Author(s)Hefner, Robert W
Contributor(s)CENTER FOR NAVAL ANALYSES ALEXANDRIA VA
KeywordsSociology and Law
Humanities and History
UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT
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AbstractIndonesia has vast natural resources, an enormous domestic consumer market, and, although battered since late 1997, one of Asia s largest industrial sectors. It is also the single most powerful country in the influential Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). With some 17,000 islands (half of which are inhabited) spread across a territorial expanse equal to that of the continental United States, Indonesia also sits astride some of the most important shipping routes in the world. For these and other reasons, Indonesia is of singular strategic importance to the United States and to our friends and allies in the East Asian region. With some 88 percent of its 215 million people officially professing Islam, Indonesia also ranks as the largest majority-Muslim country in the world. Since winning independence from the Netherlands in December 1949, Indonesia s political order has been officially based on a system of multi-religious nationalism rather than Islamic law or governance. Muslim political parties have nonetheless played a prominent role in the country s political system. Despite occasional outbreaks of extremism, however, the central current in Indonesian Muslim politics has been moderate. During the 1950s and 1960s, when Indonesia developed the largest Communist Party in the non-Communist world, Muslim leaders looked to the United States as an ally and friend in their struggle against Communism. Attitudes toward the United States cooled slightly in the early 1970s, as Israel s victory in the 1967 war and its occupation of Arab lands colored Muslim perceptions of the United States. Despite these developments, until the early 1980s many in the Muslim community remained lax in their profession of Islam and secular nationalist in their political views.