Nackhoon Han

Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Ngo Vinh Long

Second Committee Member

Janet TeBrake

Third Committee Member

Seth Singleton


This thesis illustrates the importance of the relationship between Indonesia's former President Suharto and the Indonesian armed forces. As one of the longest-serving political leaders in contemporary history, Suharto's relationship with the military was the crucial factor that prolonged his reign in the Indonesian archipelago. From Suharto's political ascendancy, the Indonesian military established a political system which allowed both Suharto and the armed forces to be the focal point in Indonesian politics. However, the maintenance of a feasible system of power-sharing between Suharto and the Indonesian armed forces was impossible to sustain, due to on-and-off power struggles between Suharto and the military. Before assessing the nature of the relationship between Suharto and the Indonesian military, I briefly discuss the historical background of Suharto's military-assisted ascendancy to power in a newly independent and chaotic Indonesia. I also explore the institutional concepts that allowed Suharto and the military to engage actively in Indonesian politics. In the central sections, I outline the periodical power struggles between Suharto and the Indonesian military, and illustrate that Suharto's political actions— Suharto's treatment of the military as his political tool and his growing inattention to the military's institutional interests— gradually exacerbated this relationship to the point that the military had to react in order to safeguard its own political interests. Thus, in the end, this thesis concludes that Suharto was primarily interested in prolonging his political preeminence, regardless of the effect upon the Indonesian military.