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Strategic Posture Review: Indonesia

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011

An archipelago of 17,000 islands stretching 3,000 miles from east to west, Indonesia sits astride some of the world's most important sea lanes of communication. Its 240 million people make it the world's fourth-most-populous state and third-largest democracy, and with 88 percent of its population Muslim, Indonesia is home to the world's largest Muslim community. Indonesians believe that their country's size, strategic location and domestic achievements entitle it to a leadership role in global affairs, and that case is strengthened by the country's experience with various transnational threats: Indonesia faces homegrown and transnational terrorism, is the world's fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases and has suffered more deaths from avian influenza than any other country.

Despite its size, Indonesia is distinctly lacking in hard-power assets. Because its island status making it relatively immune from external attack and its ethnic diversity makes it prone to social fragmentation, Indonesia's key security threats have traditionally been internal, not external. As a result, Indonesia's strategic posture is defensive, and it has virtually no power-projection capability. The source of Indonesia's influence is soft power, which it has used to create regional institutions such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to promote regional stability and pursue its key strategic objective of ensuring that Southeast Asia never fall under the hegemony of an outside power. ...

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