A key feature of the modern state is its monopoly of the legitimate use of violence, with its military and police forces the main instruments (Pierson 1996; Cohen and Service 1978). Military institutions are therefore central to the constitution of the bureaucratic field. On the other hand, the idea of a ‘cosmopolitan soldier’ is more difficult to entertain. Their careers are premised on being prepared to violently defend or expand the ideals or strategic interests of particular states. Yet military personnel in many states undertake humanities studies, travel the world, and in leisure time may gain a broad appreciation of cultural diversity.
With the rise of the Indonesian nation-state, its Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI, Indonesian Armed Forces) has played an important but often controversial role in Indonesian politics. The heroes of the anti-colonial revolution established and built up TNI. During the period from 1959 to 1965 however, TNI extended its political influence to the point of becoming what Munir (2003:71) called an ‘octopus institution’. Through the New Order period, TNI further extended its direct involvement in politics, through guaranteed seats in parliament and positions in local political structures, often abusing human rights in the process.
Militarism on Java itself is not a new phenomenon, a fact illustrated by the role of violence in ‘traditional’ Javanese culture. The dagger (kris) stored, ever ready, behind the back, as well as the prevalence of violent episodes in the wayang, demonstrate that ‘Javanese culture’ is not just about politeness (Boon 1990). Central Java also has longstanding links with TNI, and in the early post-Soeharto years the rise of militant youth and ‘terror’ wings of groups such as Laskar Jihad and Gerakan Pemuda Ka'bah (GPK) threatened and sometimes carried out violence both locally and in regions such as Maluku. TNI was implicated in these events, with various army and ex-army officers suspected of coordinating provocateurs (Violence in Ambon 1999; Hefner 2001).
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