Last week, for the third time since World War II ended, there was war in Indonesia between The Netherlands troops and native nationalists. The Dutch started it. As they had before, they called it "police action"a necessary step which, they said, they had been "regretfully obliged" to take against terrorists.
Jogjakarta, the Republic of Indonesia's capital in south central Java, quickly fell. Dutch paratroopers and airborne forces seized Magowo airfield, outside the capital, and invaded the city. The action was so fast that the Dutch were able to arrest the republic's top leaders, including President Soekarno, Premier Mohammed Hatta, ex-Premier Sutan Sjahrir, Foreign Minister Hadji Agus Salim, and General Sudirman, commander of the republic's 300,000 ill-armed troops. The Dutch announced that they had only three wounded, none killed.
In Java and Sumatra, Dutch land forces broke through old truce lines at several points, raced almost unopposed across republican territory. Dutch marines landed in east and central Java. At week's end, the Dutch were marching into the republican oil center at Tjepu (where last September the republic had smashed a Communist uprising).
Slap in the Face? In Paris, the U.N.'s Security Council, which had first put its hand to the Indonesia struggle in the summer of 1947, met in emergency session. The Dutch told the Council bluntly that intervention by it would accomplish nothing, that the Java action was a purely domestic affair over which U.N. had no jurisdiction.
U.S. and British spokesmen, though careful to avoid anything that sounded like condemnation of the Dutch, were quite clearly dismayed. They felt that unilateral military action by the Dutch was a slap in the face not only to the United Nations, but to hundreds of millions of Asiatics who expected the West to abjure all remnants of old-style colonial rule. Premier Jawaharlal Nehru of India promptly reacted as had been expected; he denounced the Dutch attack as imperialism.
The Dutch had promised an Indonesian federation, with sovereignty and equal partnership in a Dutch commonwealth, but they could not agree with the tough little republic on the necessary interim arrangements or on the final blueprint. Last month, in a final effort to break the knot, a mission from The Hague under Foreign Minister Derek Stikker journeyed to Batavia. The Dutch claimed that the republic was waging a disruptive campaign of kidnaping, murder and arson. The republicans claimed that The Netherlands was trying to set up "puppet states" in some areas of Java and Sumatra which the Dutch had seized from the republic in previous fighting. On top of everything else, there was disagreement over interim control of the republican army.