THE ROLE OF THE MILITARY IN A CHANGING WORLD SPEECH BY PROF. DR. SUSILO BAMBANG YUDHOYONO, AT THE WEST POINT MILITARY ACADEMY, NEW YORK, 22 SEPTEMBER 2014
Date 23 September 2014
Peace be upon us all,
Lieutenant General Robert L. Caslen, Jr., Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy of West Point.
Distinguished Officers and Cadets,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be here in one of the worlds finest military academies. I am honored for the opportunity to speak before all of you the cadets, who I believe will become future leaders and commanders of the United States Army. I also believe that many of you not only will be remembered as true patriots of your proud nation, but also the future leaders of this great country.
This is my tenth visit to the United States. My main purpose is to take part in a number of United Nations meetings, including to deliver my last speech as Indonesian President at the UN General Assembly. Truth is, I have been planning to visit West Point for quite some time now, and I am glad that I finally have the chance to do so. Next Friday, I will also speak at the George Washington University.
I feel honored to stand here in a hall that has hosted remarkable figures. I recall the great speeches of prominent soldiers like General Douglas McArthur and more recently by President Obama. This very hall has also given birth to countless U.S. military leaders and without doubt, many more to come.
Let me say a few words about my country Indonesia although I assume many of you had googled about my country the night before at the order of your instructors.
Indonesia is half way around the world from here. It is the largest country in Southeast Asia — from east to west it spans a distance equal to that between New York and San Francisco, covering three time zones. We are the fourth most populous nation in the world with around 250 million people. Indonesia also has the largest Muslim population in the world. Indonesia is the worlds third largest democracy actually, the next largest democracy after India and the United States. Just to illustrate, last July more than 130 million people cast their votes in the presidential election. As a vibrant democracy, Indonesia also enjoys freedom of the press, and respect for human rights and democratic values. We are also an emerging economy, and a member of the G-20, like the United States.
Before I proceed with my speech, just yesterday I spoke with four senior cadets from Indonesian military academy. They asked me to convey their greetings and also a messageI believe never before a Commander in Chief becomes a messenger for cadets, but I make an exception this time.
And their messages are, and I quote, Greetings to all fellow cadets and instructors at West Point. We are eager to build friendship with cadets from other nations, including from this center of military excellence. We also have strong desire to build harmonious relations among civilizations and faiths, so that this world we all share together will be more secure and peaceful. End of quote.
Those messages came from Cadets of different religious background. Cadet First Sergeant Major Angger Panduyuda and Kodrat Adiaji, both Muslims; Cadet Robert Willem, a Christian; Cadet Protasius Widianto, a Catholic; and Cadet I Gede Bagus, a Hindu. And just like you, these cadets love their country.
Distinguished Officers and Cadets,
Forty years ago, I joined a four-year military academy in Indonesia. Just like you, I had dreams and goals to become a patriot and a warrior, a successful professional officer, a great military leader, and help shape modern Indonesian military that will successfully accomplish any missions.
In line with the motto of the West Point : Duty, Honor, Country, I conducted my years in military service with strong determination. I also prepared myself to sacrifice for my country, and to realize my ideals. During my active service, I carried out a variety of military assignments, including military operations other than war. I served in a peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslavia, including Bosnia and Herzegovina. And I completed all these duties with some sense of joy and at times, anxiety. Accomplishments and also admittedly some disappointments.
I also had the good fortune to experience combat assignments as well as education and training, including those in the US Army such as Airborne and Ranger School at Fort Benning, US Jungle Warfare School at Fort Sherman in Panama, Infantry Officer Advanced Course at Fort Benning, and Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. All of which helped me to become a better professional officer.
In the US Army, and in other militaries, we live and die by a code. We live with a set of values, mindsets and cultures which are unique to military. We are trained to have a can do spirit, a must-accomplish mission philosophy, a never give up attitude, strong leadership and effective military management. We are bound by a military traditions founded on cohesiveness and a strong esprit de corps.
You might wonder why I am telling you all these despite the fact that I come from a country very much different from yours. This is because I am convinced that these are what changed and shaped my life, and I believe these could also change you in the future. A positive change that had helped me build ability and capacity to fulfill my state duty as President of the Republic of Indonesia and at the same time as the Commander in Chief.
I am sure that you often heard a theory that your education in the West Point would become an invaluable asset for your future careerbe that in the military or in any other professions and careers. These might include entering politics, the business world or government. Some prominent graduates of this institution have proven this theory. Just to name a few, General George S. Patton and General Dwight Eisenhower, and General Douglas McArthur, three remarkable World War II figures. John Francis Reed and John Mondy Shimkus, both are seasoned parliamenttarians. Bob McDonald and Keith McLoughlin, CEOs of world leading companies. William Surles McArthur and Richard Michael Mullain who became US astronauts. And John Mearsheimer, a professor at Chicago University. In a way, my life experience is also evidence to this theory.
For that reason, cadets, you must be thankful to West Point and to your Commanding Officers and instructors who have worked hard to educate and train you with the leadership skill and also life skill that will make the best that you can be under any circumstances.
Distinguished Officers and Cadets,
Now let me turn to the subject of my speech: The Roles of the Military in A Changing World.
Perhaps you may say that the world might change but the duties of the military will never change: fight the battle, defeat the enemy, engage in wars, and defend our country.
But keep in mind, the types of war continue to evolve. The nature of threat will not remain the same. We must prepare for both conventional warfare but also non-conventional warfare where asymmetrical factors come into play. Technology will continue to drive the Revolution in Military Affairs. This has forced the development of new strategies, tactics and military doctrines.
Thus, what was once known as the warfare principles of clear cut solution, short duration and low casualties can no longer be out-rightly expected. Military Operations other than WarMOTW have increasingly consumed the attention of militaries around the world.
Non-conventional warfor examples, counter-insurgency operations and wars on terrorhave also become more difficult, delicate and complex. Regular army must now face enemies that possess an ideology and belief, militancy and perceptions which are totally different from theirs. This has made todays warfare even more complex.
For example, are regular armies ready to confront acts of terror and insurgencies by thousands of people who are determined to become suicide bombers? Are conventional soldiers at home or abroad ready to confront terrorism threats that may occur any time?
In some cases, those perpetrators are more educated and more affluent compared to the average citizens. Have conventional soldiers prepared tactics and doctrines to prevent and overcome such strange but real threats?
Isnt it true that advanced weapons technology owned by the army, navy and air force, have some limitation to be deployed in this new and unfamiliar battlefield? This is what we in Indonesia experienced when our technological advantage did not necessarily convert to outright victory at the battle-field. This is due to the insurgents ability to use the difficult terrain against our troops and other asymmetrical means.
Surely, Generals and Colonels will have to find effective solutions for many of these challenges and difficult problems. These are the new military realities that generals, strategists, tacticians, and doctrine crafter have to deal with.
At the same time, all these developments take place in an ever changing strategic environment. International relations today are indeed more dynamic. The geopolitical balance continues to shift. New sources of conflict emerge, among others competition for resources, especially food and energy which are becoming increasingly scarce. And these are triggered by the steady increase of world population that will reach nine billion in our lifetime.
And we are also witnessing the emergence of the geopolitics of emotions, which reflect the continued uneasy relations between Islam and the West. A geopolitics that has yet to end the cycle of hatred, fear and humiliation. In addition, conflict in the Middle East remains unresolved, while at the same time, many scholars have predicted the return of the Cold War. An era which was supposedly had ended by the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
This is the new reality of our world. A more complex world with deep inter-linkages between politics, military, psychology and emotions, and also ideology and new geopolitics. This happens in the midst of ongoing critical global challenges such as climate change, global poverty and inequality, and new rivalry between great powers and other global tensions. I am convinced that great military thinkers and figures of the past such as Napoleon, Clausewitz, Jomini, Liddle Hart, Sun Tzu, Mahan, and many others,–if they were to live in todays world, they would have had to revise their theories and landmark thoughts.
Now, we are left with questions. With all the new challenges and complexities, what can we do together? In what ways can the military perform their duties effectively? How can nations and leaders act together to prevent the world from deteriorating?
I must admit that I do not have answers to all these questions. I would, however, highlight three important points.
FIRST, given the complexity of conflicts in many parts of our world, solutions that rely on military measures alone will usually not resolve the situation. A comprehensive settlement usually require a set of political and other solutions. For example, with regard to the challenge of ISIS in the Middle East and other terrorism acts in many corners of the world, I believe what we need is multi-pronged approaches. To deal with this difficult and complex situation, we will also need to apply soft power or smart power in different dose and forms. For example, once ISIS can be defeated militarily, we will urgently need to come up with subsequent measures to ensure that future generations will not take up their diabolical cause again. This is not the task of militaries but the task of politicians, diplomats, religious leaders and civil society. In Indonesia, for example, in dealing with the terrorist threat, we have employed a deradicalization program as well as empowering moderate religious leaders to roll-back extremism after a number of terror attacks.
My SECOND point is this: ending a war is much more difficult than starting it. This is where politics and effective diplomacy are much needed, based on the strong commitment by world political leaders to select political and diplomatic options in pursuing their national interests. Although this is not an easy option, but I am convinced that there is always a way.
In our case, within a year of my presidency, we were able to bring an end to the three decades of armed conflict in Aceh. With strong political will, within two to three years, we were able to reach a peaceful reconciliation with Timor-Leste after twenty-five years of conflict. Moreover, through negotiations, we were able to reach agreement on border delimitation with some of our neighbors. We know too well that border issues could easily turn into open military conflict.
In the last four months, we also managed to resolve our maritime border delimitation with The Philippines, and also with Singapore both after years of pain-staking negotiations. Interestingly, these borders are adjacent to the South China Sea.
Having said that, I must say that I am neither a utopian nor blindly following idealism in International Relations theory. I am fully aware, in some situations we cannot always use peaceful means to end conflicts. Therefore, the military must always stand ready to perform their duties in defense of national interests. After all, we learn that war is the continuation of politics by other means.
And THIRD, even though we face geopolitical tensions in many parts of the world, and there remain hostile situations between countries, there is always room for confidence building measures, which is necessary to reduce trust deficit. This can be done through exchange of education and training; exchange of visits between military officers; joint training such as in the areas of anti-terrorism, disaster relief operations, and peacekeeping missions.
I am proud that our two militaries have engaged in many joint trainings in the past and many more in the future. Just last August, they took part in joint peacekeeping operations exercise with multinational contingents at the Indonesian Peace and Security Center, South of Jakarta. Some 850 troops from 21 nations took part in this peace keeping training. Again, let me underline that the military can play an important role in conflict prevention efforts.
In my experience leading Indonesia for the past ten yearswhich will come to an end next monthI must say that politicians come and go. But if relations between the military and the relations between business and economic actors are strong, then the politicians will think twice before declaring war. Because any war will in the end affect us all.
This is what I believe in, what I adhere to, and pursue all these years. This is also what Southeast Asias regional organization known as ASEAN — has been pursuing all this time. In that way, Southeast Asia is now regarded as a peaceful and stable region despite the fact that forty years ago the region was divided. Countries were then engaged in enmity and war.
Those are my humble opinions, as a political leader and someone who has served as a soldier for a long period of time. The philosophy and principles to which I hold on is, that our world will be better off if we resort to peace. For me, war is the last resort after we have exhausted all peaceful means. But war can be justified when our survival and vital interests are under threat. I am convinced that the role of politicians do matter. As they say, There are no war-like people. There are only war-like leaders.
But, dont be mistaken. The military must always be ready for war and combat. This is what I did in the past. However, the political leaders have moral obligation once there is a need to declare wara war of necessity which is fully justified. Be mindful that soldiers will not fight and die, unless they know what they fight and die for.
In the case of the United States, which is a super power, your country shares a great responsibility to help create a peaceful, just and prosperous world. The world has high hope on your countrys leadershipa leadership that is constructive, wise, and beneficial to all nations.
Distinguished officers and cadets,
Let me end my speech by thanking you all, General Caslen the Superintendent as well as all faculty members and instructors for hosting me today.
I pray that all the cadets will one day become patriots, warriors, and successful military leaders. And that you may also become peacekeepers for the betterment of your country and the world.
I thank you.
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF INDONESIA
DR. H. SUSILO BAMBANG YUDHOYONO
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