October 23, 2002


Australia’s options are permanently connected to the fate of Indonesia. For the foreseeable future, Australia will have as its closest major neighbor a state that is vastly more populous, vastly poorer, riven by religious factionalism and ethnic separatism, and burdened in its quest for development by a weak civil society.

An Indonesia fragmented by religious and ethnic struggle would be a source of masses of desperate refugees. An Indonesia dominated by radical Islamists would be a nightmare. Consider the words of one of Indonesia’s radical Islamist leaders, Abu Bakar Baasyir. Asked if there was anything he wanted to say to families who lost relatives in the Bali bomb attack, he said: “My message to the families is please convert to Islam as soon as possible.”

In its current situation, Australia has fewer choices than its intellectuals believe. Their preferred choice, appeasement of the radical Islamists, will be not only ineffective but counterproductive: it will teach the lesson that killing Australians is the way to control Australia.

There is in fact little Australia can do to please or accommodate the radical Islamists of Indonesia, since their goals are primarily aimed at turning Indonesia into a Taliban-like Islamist state. Terror against non-Muslim Indonesians and foreign travelers in Indonesia is part of their campaign, and there is nothing that will stop them short of rendering them ineffective.

My preference is for rendering them permanently ineffective.

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