This whole debate around the presence of a thousand foreign troops in Aceh is missing the point.
The pros argue, the destroyed Aceh is a world's problem. It should not be collapsed into nationalism sentiment whatsoever. Aceh needs all kinds of help, including those from foreign militaries. (On the radio I heard this morning, somebody said even the help from satan should be welcome!). So there shouldn't be any deadlines for the presence of foreign troops in Aceh. On the other hand, the government has asked them to leave Aceh in three months. The government worries that the foreign troops could be harmed by the GAM separatists -- a very bad political statement.
Both sides of arguments don't make sense. While I tend to agree with the government decision, it should have given a more reasonable justification. And that would be, the possibility of international takeover of Aceh, which would very likely be led by the U.S. The U.S. once had bases in the Philippines' Subic and Clark for their operation in East Asian region. But they get kicked out in 1992. They need a replacement to "serve" the region -- they've been everywhere else. They have been trying hard to get another strategic location. Indonesia is very strategic geographically. And add to that, it is increasingly becoming international military interest ("terrorist-haven" as sometimes the western media picture it). So,? You do the math. (I suspect the government takes this seriously, but they just can't say it -- too sensitive an issue?)
Of course you might say, c'mon. Look at those massive aid coming in, much of which from the U.S. I know. Aid is one thing. Military takeover is another. This is not about stupid nationalism. But I'm skeptical with the U.S. move. Some of you argue, we cannot rely on our own government, so why don't we open the access to foreigners as wide as possible. True, our government is slow and lame. But letting more than a thousand foreign troops there is just thrilling to me (and I never trust Bush's words about peace. You see the evidence against him everywhere). I hope I am wrong. As a note, by the way, all we get so far from the debt negotiation is debt moratorium, not debt relief. What we they give us is time, not money. Please don't say we owe them a region.
Will the government decision harm the aid inflow? It might. But it's better than having Aceh replacing Clark/Subic. I agree with setting the timetable for the foreign troops (I think civilian volunteers are fine, though). But the government should find a way not to lie to the public of what it's concern really is. At the same time, the government should be more decisive in coordinating the aid allocation as well as the reconstruction projects. So far it seems so messy: who's in charge? Alwi Shihab, JK, SBY, or whom?
God, save this country.
Aside: Now some of you might think I'm for conspiracy theories based on my foregoing assertion. No, don't ever think I also believe that the tsunami is caused by American experimental bomb under the sea. No, I never buy such crap!
Addendum: Just heard it on the radio. Things are getting worse. Alwi Shihab literally said, this is about nationalism and dignity. "How can we stand being looked at as a country that always needs helps? It's a shame if we cannot manage it ourselves". My goodness, he had no idea what he was talking about. Or, maybe he did. He's just a lousy politician.