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‘An Ounce of Prevention…’: U.S. Anti-Communist Operations in Indonesia, 1963-1965

Colloquium with Dahlia Setiyawan, Ph.D. candidate, UCLA Department of History

Thursday, May 30, 2013
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
6275 Bunche Hall
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Within a decade of its 1945 declaration of independence from Dutch colonial rule, Indonesia emerged at the vanguard of the Non-Aligned Movement. Leveraging Western Bloc as well as Sino-Soviet interest in the new nation, Indonesia’s president, Soekarno, simultaneously secured economic aid and other support from both sides while maintaining a precarious domestic balance of power between the right-wing Army and the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). However, by the early 1960s, as Soekarno began to take a more aggressive anti-imperialist posture toward the West, power began to shift in favor of the PKI and its radical nationalist allies. Indonesia’s Cold War “slide toward communism,” long a troubling prospect to the United States Government, thus became a critical and urgent focus of U.S. foreign policy.      
As U.S.-Indonesian relations disintegrated and anti-U.S. demonstrations escalated at American Foreign Service posts in Indonesia between 1963 and 1965, U.S. officials ramped up covert actions aimed at destroying the PKI and overthrowing Soekarno. Though it seemed at first that their efforts might not succeed, with an October 1, 1965 failed ‘PKI coup’ and its aftermath, both of these objectives were achieved. Detailing the operations spearheaded by the U.S. Consulate in Surabaya during these years and the actions of a cast of characters from CIA operatives to Foreign Service Officers in carrying them out, this talk illuminates how the United States’ “ounce of prevention” in Indonesia contributed to one of the deadliest episodes of political violence in the twentieth century.

Dahlia Gratia Setiyawan is a Ph.D. candidate in the UCLA Department of History where she is completing her dissertation on U.S.-Indonesian relations and bilateral government monitoring of the Indonesian left during the Cold War. She is the recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Student grant, a U.S. Department of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies Program fellowship, and is a three-time awardee of the UCLA Lemelson Fellowship on Indonesia. 

Cost : Free and open to the public.

Sponsor(s): , Department of History

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