Subversion as Foreign Policy

The Secret Eisenhower and Dulles Debacle in Indonesia

“This is one of the more important, dramatic and—even for U.S. covert actions—shocking accounts to emerge from the Cold War. No one knows American policies towards Southeast Asia better than the Kahins, and their use of newly declassified documents plus personal interviews of the participants make this an extraordinary analysis—not least of those two much-discussed institutions, the CIA and Dwight Eisenhower.” —Walter LaFeber

Based on unprecedented access to secret documents and countless interviews with many of the participants, Subversion as Foreign Policy is an extraordinary account of how America’s foreign policy is actually conducted.

During the late 1950s, President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles provoked a civil war in Indonesia, aimed at transforming the character of its government to fit their own prescription. As great a debacle as the Bay of Pigs affair in Cuba, Eisenhower’s covert military intervention in Indonesia was even more destructive and had longer-lasting consequences for the local population.

Working through the CIA (and bypassing the American embassy in Jakarta), Eisenhower and Dulles secretly financed, armed, and provided air power to dissident colonels, encouraging them to break with the central government, eventually forcing a disastrous civil war. They enlisted not only the CIA but also a substantial part of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet and a camouflaged American air force. In the process, thousands of Indonesians—civilians as well as soldiers—were killed, and much of the country’s air force and navy destroyed (including the navy’s flagship, sunk with all hands lost).

In this fascinating and gripping book, the Kahins have meticulously reconstructed one of the least-known and most shocking episodes of war.