At West Point, SBY Stresses Importance of Soft Power and Politics

Presiden Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono waving to reporters at Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport in Jakarta. (Antara Photo/Prasetyo Utomo)
Presiden Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono waving to reporters at Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport in Jakarta. (Antara Photo/Prasetyo Utomo)
Jakarta. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in a speech at the elite US military academy at West Point said that in a world that is “witnessing the emergence of the geopolitics of emotions,” soft power remains crucial in defeating terrorist movements like Islamic State. “Once ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] can be defeated militarily, we will urgently need to come up with subsequent measures to ensure that future generations will not take up their diabolical cause again,” Yudhoyono said on Monday in the United States, according to the Indonesian presidential website. “This is not the task of militaries but the task of politicians, diplomats, religious leaders and civil society.” The US military and its allies on Monday night started bombing IS targets in Syria, the US Department of Defense announced on Tuesday. A news release said Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates “participated in or supported” the airstrikes, part of US President Barack Obama’s “comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately defeat” IS. Addressing the role of the military in a changing world, Yudhoyono, himself a retired four-star general, argued that it is much more difficult to end a war than to start one. “This is where politics and effective diplomacy are much needed, based on the strong commitment by world political leaders to select political and diplomatic options in pursuing their national interests,” he said. Citing the successes of his own administration in ending decades of conflict in Aceh and achieving peaceful reconciliation with Timor-Leste after decades of Indonesian occupation, the president stressed the importance of strong political will and confidence-building measures between nations. Strong inter-military relations are also important in preventing conflict, Yudhoyono said, because “if relations between the military and the relations between business and economic actors are strong, then the politicians will think twice before declaring war.” “In the case of the United States, which is a super power, your country shares a great responsibility to help create a peaceful, just and prosperous world,” the president told the American cadets. “The world has high hope on your country’s leadership — a leadership that is constructive, wise, and beneficial to all nations.” The United States is one stop on the longest overseas trip of Yudhoyono’s presidency, which ends when President-elect Joko Widodo is inaugurated on Oct. 20. Yudhoyono visited Portugal before crossing the Atlantic and will fly to Japan after attending the 69th United Nations General Assembly and the 2014 UN Climate Summit.

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