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The War Nerd May 29, 2003
 
Aceh vs. the Borg
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
 
 

Well, we've got a real hot war going. The only trouble is, it's another bush war in a tropical hellhole. Even the name of the place is annoying. It's spelled "Aceh" but pronounced "Ah-che," like a Commie sighing over Che Guevara.

Worst of all, it's in Indonesia.Indonesia is one of those places that don't make sense, never did make sense, and never will. It doesn't even have a shape. You could probably draw the outline of the US with your eyes closed: a big wedge wider at the top, and Florida flopping at the bottom right. Same with Mexico: a long triangle twisting Southeast.

OK, so try drawing Indonesia.

Indonesia doesn't have a shape. It's a bunch of islands that don't have much in common beyond hot weather and spiders the size of dinner plates. And half the islands want out of the whole Indonesian deal, and the sooner the better.

The Acehese are just the latest to turn their backs on the wonderfulness of being Indonesian. Before them, it was East Timor. But with the Timorese, it was at least party religious. The Christian Timorese didn't like being loud-talked by the Islamic majority.

That's not the problem in Aceh. The Acehnese are as Islamic as the next Indonesian, maybe more. In fact, one of the things that got them so mad is that it was the Acehnese who did the fighting and dying when the Islamists were trying to "Islamicize" Indonesia back in the Fifties -- you know, before it was cool to be a Talib. And now the "Islamists" in power in Jakarta are trying to stomp on Aceh.

The Acehnese are the ones who brought Islam to the whole country, in fact. If you look at the map, you'll see that Aceh is on the northern tip of Sumatra. It's the natural gateway from the Indian Ocean, and that's how Islam arrived.

Aceh was also one of the last places to fall to the Europeans in the 1800s. When all the rest of Indonesia was already under Dutch control, Aceh was independent. The Dutch finally invaded in 1873, but it wasn't till 1912 or so that they stomped out the last Acehnese resistance. And in the process, the Dutch lost 10,000 soldiers. Not a bad record for natives with flintlocks fighting a modern European army.

This was when the Dutch still had guts. For a tiny country, the Dutch used to be pretty tough. Fought the Spanish, the British, the French -- and actually won a few along the way. They weren't the sad hippie bastards they are today.

And the Acehnese fought'em to a bloody draw. So the Acehnese have a lot of pride. They don't like being bossed around by other Indonesians any more than they liked being shoved around by the Dutch. And that's what's happening: the Javanese trying to boss the rest of Indonesia.

It's Java that actually runs the country. The bigger chunks of land like Irian Jaya, Borneo and Sumatra have zero power or influence. That one little pimple, Java, runs the whole 3,000-island mess (if you can say that anybody runs it).

Java is the most densely populated island this side of Singapore. And the Javanese are the biggest Imperialists in the world They're like the Borg on Star Trek: they want to take over everything.

They don't believe in birth control, so they've got one of the highest birth rates in the world. They send the surplus kids out to the other islands to make sure the rest of Indonesia gets more and more Javanese every generation. By now there are islands in Indonesia that are more than half Javanese, even though the locals had never seen a Javanese 50 years ago.

This is one of the things that pisses off the locals in Aceh. They say the Javanese are swarming over Aceh like rats, taking over the fishing villages on the coast and the rice-growing fields on the hills. Which leaves the Aceh folks with exactly nothing. They feel like trespassers in their own country. Since rice and fish are all they eat, they can't have dinner without paying some Javanese invader.


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Gary Brecher
Browse author
Email Gary at war_nerd@exile.ru, but, more importantly, buy his book.
 
 
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