Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

The greatest prize in Southeast Asia: United States' policy towards Indonesia in the Truman and Eisenhower years

By Andrew Roadnight


United States' policy towards Indonesia (the Netherlands East Indies) during the Truman and Eisenhower Presidencies involved many of the major issues of the time, including decolonisation, access to economic resources, Cold War strategy and Washington's involvement with Asian nationalism. Throughout the period, the emphasis of American policy was on the integration of Indonesia into world capitalism, an objective which became intertwined with Indonesia's growing strategic value to the US, from 1948 onwards, and its subsequent importance as a scene of confrontation with the Soviets and Communist China. By 1961, Washington's policies had failed in all their major aims and it seemed possible that Indonesia would become a communist state.\ud \ud The Eurocentric bias of American policy consistently dominated US relations with Indonesia. During the independence struggle, between 1945 and 1949, Washington's support for The Netherlands ended only when it became a greater threat to stability than the nationalists. However, after independence, its pro-Dutch inclinations were revived over the West Irian question. The militant anti-communism of John Foster Dulles, the Americans' inability to come to terms with Asian nationalism, exemplified by its handling of the Bandung Conference, in 1955, and the deep personal dislike of Sukarno by senior Administration officials combined to cause a deterioration in relations which culminated in a CIA-sponsored rebellion, in 1957/58.\ud \ud The determination and execution of American policy was influenced by Australia, which favoured Indonesian independence, and which, in the 1950's, exerted great influence in Washington, especially over West Irian. Along with the United Kingdom, whose forces had liberated the Netherlands East Indies in 1945, Australia had a central role in the CIA-backed rebellion. American policy minimised the role of the United Nations in the Indonesian independence struggle and over West Irian in order to inhibit the Soviet's ability to intervene

Topics: DS, E151
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1957). Archival Sources Australian Archives, Canberra, CRS A 1209 Correspondence Files of the Prime ACT. Minister's Department,
  2. (1945). Office, London CAB 105 War Cabinet Telegrams FO 371 Foreign Office General File FO 800 Ernest Bevin's Papers
  3. (1946). Oral Interviews Records of the UN Executive Assistant to the Secretary General,
  4. (1944). Relations, Secretary's Memoranda : Visits Providence, RI. of Foreign Dignitaries,

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.