Peer-reviewed (refereed)

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2018. Reinforcing Indonesia–Australia defence relations: The case for maritime recalibration, Lowy Analysis. Sydney: Lowy Institute for International Policy.


Indonesia and Australia are increasingly important strategic anchors in the Indo-Pacific region, as recognised by the recently announced Indonesia–Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Yet historically, bilateral defence ties between the two countries have been volatile. This Analysis makes the case for a maritime recalibration of Australia’s defence engagement activities with Indonesia to stabilise defence relations. The process of recalibrating defence relations, however, cannot proceed in a historical vacuum. The evolution of Australia’s Defence Cooperation Program (DCP) with Indonesia since the 1960s is examined in order to understand how the relationship could be recalibrated. Three broad changes to DCP activities are recommended: reform existing DCP education and training programs to focus on joint maritime challenges; formulate long-term plans for the ‘conventional’ modernisation of the TNI, including tri-service integration, maritime security operations, and defence industrial collaboration; and increase maritime-related exercises, both bilaterally and multilaterally, and consider joint TNI–ADF exercises built around challenges in the maritime domain.

Note: The figures and graphs are better viewed and downloaded from the web version here.


2014. “Rebalancing Indonesia’s Naval Force: Trends, Natures, and Drivers,” in Naval Modernization in Southeast Asia: Nature, Causes and Consequences, ed. Geoffrey Till and Jane Chan. London: Routledge, pp. 175-203


Is Indonesia getting ready to become a regional naval power to balance India, China, and Australia? Why is the navy acquiring state-of-the-art complex platforms; some of which are considered offensive in nature, mightily expensive, and are unsuitable for its day-to-day operations? How do we make sense of the navy's overall force development plans and projections? This chapter seeks to address these questions and explain why and how the Indonesian Navy has been modernizing in recent years the way it has.


2013. "Containing spoilers: Civil-military relations and third parties in the post-Suharto Aceh peace initiatives", Asia Security Initiative Policy Series, Working Paper No. 25 (Singapore: S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, 2013)


This paper seeks to explain why and how the Humanitarian Pause and the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA) between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Government of Indonesia (GoI) broke down, while the Helsinki rounds succeeded in bringing about a permanent negotiated peace in Indonesia. It develops a theoretical model based on the presence of peace spoilers and their ability to derail the process, and submits that discordant civil-military relations and a weak third party incapable of resolving credible commitment problems increase the probability of the government’s armed forces emerging as a peace spoiler. On applying the model while examining the post-Suharto peace initiatives in Aceh, it demonstrates how the weakness of the Henry Dunant Centre (HDC) and the discordant state of civil-military relations under Presidents Habibie, Wahid and Sukarnoputri led to the failure of the Humanitarian Pause and COHA while the strength and credibility of the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) and the concordant state of civil-military relations under President Yudhoyono accounted for the success of the Helsinki rounds.

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2011. "Climate Insecurities in Indonesia: Implications and Challenges for Defence Transformation", Asia Security Initiative Policy Series, Working Paper No. 16 (Singapore: S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies).


This paper seeks to identify and assess key climate insecurities in Indonesia and further explore how they could potentially influence the process of defence reform that has been ongoing in Indonesia since Suharto’s downfall in 1998. Key climate insecurities in Indonesia are related to energy and food security, large-scale disasters, drought, changing climate patterns and rising sea levels. Furthermore, this paper argues that given these security implications, the Indonesian National Defence Forces (TNI) has yet to seriously assess and incorporate climate change into its force development plans. Finally, this paper outlines some of the key challenges and prospects for TNI’s defence reform process, as it relates to climate change.

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2008. "Spoilers, Partners and Pawns: Military Organizational Behaviour and Civil-Military Relations in Indonesia" RSIS Working Paper No. 161 (Singapore: S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies)


This paper tries to explain the political behaviour of military organizations within the context of civil-military relations. The key purpose is to extract several key variables that could serve as a starting theoretical model for future research on Southeast Asian militaries and political armies in general. This would be done by analysing four distinct cases of political behaviours of the Indonesian military in its relations with the president. This paper aims to answer why these distinct behaviours occur, how they came about, and under what conditions would they be observed. This paper finds that the political behaviours of military organizations can be at least typologized into four distinct categories that depart from the traditional literature: regime spoiler, critical regime partner, uncritical regime partner, and regime pawn. This paper also finds that several variables could help explain such behaviours. First, internal military variables: the military’s self-conception and portrayal of the “national interests”; the degree of military unity and cohesion; and the institutional and individual interests of the key military leadership. Second, variables within the political leadership: the degree of civilian interference in internal military affairs, civilian strength vis-à-vis the military, and civilian handling of the domestic political condition. However, how all these variables interact, the degree of significance of each variable, and how they shape the military’s political behaviour would eventually have to depend on the national political, economic, security and social conditions of the specific time of the case at hand.


Policy research

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2014. “Indonesia’s strategic thinking: breaking out of its shell?", in Regional Security Outlook 2015, ed. Ron Huisken (Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific), pp. 35 -38


While many Indonesians believe that Jokowi's maritime-centric doctrine has been a long time coming given the country’s archipelagic character, specialist observers recognize it as a departure from Indonesia’s traditional strategic focus on internal security and national development. Is Indonesia finally breaking out of its strategic shell?

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2011. "Stirring from Beyond the Borders? American Military Assistance and Defense Reform in Indonesia", Asia Centre Southeast Asia Observatory Study


This paper seeks to assess and consider the security component of the new security re-engagement between the United States and Indonesia, especially those pertaining to military assistance to the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI). Specifically, it seeks to address two broad questions: (1) why the US chose to engage the TNI using military assistance they way they have in recent years, and (2) given the context of Indonesia’s ongoing defense reform process, whether US military assistance would assist the process and how. In addressing these questions, this paper will review US military assistance programs in general and to Indonesia in particular. It will also assess the trends and challenges facing US military assistance in terms of instilling democratic civil-military relations and improving Indonesia’s defense reform.

*Reviewed by Australia Strategic Policy Institute’s The Strategist


2010. Evan A. Laksmana, “Dinamika Politik Militer Indonesia,” in Panduan Media dan Reformasi Sektor Keamanan, eds. Beni Sukadis and Aditya Batara. Jakarta: Indonesian Institute Defense and Strategic Studies and Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of the Armed Forces, pp. 91 – 111


Masih relevankah bicara politik militer di era demokrasi? Bagaimana militer mereposisi dirinya setelah lebih dari tiga dekade menjadi bagian dari rezim Orde Baru? Sukseskah reformasi militer kita selama ini? Apakah TNI kini telah menjadi tentara profesional yang melepaskan karakter politik dan niaganya? Pertanyaan-pertanyaan ini tentu muncul manakala kita disodori persoalan politik militer di Indonesia. Berbagai pertanyaan ini juga tentunya bukan persoalan baru. Banyak tinta telah tertumpah dalam usaha menjelaskan dan menjawab berbagai persoalan seputar politik militer dan hubungan sipil-militer di Indonesia selama lebih dari lima dekade. Namun kenyataannya, terlepas dari perkembangan di dunia akademis, persoalan politik militer masih menjadi “persoalan nyata” yang menghadapi keseharian kita

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2010. "Dari ‘Reformasi Militer’ Menuju ‘Transformasi Pertahanan’: Tantangan dan Prospek ke Depan", [From Military Reform to Defense Transformation: Prospects and Challenges Ahead], Indonesian Review, Vol. 1: pp. 1 – 12


Tulisan ini akan menunjukan bahwa selama satu dekade terakhir, capaian-capaian signifikan dalam reformasi TNI lebih terfokus pada persoalan peran sosio-politik militer, legislasi pertahanan, perluasan agenda keamanan (hingga reformasi Polri dan intelijen), dan sebagian persoalan anggaran dan teknologi pertahanan. Sementara itu, sebagian besar aspek-aspek kebijakan personil, pendidikan dan pelatihan, ekonomi pertahanan, basis teknologi dan inovasi, postur dan Tata Yudha (Orders of Battle) serta persoalan doktrinal, operasional, and kepangkatan masih hampir belum tersentuh


2009. “Molding a Strategic and Professional Indonesian Military: Policy Options for the Next Administration”, The Indonesian Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 3 (August): pp. 352-363


This article addresses the strategic gap between Indonesia's increasingly complex domestic, regional, and global security environment, and the country's inability to fully reform its national military generally known as the Indonesian Defense Forces or TNI (Tentara Nasional Indonesia). Furthermore, while not neglecting the vast literature on Indonesia's military reform, as well as key reform policies, this article looks at two fundamental problems-the military's education and training system, and the strength of the civilian defense community that must be addressed if we wish to create a strategic and professional military, one that could tackle the country's increasingly complex security environment without usurping basic democratic principles in the long-run. This article also suggests that the President himself, instead of the Defense Minister, should be directly and personally involved in pushing any reform policies within those two areas. Finally, this article tries to move away from the current Security Sector Reform (SSR) parlance and discourse that has thus focused on the military's politics, business, and accountability-and their accompanying regulations.


2008. "Strategic Theory, Clausewitz, and the Indonesian Military", The Indonesian Quarterly, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 86 - 106


This article suggest that we should start focusing on how to professionalize the Indonesian military by 're-militarizing' them, since the utter focus on 'de-politicization' and 'defense management' has appeared to have left out the need for 'capacity building' among the military professionals. One place to start is perhaps in the realm of strategic theory. The core theme here is that education in strategic theory is not simply focused on telling the military and civilians about what to think, but how to think strategically when we deal with the use, or threatened use, of military force amidst the increasingly complex strategic landscape. In addition, this article will also review the thinking of Carl Von Clausewitz, considered to be the founder of modem strategic thought. Finally, we hope to ascertain the significance of strategic theory, the relevance of CIausewitz, and perhaps draw lessons for Indonesia.



Short essays and commentaries

Is Indonesia heading towards a "militarized democracy"?”, The Jakarta Post, Mar 21, 2019

Journey to the east? The rebalancing of Indonesia's force structure”, The Strategist, Feb 8, 2019

Military personnel problems need more than quick fixes”, The Jakarta Post, Feb 1, 2019

Why Indonesia’s New Natuna Base Is Not about Deterring China”, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, January 29, 2019

Indonesia has a stake in Australia's Lombrum plans too”, The Interpreter, Dec 7, 2018

Is Indonesia Australia's 'most important' security partner?”, The Strategist, Oct 15, 2018

Ending the era of defensiveness between Indonesia and Australian forces”, Australian Financial Review, Oct 5, 2018

Deadly attacks a sign of Indonesia's changing terror landscape?”, The Strategist, May 15, 2018

"Are military assistance programs important for US–Indonesia ties?", East Asia Forum, Apr 18, 2018

"Is an Indonesian Air Defense Identification Zone forthcoming?", Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, April 10, 2018

"Why do retired officers run for local office?", The Jakarta Post, Mar 15, 2018

"What can we expect from Indonesia's new defense chief?", The Strategist, Dec 13, 2017

"Can Hadi Tjahjanto juggle competing forces?", The Jakarta Post, Dec 14, 2017

"Unpacking Indonesia's civil–military relations under Jokowi", The Strategist, Oct 31, 2017

"Strategi diplomasi pertahanan maritim", Kompas, October 20, 2016

"Pola Mutasi Perwira TNI", Kompas, August 6, 2016

"TNI dan Penanggulangan Terorisme", Kompas, March 19, 2016

"Paradoks pada Industri Pertahanan", Kompas, February 17, 2016

"Perubahan arus lingkungan strategis Indonesia", Kompas, December 9, 2015

"Indonesia's modernizing military", Foreign Affairs, September 3, 2015

"Time to move on from 'military reform' (Part 2 of 2)", The Jakarta Post, Sept. 16, 2014

"From 'military reform' to 'defense transformation' (Part 1 of 2)", The Jakarta Post, September 15, 2014

"Beyond defense modernization", The Jakarta Post, June 11, 2014

"The Hidden Challenges of Indonesia’s Defence Modernisation", RUSI Newsbrief, Vol. 34, No. 3 (2014): pp. 17-19

"Academic freedom and defense policy", The Jakarta Post, July 23 2012

"The 'strategic trinity' of national defense", The Jakarta Post, Feb 2, 2012

"Thinking beyond Kopassus: Why US Security Assistance to Indonesia Needs Recalibrating", Asia Pacific Bulletin, Sep 17, 2010

"Resurrecting the National Corvette program?", Asia Pacific Defence Reporter, Vol. 36, No. 4 (2010): pp. 26--28

"The Indonesian Defence Forces and Disaster Relief: Potential Pitfalls and Challenges", RSIS Commentary, Nov 29, 2010

"Re-engagement with Kopassus", The Jakarta Post, July 28, 2010

"To vote or not to vote, that is not the question", Today Newspaper, Jun 28, 2010

"The rise of Indonesia’s ‘accidental guerillas’?", Today Newspaper, May 26, 2010

"Reinterpreting the Total Defense System", The Jakarta Post, May 19, 2010

"Defense and leaders transformation", The Jakarta Post, May 12, 2010

"Military postings are now less political", The Straits Times, Feb 1, 2010

"The missing nuts and bolts of defense reform", The Jakarta Post, Jan 27, 2010

"Defense reforms for 2010-14: Men over materiel?", The Jakarta Post, Jan 3, 2010

"Indonesia’s defence outlook: Rocky road to renewal", Today Newspaper, Dec 5, 2009

"Climate change is also defense and security problem", The Jakarta Post, Nov 2, 2009

New house, new rules”, Today Newspaper, October 24, 2009

"Democracy and the 'remilitarization' of the TNI", The Jakarta Post, Oct 20, 2009

"Gearing up for "three-block war", The Jakarta Post, Oct 9, 2009

"Terrorism and RI's military effectiveness", The Jakarta Post , Sep 7, 2009

"Will the state secrecy bill suffocate the TNI?", The Jakarta Post, Aug 27, 2009

"Politicizing military history: A monumental mistake", The Jakarta Post, Mar 12, 2009

"Seeking a strategic, professional military institution", The Jakarta Post, Oct 14, 2008

"Reform recruitment policy to aid RI's military budget", The Jakarta Post, Dec 9, 2008

"Post-Suharto Indonesia: can a miltary coup happen?", RSIS Commentary, Nov 9, 2008

"Indonesian military returns to politics?", The Jakarta Post, Aug 12, 2008

"Going beyond cash, guns and ballots", The Straits Times, May 9, 2008

"JI's New Military Division: A Preliminary Assessment", RSIS Commentary, Apr 27, 2007

"Is Poso all about JI? The roots of the Conflict", RSIS Commentary, Mar 23, 2007