WESTERN NEW GUINEA: A Sacred Trust

As many a World War II G.I. can testify, Western New Guinea is an unappetizing piece of real estate—a land of tropical swamps, unexplored mountains and predominantly Stone Age inhabitants. Yet for more than seven years, possession of this forbidding backwater has been the subject of a bitter quarrel between The Netherlands and Indonesia.

In defense of its refusal to turn the area over to the Indonesians—who call it West Irian and claim it on the grounds that it was part of the old Netherlands East Indies—the Netherlands government has consistently argued that 1) Western New Guinea has no ethnic...