RealNews

The Other Side to Aceh's Rebels

As Indonesia’s military operation against the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakin Aceh Merdeka, or GAM) is entering its third month, it is becoming increasingly clear that an end to violence is not imminent. However, while casualties among soldiers, insurgents and above all civilians have steadily increased, there has been no significant shift in either Indonesian or international popular opinion. In fact, both have just become further entrenched – at opposite poles. Indonesian popular opinion swung behind its government early on amid a resurgence of nationalism. If anything, it has become more rather than less nationalistic over the past two months. Meanwhile international popular sympathy has remained largely, although not surprisingly, with the underdog. GAM’s struggle for independence has been cast as a fight for the noble ideal of liberty while Indonesia’s efforts to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity have been widely condemned. But does GAM really warrant such romanticization? A closer look at GAM’s ideology, its attitude toward the peace process, and its activities during the recent cessation of hostilities may suggest otherwise. Full Story

OODA Analyst

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