The political transition and military modernization in Indonesia can result in various outcomes such as democracy or a reversal of authoritarian rule. The military plays an essential role in shaping Indonesian politics since the fall of President Suharto in 1998. For three decades, Suharto ruled the country, advancing the ideology of the “New Order,” but the end of this authoritarian rule marked the onset of democracy. However, the move towards it is affected by various factors, including the country’s fragility and vulnerability to internal and external stressors. Notably, Islamic politics in the country will continue to create divisive debates implying that the military will continue to play a significant role in the country’s political growth.
After the fall of Suharto, the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) initiated several reforms in the national military, seeing a reduction in the representation of this institution in parliament and legislative bodies. Further, the military introduced changes to focus on external defense instead of pursuing internal security. However, the lack of competent civilian leaders and the challenges of implementing military changes affect the reforms’ adoption. The third wave of democratization reached Indonesia in 1998, after which a more democratic system replaced the old authoritarian regime. According to Huntington (1993), the problems of ambiguity significantly affect governments transitioning to democracy and can result in the regime’s failure. Modern democracy reflects the emergence of a nation-state, although, without a concise approach, a democracy can undergo a reverse wave into an authoritarian regime.
International political economy (IPE) explains the political and economic interactions between states to promote international trade and boost the world economy. Since 1988, the Indonesian army’s continued modernization has been possible due to political and financial transactions between the country and the US. IPE has enabled the government to purchase military equipment through the Minimum Essential Force (MEF) from Germany, including the Parchim class battleships and used fighter jets from Australia (Araf & Ahmad, 2020). However, this has been possible due to the democracy that has taken shape in the country since 1998. IPE continues to strengthen the country’s efforts to bring modern weapons and technologies through cooperation with the military. Moreover, globalization has allowed the flow of communication between Indonesia and other nations, enabling the transfer of technologies and information to the country. This has enabled the government to restructure the military into small agile units that execute specific commands.
Terrorism threats affect the modernization of the military in Indonesia. The country is facing significant challenges from radical Islamists, separatists, and militias that threaten national disintegration. Homer-Dixon (2002) notes that terrorists have diverse motivating factors and exploit various avenues using technologies to weaken security. The military executes the war on terrorism in the country through counterterrorism-joint programs with countries such as the US to enhance the country’s political stability. The country has purchased military equipment through the Minimum Essential Force (MEF) and established policies to restructure the defense systems. This has been fueled by the radicalization of pro-Islamic groups that have perpetrated various attacks in the country. Therefore, through a partnership with countries such as the United States, Indonesia has continually modernized its military about reforms and defense equipment.
The theories of democratization, IPE, and terrorism are important factors that enhance the understanding of Indonesia’s military modernization. The military has to play a crucial role in the country’s politics, shape democracy, improve economic growth, and establish counterterrorism measures. IPE has played an essential role in enhancing international trade allowing the government to purchase used weapons and military equipment, leading to further modernization of the military. Since 1998, it has attempted to achieve democratization by creating reforms that saw a reduced representation of the army in legislative offices. However, the country’s various challenges and security threats continually invite the military to participate in critical sections of the government to safeguard the nation’s stability. Therefore, these theories allow one to understand the constrained nature of military modernization and its active role in Indonesian politics.
Homer-Dixon, T. (2002). The rise of complex terrorism. Foreign Policy, 128, 52. Web.
Huntington, S. P. (1993). The third wave: Democratization in the late twentieth century (Vol. 4). University of Oklahoma Press.
Araf, A., and Ahmad, H. (2020). The thorn in modernization of primary weapons system. The Jakarta Post. Web.