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January 13, 2005

Indonesia wants foreign troops out, defends restrictions on tsunami aid

Topics: Southeast Asia Earthquake and Tsunami

Captain's Quarters has a post today on Western aid in the tsunami-torn region of southeastern Asia and it's positive effects on the War on Terror. It seems that the spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiah says he is losing the battle for the hearts and minds of Aceh's tsunami survivors because of the humanitarian assistance from Australian and US military forces. Many in the heavily-Muslim Indonesian areas most affected by the killer waves now see the US, Australia, and other Western nations in a much more positive light. This indeed has caused dismay in predictable circles and could be the reason that we are hearing insistance from Indonesia that  foreign troops should leave the tsunami-hit Aceh province on Sumatra island as soon as they finish their relief mission, staying no longer than three months.

- From SG News via Yahoo Jan 13 we have:
Indonesia told foreign troops helping tsunami victims to get out of the country soon and defended tough new restrictions on aid workers, while rich nations prepared to freeze Jakarta's debt repayments.

Vice President Yusuf Kalla said foreign troops should leave tsunami-hit Aceh province on Sumatra island as soon as they finish their relief mission, staying no longer than three months.

"Three months are enough. In fact, the sooner the better," Kalla was quoted by the state Antara news agency as saying.

"Three months are enough. In fact, the sooner the better," Kalla was quoted by the state Antara news agency as saying.

The armed forces of Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the United States have all rushed task forces to Aceh in the wake of the December 26 disaster which killed at least 106,500 Indonesians out of a total of more than 159,000 deaths in Asia.

United Nations officials struggling to coordinate a massive relief operation have welcomed their participation, particularly to deliver aid to isolated coastlines accessible only by sea or air.

But their presence in Indonesian territory has been a sensitive issue for the world's largest Muslim-populated nation which has traditionally kept foreign military, particularly the United States and Australia, at arm's length.

The vice president said Aceh in the near future would need foreign medical workers and engineers instead of military assistance.

"Foreign troops are no longer needed," he said.

Kalla's comments came after the country's military imposed sweeping new restrictions on foreign relief workers operating in Aceh, claiming they were in danger from rebels waging a long-running separatist war.     Read more...    -End Item

Captain Ed believes (from his post) that while the aid should have been seen primarily as a humanitarian effort, the possible implications on the war on terror shouldn't be minimized. His primary concern seems to be centered on the opening that the disaster gave to Islamist organizations to establish themselves in Aceh and surrounding areas if they were allowed to accomplish the delivering of water, food, and medicine to the region before Western nations were able to respond in force. Ed qualifies his opinion with the caveat that he didn't believe that any American effort would result in much significant positive impact on the Muslim mindset of Indonesians.

Although I give my opinion no greater weight than Ed's, I didn't share Ed's earlier concern for Western nations to be 'late on the draw' owing to the magnitude of the disaster which left little chance that this would occur since only the Western nations have the huge delivery resources capable of facilitating the massive relief effort that has been required. Hence we have the present situation in which the Islamists via the Indonesian government percieve the presence of Western military and non-Muslim relief agencies to be a significant threat. This leaves the issue of whether or not the American and Australian relief effort will have significant and long-lasting positive effects on people-to-people relations in the region. On this matter I think Ed and I are in full accord.

But whether or not the Western nations' efforts will serve to discredit any of the propaganda of the Islamists in the region, even for just the short term, remains to be seen. Although it is true that very little of the Islamists' energy has actualy been applied to helping Muslims(groups like Jemaah Islamiyah, Hamas, and countries like Saudi Arabia have displayed slow to non-existent responses to the humanitarian need of their own people within the ummah ), Muslims will continue to have exposure to ongoing propaganda from their clerics and the Islamists on a daily basis - fully tolerated by the Indonesian government. This is not to say that the populations in the tsunami-stricken region will not be positively affected by Western humanitarian efforts, but any short term positive effect is likely to be fully countered by the negative spin of the Islamic culture and it's traditional influences.

I offer my above views as a alternative consideration to Michelle Malkin's whose opinions I greatly respect but differ with here:

"The Indonesians may now understand that these groups offer nothing but human sacrifice and blood-drinking murder to appease their conception of Allah, unrecognizable by any others. And the Islamofascists might now have to confront their own emptiness before ever gaining back any credibility outside of the serial-killer lunatic fringe among them." (via Michelle Malkin)

While I find Michelle's opinion of the Islamists to be exactly that of my own, I believe that the problem with the Islamists suffering any long term loss of credibility is the fact that whether we have an immediate presence in their villages or none at all, the population is as Ed referred to in his post - an ummah, a Muslim community; that ummah carries within it's core the generations of Islamic influence and oppression that is not undone by the effects of a tsunami and the world's reaction to it. The effects of the Islamic oppression and negative influence on the populations within it's control are a wave equal in strength to the physical tsunami just witnessed.

The real message here is for us in America to stop the wave moving to our own shores, and do it before it's too late.

Posted by Hyscience at January 13, 2005 12:55 PM

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