The dust has settled in Bogor, lines of military vehicles have stopped chugging around Jakarta, returning to whatever base they were pulled from to provide security for the presidential visit on Monday. The analysis continues to pour in, however. Many are asking what the real affects are going to be, what the real meaning is for Indonesia.
Bush’s arrival in Indonesia may indicate a recognition that South East Asia and Indonesia especially are critical countries in terms of the interests of the United States. It could be a sign that future policy will pay more attention to this part of the world.
However, many say that Bush’s visit was simply another manifestation of his arrogance as the leader of a world power, that he was simply stopping out of diplomatic courtesy and has no real intentions to change the policy that has fueled such discontent in Indonesia. Many reports in English media said that Bush “shrugged off the massive protests” that greeted him, saying that it was simply a sign of a healthy democracy. Indeed, the demonstrations on Monday, and almost every day for two weeks, show how much Indonesians desire a role in politics. The fact that tens of thousands of people can march through the streets, expressing themselves very vividly, yet coexist peacefully the lines of police and military shows that the system is indeed conducive to democracy. (The fact remains, however, that there were still thousands and thousands of troops, fully armed, waiting just out of sight in Bogor on Monday, ready to take who knows what kind of action.)
While it is indeed important for Bush to recognize the vibrancy of Indonesia’s democracy, he should also take the time to listen to the messages that the crowds were expressing so vividly.