Damien Kingsbury

The intrinsic quality of a state is, in the final instance, determined by that which guarantees its claim to authority. In the case of Indonesia, such guarantee is its military, the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI), while the rebellious, resource-rich province of Aceh has arguably been the site of its most concerted effort. At a time when Western political leaders and most Indonesia scholars champion Indonesia’s procedural democracy, despite a reduced political capacity, the TNI structurally remains the institution that it was. As a result, studying the role of the TNI in Aceh reveals critical insights into continuing aspects of the Indonesian state.

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Have the Bali Bombings completely changed our view of Indonesia? Although obviously not designed to do so, these three books provide necessary background on how such an atrocity might be possible in the near-anarchic circumstances of that country. They also give a wide-ranging and informative picture of the present state of Indonesia in all its chaos and uncertainty. They make sobering reading, as if Indonesian politics is a mixture of Shakespearean tragedy, Javanese shadow play and gangster drama: Hamlet, Semar and The Godfather.

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