JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia’s defense minister warned Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld Tuesday that Asia’s Muslims increasingly believe the U.S. is abusing its powers to dictate terms for the war on terror, a perception that risks alienating the very countries the Bush administration needs as allies.
In unusually blunt language following an hour-long meeting with Rumsfeld, Juwono Sudarsono said that some Muslim nations see the U.S. as a threat to global stability and suggested the Bush administration should allow national governments to come up with their own strategies to deal with Islamist extremism.
“The sun never sets on the back of an American GI,” Sudarsono said, noting the $12-trillion U.S. economy allows it to be ubiquitous around the globe.
“It’s best that you leave the main responsibility of anti-terrorist measures to the local government in question and not be overly insistent about immediate results arising from your perception about terrorists.”
The admonishment comes amid a delicate and occasionally halting attempt by the Bush administration to draw closer to Indonesia, the world’s largest-population Muslim nation. The U.S. has been assiduously courting Indonesia and its democratic government with hopes that this secular country could serve as a bulwark against radical Islam in the region.
Rumsfeld continued to press that effort Tuesday during a short visit to the archipelago’s capital, vowing to resume delivery of spare military parts and increase training of the country’s armed forces, programs that were barred until last year following the Indonesian military’s harsh treatment of civilians in East Timor a decade ago.
But continued popular unease about the U.S.-led war in Iraq has made it difficult for the government of Indonesian President Susilo Yudhoyono to fully embrace American overtures.
Sudarsono, for example, continued his country’s standoffish approach to President Bush’s Proliferation Security Initiative, a maritime interdiction coalition, which agrees to share information on potential trafficking of unconventional weapons material on the high seas.