The Chemistry Of Power

As the world watched with shock and horror the terrible aftermath of a Syrian chemical attack in which a civilian population was targeted, the United States and France decided to take firm action against the President of Syria, Bashar Al Assad who was widely suspected of having ordered the attack, despite some European opposition. Then, Russia came onto the stage and suggested that the attack should be investigated by the United Nations while stating that any action could prove dangerous given its uncertainty, especially when it wasn’t clear who the attacker was and where the chemical weapons had come from.

Russia suggested the United Nations as a means to put an end to the crisis, thus pushing that same organization to be the one in charge of destroying the Syrian arsenal of chemical weapons. This leads us to the first conclusion: that International Institutions continue to be the most important actors in managing a crisis of this kind due to their ability to resist the power and influence of the States  and to arbitrate their actions in the International System – at least to a Liberal mind. The second conclusion is that Russia was making efforts to keep the peace and stability of a region; a very complicated region and one in which many States have interests in the outcome of the Syrian conflict (Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, namely), and saving Syria a merciless and cruel war that would be unleashed by the United States (though let’s not miss the irony here).

However, both perceptions are inaccurate, for Liberals and new fans of the Russian President.

First because of what has been going on in Syria over the past two years and within the UN, has allowed us to witness how the struggle for power among the Great Powers occurs on the international stage in which Institutions are just another scenario besides the battlefield where the strategic usage of geography in hand with military assets is key. Mearsheimer (1995) reminds us that institutions reflect the distribution of Power in the world and are therefore the sons of the calculations and interests of the Great Powers, having no real effect on their behavior. But wait, didn’t the USA back down their military intervention after a UN decision and after an agreement within the UN?

Actually it was more the cunning strategic moves made by Russia – appealing to the world’s public opinion – and the advantage it took from the lack of strategic vision of the current Obama administration rather than the sole action of the UN itself. It actually took the UN as a means to gain the lion share on this case. Also, these moves meant that Russia made a strong usage of a Policy of Prestige, which according to Morgenthau (2006) is another means for struggling for power, and in which the idea is, as pointed out before, to make the others to have a positive image and using the UN as a tool for that. The very resourceful utilization of the word “peace”, or at least its meaning, was in the lines of the speeches made by the Russian Head of State, even warning that an attack would prove no use and could be a big mistake that could lead to a great instability in both Syria and the Middle East.

But at the same time it was deploying some naval assets – three landing ships, a reconnaissance ship, an anti – submarine ship, a frigate and even a guided – missile cruiser (the “Moskva”) – in front of the Syrian coasts in a very convenient way after the US declared its intentions to intervene in Syria. It is also worthwhile to mention that some assets such as the frigate and the anti – submarine ship are platforms for antisubmarine warfare, capable to attack the submarines that the US would have used to launched cruise – missiles against the Syrian air – defences.

Secondly, because Russia has strategic interests in Syria; not only is it one of the few remaining allies it has abroad – a legacy from the Cold War – but also because Russia, from the times of the Czars and even during the Soviet Regime, always looked for warm water harbours that could improve the strategic situation of Russia as well as to break down its disadvantage in what concerns to open seas accessibility and being able to exert its projection to the Mediterranean Sea and even towards the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. And in the land aspect, to have a foot placed in the Middle East and countervail the high presence and influence of the USA in the Region, though it can’t do so as much as it was able to do during the Cold War.

Moreover, Russia has economic interests as well, involving arms sales and contracts for around $ 4 billion – Mig 29 fighters, S300 Air Defence Systems and other assets – as well as oil, gas, tourism, and infrastructure invesetments that Russia has in the country, according to The Moscow Times (02 September 2011).

If anything, the halt of the American and French attack to secure the Syrian chemical weapons as a result of the Russian maneouvres at the UN shows how a Great Power like Russia is capable to use an International Organization – or an Institution – to play for its own benefit and protect an ally which is a very beneficial one both strategically and economically. Far from being the peace seeker nation, Russia is a very cold and calculating player of the Great Powers game; it effectively protected both its interests and its ally by using the UN to do so, aided by some strategic weaknesses of the Obama Administration, and proved that Institutions like the UN fulfill with what Mearhseimer states, that: “those are the mere reflection of the Great Powers’ interests and are another kind of arena in which their struggle for Power takes places, as well as the – strategic – weapons of choice.”

*Cover image ‘Russia Veto Against Any UN Decisions Against Toppling Assad is Like Resuscitating The Dead!’ by Freedom House

The Uprise of Somalia’s Piracy in the 21st Century

Since the fall of President Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has become a country ruled by lawlessness and scarred by disputes between numerous war clans. Due to these anarchic conditions the recent uprise in Somali piracy has grown and become a real problem for shipping with pirates often hijacking vessels and demanding large ransoms for their safe return.

Somali pirate attacks were initially limited to the Gulf of Aden[1] – a stretch of water between Somalia and Yemen and a part of the Suez Canal – and an increasing number of pirate attacks were registered in 2008 with more than 90 commercial ships attacked and over 40 ships hijacked. Whilst there is no data for the number of Somali pirates active in the region, it is known that the majority come from the Puntland region in the north east of the country and are associated with several war clans. (Dagne, 2009)

Since 2008, the pirates have again shifted their focus for operation. Due to increasing anti-piracy operations in the Gulf, pirate attacks have become a greater threat in the north-west Indian Ocean, with an average of 214 ships attacked and 31 ships hijacked in the region by the end of 2011, resulting in an increase in maritime security operations. (Burns, 2012)

However, despite these increased security operations Somali pirates still pose a real danger to international shipping. In 2010, Somali pirates earned an average of $250 million in ransom payments in exchange for releasing ships and hostages. These pirate groups have access to information on the location, timing and cargo of ships entering the Gulf provided by their ‘mother ships’[2] – large fishing vessels, often acquired through hijacking, that possess sophisticated technologies and weaponry, and allegedly supported by Somali businessmen in return for a share of ransom revenues.  (Ploch, 2011)

Reasons for Somali Piracy:

From the Somali perspective, a part of the population sees piracy as being a foreign problem that does not affect their daily routine. Some say that as long as ransoms are being paid to the pirates, attacks will continue and Somali leaders contend that citizens became involved with these type of criminal activities in order to survive, since they had their means of income ruined by outside interests. (Dagne, 2009)

There is some truth in these claims; while the large ransoms can be a reason for some to turn to piracy, many members of these pirate groups did so more out of necessity, being former fishermen or militia members of Somali Warlords whose sources of income were ruined by illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping by outside organizations. (Dagne, 2009)

The price for dumping toxic waste in Africa is very low; it costs an average of $2.50 per ton in comparison to $250 per ton in Europe, and the water pollution that has occurred as a result of this dumping has been largely ignored by foreign governments because it is profitable. (Dagne, 2009). It is due to this international disregard that many Somali fishermen changed their way of life by making piracy a lifetime profession.

International Anti-Piracy Operations:

In order to combat the Somali pirate issue, the international community should, besides working to repair the waste dumping and illegal fishing, have a more securitized approach to piracy and create a common framework to deal with the problem that piracy causes. (Bueger, 2012)

Indeed, the United Nations convention on the law of the Sea (UNCLOS[3]) states that: “All States shall cooperate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy on the high seas or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State”. In other words, every country has the right to capture a pirate ship and arrest the personnel on board. (United Nations)

Accordingly, fleets from the European Union (EU), NATO[4], and numerous other countries including the United States (US), Russia, China, India, and Japan, have positioned their ships around the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden in order to preserve global trade routes and repel attacks led by the Somali pirates. (Nanda, 2011)

Remarkable examples of the international efforts against Somali Pirates:      

Russia became a part of international anti-piracy operations in 2008. Their warships accompanied an average of 130 commercial ships from numerous nations through the pirate infested areas around Somalia. In 2010 a Russian frigate captured 7 pirates in the Gulf of Aden during an attack on a merchant ship. (Novosti, 2012)

The United Kingdom (UK) plays a leading role in the Atalanta Operation, a conjoint operation with other EU countries to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, due to the ability and integrity of the Royal Navy. This mission has been proven to be very successful and effective in defending the World Food Programme (WFP[5]). (European Union Committee, 2009-2010)

In 2011 the Indian Navy, in cooperation with the Coast Guard, had their first main anti-piracy mission close to Indian shores. They managed to sink a pirate “mother” ship, arrest 15 Somali pirates and rescue 20 fishermen. In most of the operations India sinks the pirate ships instead of negotiating with them. (Novosti, 2011)

Spain in 2009 paid a ransom of almost $3.5 million to Somali pirates in order to free 36 fishermen and their tuna ship, known as the Alakrana. Prime minister Zapatero mentioned that the government did what they had to do to recover the ship. The vessel was being occupied by 60 pirates.  (Cala and Cowell, 2011)

However, with the exception of the E.U. and the U.S. who are leading a conjoined mission known as Shade[6] in order to combat the pirate threat in unison, these nations do not cooperate enough in their anti-piracy operations. This is unlike the pirates who, despite lacking an organized commando structure, communicate and coordinate attacks together. With greater cooperation in the international community, an increased naval presence in the Gulf could be achieved in order to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean more efficiently. (Hanson, 2010)

In addition to providing a great naval presence in pirate infested areas, the American State department has advised countries not to pay ransoms nor open concessions to pirate groups as it is seen to promote hijackings, kidnappings and other criminal activities. However,  despite this, some countries still pay ransoms; Spain, for example, continues to pay. The payment of ransoms aggravates the problem by providing funds to pirates which in turn leads to the investment in advanced technologies to be used by them and the expansion of  similar types of criminal actions. (Ploch, 2011)

Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSC) :

It is certainly due to the increasing number of attacks each year,  and perhaps partly due to the less than efficient way in which the international community has been dealing with the Somali pirate problem, that a market for Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSC) has appeared with companies offering anti-piracy protection services. Most of these companies were founded in 2008, after the significant increase of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden, and focus on providing maritime security against piracy and robbery in international waters. (Isenberg, 2012)

The price of hiring their services to travel around the Gulf can cost upwards of $60.000 a voyage. Despite this high price, companies are happy to pay this price to PMSC agencies as they would appear to be an effective deterrent to the pirates; no ship has ever been successfully hijacked in the presence of armed forces. (Isenberg, 2012)

Most shipping companies have no choice but to hire PMSC services to protect their cargo from pirates, since the main shipping routes involve navigating  the Suez Canal and subsequently the Gulf of Aden. More often than not, the cargo being transported is worth far more than the price of hiring a PMSC service, so shipping companies see it as a worthwhile expenditure. For example, spending $60,000 to prevent the hijacking of a shipment full of oil worth more than $100 million would be seen as logical. The pirate threat adds insecurity and additional costs for shipping companies which will ultimately lead to the increase in global oil prices and shipping costs. The rise of pirate activities forces the international community to allocate extra resources to this region however their lack of efficiency and co-ordination has made PMSCs necessary to ensure shipments to arrive safe at their destination.


With commercial ships often targeted, the Somali piracy problem represents an important threat to global shipping routes and affects several countries; in 2011 439 attacks were registered, with 45 commercial ships hijacked. (World Shipping Council, 2012)

The majority of these cases occurred in the Gulf of Aden, around the Somali coast, and in the Indian Ocean. From early 2012 there has been an average of 51 attacks off the coast of Somalia, 11 hijackings and 158 hostages with unprotected ships not following the UN BMP guidelines being the most targeted.

Whilst it is important for ships to be prepared to counter pirate attacks, it is clear that a greater effort is needed in order to address an issue with such global repercussions. An international coordination of governments and companies is needed to solve not only the problem of pirate attacks, but also the cause of piracy in Somalia.  (World Shipping Council, 2012)

[1] The Gulf of Aden is located in the Arabian Sea between Yemen, on the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and Somalia in the Horn of Africa.

[2] These ‘mother ships’ are usually larger fishing vessels that have been commandeered through acts of piracy.

[3] United Nations Convention On The Law Of The Sea

[4] North Atlantic Treaty Organization

[5] World Food Programme

[6] Shared Awareness and Deconfliction

* Cover image ‘EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Belgian frigate BNS Louise-Marie intercepted one skiff with five suspected pirates on board’ by EU Naval Force Media and Public Information Office

Defence Contractors and Private Military Contractors: Armourers, Mercenaries, and Politics

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes”.

—Dwight D. Eisenhower, Military-Industrial Complex Speech, 1961.

As Galston (2006) remarks, the political feasibility is shaped by particular interests in a society. The place in which such interests play a major role and have a clear impact in society is in the place in which decisions are taken, at least in democratic societies: the Congress or the Parliament, the political arena in which those interests fight against each other to occupy the agenda. The Defence Contractors[1], along with the Private Military Contractors (PMCs), are one of the interests groups with an important impact in policy and decision making in the U.S Congress. But such interests have a negative impact in the American society too[2]. In order to show those negatives outcomes of the lobby by PMCs and Defence Contractors, a brief historical approach of their influence in U.S policy making as interest groups and lobbyists will be made, from the early days of the Cold War to the current times, and then the problems of the influence of the Defence Contractors and PMCs will be discussed.

On the last days of the Second World War and the earlier days of the Cold War, there were strong lobby and even grassroots public relations made by the Aircraft Industry (under the Aircraft Industries Association) in order to avoid a similar situation of a manufacturing collapsing as they faced when the WWI ended. Both lobbying and grassroots activities were made by the firm Hill and Knowlton (H&K) in 1943 (Miller, 1996, p. 298). The objective in this case was, apart from avoiding manufacturing collapse, to obtain a law and regulation that could help the industry to keep on foot, an objective that was achieved thanks to the geopolitical context of the Cold War and the obtained support from the Congress and the Public Opinion due to the factor previously mentioned[3].

Such dynamics of the Cold War clearly balanced in favour of the Defence Industry, allowing them to influence the Policy Making in the U.S., especially on National Security and the Foreign Affairs issues[4]. And the outcome of such a dynamic paved the way to what the then President Eisenhower denominated the “Industrial – Military Complex”[5], an industry that would play the most important role in the U.S. Policy making during those times, because of the need for constant innovation for weapons systems, according to Dupre & Gustafson (1962). There was a great need for innovation because of the arms race and the geopolitical competition between the U.S.A., and the Soviet Union, along with the possibility of a Third World War and the Soviet threat.

However, as Gholz & Sapolsky (Winter 1999 – 2000) remark, the presence of such a threat resulted in a checking of the political influence from the contractors due to the primacy of the military expertise[6]. This meant that the contracts obtained by the industry were not safe at all and that they could depend on the political tone of the times. What’s more, the authors show that many defence contractors faced a fall of contract during the Cold War era and even many companies just closed. But still, and as history has shown, the Military – Industrial complex gained a strong influence among the policy and decision makers during the time and despite the change of tides of the Cold War.

Things changed radically in the years following the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, following the argument from Gholz & Sapolsky (Winter 1999 – 2000). The industry indeed made a strong lobbying campaign in the congress that provided them a strong political influence and allowing them to gain high-cost contracts. But it’s a kind of “needed” influence to say so, because as Gholz & Sapolsky remark (Winter 1999 – 2000), the contractors need to exert political influence in order to obtain contracts with their usual client: the government. In addition, the high costs in material and human resources required to develop the weapons systems forces the contractors to fight for what is their source of revenues and also for the jobs that they are creating[7]. Nowadays, the Defence contractors still make a strong lobby to favour their interest, spending a huge amount of money on that[8].

Such a “needed” relationship – with lobbying included – is not exempt of problems, with negative effects for both policy making and society. President Eisenhower warned in his 1961 Speech about the problem of the influence made by the Defence Contractors: a strong political influence that could mean a threat to the freedom and democracy itself[9]. Corruption acts are another source of negative impacts for the whole society and the policy making process itself. Such acts are payments to the government made by the contractors to inflate the cost of radars, missiles and other military hardware[10]. The problem does not remain solely on the bribes or payments to increase the cost of the military hardware. The rising costs that the Defence Contractors seek means that the citizens will have to contribute more to the defence budget with the taxes they pay; taxes that are the source of the government to acquire the military equipment and hardware.

Along with the previous statement, the budget designated in areas such as health, education and environment is affected just because the government will buy equipment issued by those contractors with an increased price due to some payments or lobbying activities, forcing the government to pay a large amount of money for the military hardware with money destined for other sectors than defence. Not to mention that such decisions are being made under the table and out of the scrutiny of citizens.

Moreover, the lobby made by the defence contractors can impact other policy issues regarding foreign relations, especially if it deals with their businesses abroad[11]. And the emergence of Private Military Contractors (PMCs) means that a new actor has stepped into the scene[12], with similar problems of corruption, bribing or dealing with Human Rights issues abroad in many countries in which those PMC’s operate, not to mention that some PMCs has been involved in political activities, arms trafficking and have given support to terrorist groups[13]. There is even a Bill (The Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Bill) passed in 1998, in South Africa, in order to restrict PMC activities, but the Bill has suffered a lobby against it by an U.S. group, representing the interest of the PMCs (Mathieu & Dearden, 2007, pp. 750 – 751). PMCs have made lobbies in the U.S congress and other Western Countries to protect their interests against any law or activity of the government that could be a threat, just as the Defence Contractors have been doing.

There are, indeed, problematic aspects of the lobby exerted by the Defence Contractors and the PMCs companies. Aspects comprised from corruption to lack of accountability regarding problems of Human Rights. And the fact is that both actors are less accountable and have gained a strong political influence, not to mention the support from their lobbying activities, increasing their influence capacities among the policy making and even having the capacity to change or to jeopardize other decisions regarding public policy. And as President Eisenhower pointed out, the danger is not only that they could influence in a harmful way the process of policy making, but also that their power could grow in a way that further decision would not be taken by a government neither a parliament elected by the people, but by some corporations that will decide thinking more in their own self profits instead of the profits of the society in general. Or even worse, they can create conflicts abroad, guided by their revenues but having a lack of control from any government, protected by their lobby activities in the Congress. The tragedy here is that such lobbying will remain as long as the international environment forces the U.S., currently the strongest nation in military aspects, to spend on defence issues. Ant the second part of the tragedy is that PMCs will also remain as lobbyist as long as they are used to wage “costless” wars by some countries, or as long as some governments that could not be democratic at all, hires their services.

[1] Known also as the “Industrial – Military Complex” during the Cold War, and labelled that way by President Eisenhower.

[2] And other societies in which they can exert influence abroad or impact them.

[3] The most interesting aspect of this case is that the firm tried to gain not only political but public support, as a kind of unique case.

[4] The Cold War shaped, most of the times, the interests of the US on both aspects, and they were used to go together, either by increasing the defence capacities of the Army, either by providing military aids to the U.S. Allies.

[5] See:

[6] The same authors shows, however, other arguments that states the primacy of the lobbying by the defence contractors to win defence contracts instead of the threat itself as the cause of their strong influence during that time (Gholz & Sapolsky, Winter 1999 – 2000, p. 16).

[7] Currently, due to the defence cuts implemented by the Obama administration, the defence contractors are using again the argument of jobs. See:

[8] See:

[9] See footnote 5.

[10] See:

[11] Like the lobby against the recognition of the Armenian genocide from defence companies to protect their contracts with Turkey, U.S. key ally in the Middle East. See:

[12] Mathieu & Dearden (2007) states that those new actors are part of the war efforts of some countries like the US and the UK.

[13] The Human Rights issue regarding the PMCs is almost uneasy to tackle, due to the lack of accountability by those Companies and the interest of the governments to evade it too (Mathieu & Dearden, 2007, p. 748).

Note: This Article is based on the original work made for the Lecture “Introduction to Public Policy”, which is part of the Master’s Curriculum at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy in Erfurt, Germany

*Cover image ‘Private military contractors. Baghdad, Iraq’ by babeltravel

A Global Insight to the United States Shutdown and its Repercussions

It has been 17 years since the last US shutdown occurred in 1995-1996 during Bill Clinton’s presidency. The longest period of time this happened was 21 days. Government shutdown takes place when the President and the Congress fail to reach an agreement on the budget needed to fund federal services. During a shutdown thousands of federal workers are sent home so that government activities can be reduced, thus affecting several economic sectors of society.

Why does this happen in the US?

Shutting the government down is a part of the democratic system in the US, because the president is considered to be head of the State as well as head of the Federal Government. In the US new laws need to be approved by a majority of the legislative bodies and because several political parties are involved the majority has to agree to it.

The shutdown in 2013 occurred mainly because the Republicans decided to delay the Democrat President’s healthcare initiatives, primarily the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as ‘Obamacare’

Obamacare was signed into law in 2010 by President Obama in order to decrease healthcare spending and to provide affordable health insurance to more US citizens. Up until now more than 100 million Americans have benefited from this new law.

The majority of the Republican party oppose President Obama’s healthcare reforms and are using the shutdown and the debt ceiling deadline as a bargaining chip to agree a budget in which Obamacare would be severely limited.

Domestic Repercussions of the Shutdown:

Domestically over 800,000 American government personnel face unpaid leave without any guarantees that they will receive their salaries once activities resume.

Several governmental sectors are significantly reducing the number of staff during the shutdown, such as the Department of Commerce who sent 87% of the employees home; the Department of Defense with 50%; the Department of Energy with 69%; the Department of Health with 52%; the Department of Transport with 33% and so on.

These huge reductions in personnel along with the reduction of governmental services will  reduce the benefits and delay the payment of thousands citizens; healthcare, educational and transport services will also be affected. The longer the shutdown will last, the larger the consequences will be for society and the economy, both locally and globally.

 Global Repercussions:

The global repercussions are reliant on the duration of the shutdown: the longer it lasts, the greater the consequences; if it is temporary the global economic impact will be limited. Goldman Sachs calculated that a three week standstill would reduce the United States’ GDP by 0.9% this quarter. During the last standstill, which lasted 21 days, it cost the government 1.5bn dollars.

On the other hand the standstill represents a dysfunction in the American Government. According to Xenia Dormandy, Dean of the Academy for Leadership in International Affairs:“The shutdown raises the perception that America’s bitter partisan politics is preventing it from acting responsibly, both domestically and internationally. The implications for America’s reputation and power could be significant.” (Dormandy, 2013)

The primary global repercussion: the debt ceiling and the Dollar:

Currently a lot of concerns are revolving around the 17th October – the deadline that politicians need to meet to agree upon raising the US debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is simply the limit and maximum quantity of money that the government can borrow at any time. According to American law, once the limit is reached, the Treasury cannot issue a new debt unless the Congress has agreed upon it. At the moment this limit stands at around 16.7 trillion dollars.

If politicians fail in reaching an agreement by this date, the US will default on their debts. This would lead to major consequences for any prospective investors and for US debt holders and, perhaps more crucially, the image and reliability of the dollar as global reserve currency would be gravely affected.

The Dollar first became an international currency during the Bretton Woods Conference after World War II, and until today it is used by many countries for commercial transactions. If the dollar were to collapse it would have a profound effect on the global economy.

After the US shutdown in October 2013, the dollar’s value has so far reached its lowest point in 8 months in comparison to other currencies, although it is recovering slowly.

What happens next?

However the main issue with the shutdown is not the debt ceiling nor the dollar but the overly partisan politics between Democrats and Republicans in the Congress. The Democrat controlled  Senate and the Republican controlled House of Representatives cannot agree on the budget because of the healthcare reforms that so many Republicans are so ideologically opposed to. This highlights one of the major flaws in the US governmental system that allows a non- elected party so much power over decision making.

Many commentators point out that in any event the Congress should at least vote to raise the debt ceiling to avoid a default and note that now is no time for the Republicans to make a political point with so much at stake – especially seeing as if the Republicans win the 2016 elections, they will be able to repeal Obamacare by using the legislative process. The question is who will the American voting public blame for the shutdown and how much of a role will it play in the next elections?

*Cover image ‘Capitol Hill, Washington DC’ by KP Tripathi

FPI: Rising Radical Movement in Indonesia

FPI: Rising Radical Movement in Indonesia


As the world’s largest Muslim country and third-largest democracy, it is interesting to see how Indonesian democracy is coping with the country’s increasingly dynamic social conditions. One recent phenomenon is the emergence of more radical Islamic movements, the most well-known of which is Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defenders Front or FPI).


FPI has recently sparked public controversies through such actions as physically attacking the author Irshad Manji, a liberal Canadian Muslim who was about to launch her book ‘Allah, Liberty and Love’ in Jakarta; by threatening to storm a planned concert by the American singer Lady Gaga, claiming her music promoted Satanic teachings; and forcing the withdrawal from sale of another book, ‘Five Cities that Rule the World’, on the grounds that it defamed Islam. FPI has also violently targeted Indonesia’s Ahmadiyah Muslims.

FPI’s protests effectively led to the cancellation of Lady Gaga’s Indonesian tour and also gained support from other key national stakeholders. The National Police objected to the concert for security reasons. Legislators from parliament’s Commission III, responsible for law, human rights, and security, thought the performance contrary to Indonesia’s anti-pornography laws.   

The emergence of this hardline movement can be viewed as a part of the dynamic of Indonesia’s growing democracy. The group claims that its actions are acts of freedom of expression. Nevertheless, many human rights activists and liberal groups in Indonesia believe that FPI’s ideology and violent approach are serious threats to the country’s pluralism. It is well known among the public that FPI is not merely a religion-based organisation, but also a business that provides security to the members of the élite, cloaked in religious motives. An investigation by Al Jazeera found that FPI and other similar groups were linked to retired police officers and generals who had hired them to put political pressure on the government.[1]

The public has demanded the government take stronger action against FPI’s violent approach. The indigenous Dayak community of Central Kalimantan, for example, has banned visits by FPI because they see its ideology as being against the principles of pluralism and diversity. Thus, FPI’s ideology is also contrary to the third point of Indonesia’s national Pancasila principles, which stresses the importance of unity in diversity.

Several political parties have demanded that the government disband the organisation to hold it responsible for its violent actions. Former President Megawati Soekarnoputri and former Vice President Jusuf Kalla both made such calls earlier this year.[2] Unfortunately, the government seems unwilling to act in a stronger manner. National Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi stated that the Ministry had sent two warning letters to FPI in 2008 and in late 2011. He also explained that the Ministry has the right to freeze an organisation if it has been violating order and causing public insecurity.[3] In an interview with KBR68H radio, Ministry spokesperson, Reydonnyzar Moenek, stated that it was not easy to disband a group’s activity, because every process taken has to be based on the law. He also stated that the 1985 law covering “civil society organisations” is outdated and not specific enough as it does not identify the mechanisms that could be used in the current situation. He also added that to revise the law would take a long time.[4] Perhaps the government’s commitment to the law could be a justification not to pay more serious attention to this issue.

The FPI case shows that Indonesia’s growing democracy not only needs guaranteed freedom of expression, it also needs a stronger law enforcement effort to safeguard it. What is at stake now is greater than social cohesion – it is the foundation of Indonesia’s pluralism. As the 2014 presidential election gets closer, the more manoeuvres FPI will perform to get the public’s attention. If the government does not take decisive action soon, FPI and other similar groups will continue to grow. The emergence of such radical groups and the government’s handling of the situation could be setting a bad precedent for Indonesian democracy.

Cherika Hardjakusumah

Research Assistant

Indian Ocean Research Programme

[1] Vaessen, S., ‘Gag on Lady Gaga stirs Indonesia Fears’, Al Jazeera, 30 May 2012. <>.

[2] Siregar, D., ‘Mega dan JK Dukung Pembubaran Ormas Bermasalah’ [Mega and JK Support to Disband Troubled Organisation]. 17 February 2012. <>.

[3] Guslina, I., ‘Sekali Lagi Anarkistis, Gamawan akan Bekukan FPI’ [One More Anarchical Act, Gamawan Will Freeze FPI], 16 February 2012. <>.

[4] KBR68H Radio, 6 June 2012, ‘Jubir Kemendagri: Tak Mudah Membekukan Organisasi Pengrusak’ [Ministry of National Affairs Spokesperson: It is Not Easy to Freeze Troubled Organisation]. <–tak-mudah-membekukan-organisasi-pengrusak on 6/06/2012>.

Tito’s plan for a “Macedonian” nation (1944-…)

Meanwhile the other Balkan communistic parties revive their plans of a communistic “Macedonian” state that would allow the access of the communists to the Aegean Sea. Posdt-War Yugoslavia is formed in 1944-1945 by Tito. The problem with Tito’s Yugoslavia was that in the South lived a slavic population that was mainly Bulgarian and could create trouble for Yugoslavia in the future. Also the same population, was disappointed by the Bulgarian soldiers’ behaviour, during World War II. Being a Croat himself, Tito wouldn’t like to retain the name Southern Serbia, or Vardaska Banovina, for that area, because he wanted to limit Serbia’s power in Yugoslavia.

Tito decided that instead of naming those people as Serbs or Bulgarians, it would be best to baptise them as “Macedonians”, since the communists had already begun something like that before 1940. In that way he would achieve the following:

  1. Eliminate any connection with the Bulgarians
  2. Strengthen the unity of Yugoslavia, with the new federal republic
  3. Declare claims, in the future, towards the rest of Macedonia (Greek and Bulgarian), in the name of the liberation” of Macedonia. The potential “Macedonian” state would remain in Yugoslavia, as a federal republic, and so Yugoslavia would finally manage to access the Aegean Sea. The terms “Vardaska Makedonia” (Vardar Macedonia-Yugoslav), “Egeiska Makedonia” (Aegean Macedonia-Greek) and “Pirinska Makedonia” (Pirin Macedonia-Bulgarian), were invented at that time to promote the impression and belief of a partitionned and enslaved “Macedonia”.

To set the basis of the “Macedonian” nation Tito did the following things:

2/8/1944:….With the formation of Yugoslavia he renames the Southern part of Yugoslavia from “Vardaska banovina” (or Southern Serbia) to “People’s Socialist Republic of Macedonia”with the constitutional article:“Until the liberation of Macedonia of Pirin and Aegean our borders will remain for now the same”The name Macedonia was not even accurate since the northern part of that federal republic was not even a part of the historical area of Macedonia.
April 1945:..Tito applies the Federal system in Yugoslavia, and the new governments of the federal states (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia and “Macedonia”) get in their positions on 30/4/1945.

Practically, Tito baptised everything over there as “Macedonia”. With the extensive use of the name “Macedonia” he aimed in the quick sanction of the term “Macedonia” as an official identifier. So by that he creates:

  1. A “Macedonian” government
  2. A “Macedonian” orthodox church, that was not recognized neither by the Patriarchio of Constantinople nor by the Patriarchio of Serbia (despite the fact that the official Yugoslavian state was atheist).More on the Scopjean Church
  3. A “Macedonian” language. Tito hired people to refine the slavic idiom that the residents of the area used, and eliminate any obvious Greek and Bulgarian element in that idiom. He achieved the registration (note that it is registration and not recognition) in the UN of that idiom as “Macedonian” language and the “Macedonian” nation. That is not at all a fictional assumption. It is known that stalinic states implemented that kind of methods to achieve their goals. More on stalinic methods on the language
1947:….In BlendTito agrees with Bulgarian Dimitrov to promote the plan for developping a “Macedonian” national conscience. Both Dimitrov and Tito wanted the independant “Macedonia” in order to annex it in the future, each one for himself. Dimitrov allowed Yugoslavian preachers in Pirin that would establish their propaganda of the “Macedonian” nation. In reward, Bulgaria would take the Yugoslavian territories Vrania-Perot.
Jun-1948:….Tito and Stalin break their cooperation and so stalinic Bulgaria cancels the Blend agreement. The Yugoslavian preachers were chased off Bulgaria and Bulgaria recognized that there is no “Macedonian” nation and no slavic (Bulgarian) minority in Greece. The agreement of Blend had met the disapproval of the people in Pirin that declared that they were Bulgarians and not Macedonians.
31/1/1949:..The Greek communistic party (KKE) agrees with the Coniform’s position for the “Macedonian” nation and supports the independant “Macedonian” state that would be under the Soviet, and not Yugoslavian, influence.
1956:KKE recalls its 31/1/1949 position.

Updated 20 January 1999