goal of securing the country’s sovereignty.

The definition of deterrence used in this context is lifted from the United States Department of Defense Dictionary of Military Terms: “The prevention of action by the existence of a credible threat of unacceptable counteraction and/or belief that the cost of action outweighs the perceived benefits.” On this basis, there are two types of deterrence: direct and indirect. Indirect relies on a more powerful third party to deter the attack of an opposition force, something that is only found in the strongest of security partnerships, such as NATO. Indonesia rightly has no interest in pursuing formal defense partnerships. Indonesia is, however, working to establish direct deterrence, developing the ability to prevent and respond to an attack unilaterally.

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