Sat, 04 Jan 2003

Transnational challenges to Indonesia's security

Andi Widjajanto International Fellow National Defense University Washington, D.C.

The global campaign against terrorism symbolizes a much larger trend: The emerging tendency of nation-states to turn their focus to transnational security threats. This new tendency has important implications for international relations theory as well as for the conduct of foreign and defense policy. One immediate implication is the common perception that an alternative framework for thinking about security that encompasses the transnational agenda is required.

Another implication is that a transformation of the policymaking process is needed to deal with this complex issue.

International relations as an academic discipline has been dominated by "realism". Realists see world politics as a "state of war" and they believe that the international system is best characterized as an anarchic one.

The methods of securing or restoring the balance such as the formation of alliances, sphere influence, intervention, diplomatic bargaining, (dis)armament, buffer zone, and war are recognized as the prominent strategies to create peace.

The realist's characterization of world politics is too narrowly conceived to make sense of the transnational challenge to global security. A new class of transnational threats is emerging.

In the post-realist world, one dependent variable, for example, the uncontrolled proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, global terrorism, widespread regional instability caused by the collapse of many nation-states, or Huntington's prophecy of a global clash of civilization, will not sufficiently shape the nature of global politics.

The threats and crises in the years ahead seem much more likely to be diverse in source, nature, and scale. These threats stem from demographic pressures, resource depletion, global warming, unregulated population movements, transnational crime and virulent new strains of infectious diseases, and many others not previously associated with international security.

Today, a complex multi-centric world has emerged. This world consists of various non-state actors such as multinational corporations, ethnic minorities, sub national governments, professional societies, social movements, non-governmental organizations, political parties, and individual actors.

If Indonesia is to actively address the complex character of transnational security threats, its traditional style of policymaking has to change.

The policymaking process is a series of concentric circles. At the center is the president, surrounded by political advisors. This inner circle usually includes the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Home Affairs, the Director of National Intelligence Agency, and the Chiefs of the National Police and the military.

Beyond this circle lies the relevant departments of the executive branch and various independent agencies and commissions. Farther still from the center is the congressional ring with the organizations of the legislative branch. The outer circle consists the public arena: The media, interest groups, and the general public.

Indonesia's security and foreign policymaking is best characterized as highly centralized bureaucracies in which security policy decisions are made mainly at the inner circle. This becomes a dominant feature because traditionally security is regarded as a high politics agenda that has immediate impact on national survival.

This policy-making feature will make it difficult for any agency to handle transnational threats that might appear in several different forms in different regions at the same time.

Many of the challenges confronting transnational security threats could be reduced if the government were to reorient its thinking and operations and decentralize its decision making process. This reorientation can be conducted by using three methods.

Firstly, the government should continue to define security as a multidimensional concept that requires a firm interagency cooperation. A case in point is the debate about the possible engagement of the Indonesian Military (TNI) to address transnational threats.

Proponents for military deployment argue that transnational security threats are the major security challenges to the nation- state in the next decades. On the other hand, military involvement would detract the military from its fundamental role of defending the nation from external attacks and would create a financial drain to military budgets.

The point of agreement of this debate could be a call for the government to designate a particular division of its military forces to deal specifically with transnational security threats, or Indonesia could create units within civilian agencies that might even have military training to acquire specific skill to deal with transnational threats.

The second method is decentralization. Although the inner circle will continue to design the national security strategy, the responsibility for their conduct could be decentralized. The inner circle could concentrate their attention on major potential crises that pose direct and immediate threats to global and national security.

Direct attacks on Indonesian territory, interstate aggression, a regional arms race, and humanitarian crises are examples of issues that would be the areas for inner circle concern. Lower bureaucratic levels then could both undertake early warning tasks and oversee preventive responses in local arenas.

The third method is that Indonesia's security strategy should recognize the importance of adopting a more multilateral approach. Indonesia must try to provide a counter-balance of preemptive doctrine of U.S. President George W. Bush. This counter-balance is the introduction of the global preventive regime, which would comprise the United Nations system, regional organizations, and non governmental organizations.

Before taking this step, Indonesia should first seek to gain support for the initiative from other major power, who should exercise their leadership by providing resources to multilateral organizations and NGOs on the front lines of prevention, providing diplomatic support behind particular preventive efforts, and providing experienced individual representative to mediate incipient disputes under multilateral auspices.