'Bali Was a Wake-up Call to Indonesia'

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U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz

Last weekend's Bali bomb blast that killed upwards of 180 people is a bloody "wake up call" to Indonesia to get tougher on the terrorists in the archipelago. So says Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense and arguably the Bush administration's most ardent champion of Indonesia. "We've been talking with them for a long time about the seriousness of this problem, and the need to take it on seriously," said Wolfowitz, who served as the U.S. ambassador in Jakarta from 1986 to 1989. "While they've made progress, there's still obviously a lot more to do and maybe this will serve as a wake-up call for them."

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The bombing "is a heavy price to pay to come to grips with reality, but it seems to be having that effect," Wolfowitz told Time on Friday. "What I read in the newspapers suggests the parliament is now working on an anti-terror law."

While the investigation into the attack is still underway, Wolfowitz suggests the brains behind it came from the Middle East. "The real troublemakers aren't Indonesians, they're from the Middle East," he says. "It wouldn't surprise me, if we get to the bottom of this one, that it will turn out to be that way, too."

Wolfowitz says, based on his time in Indonesia and friendship with many Indonesians, that the bombing will generate "widespread shock and horror at how evil people have abused their country." And, if the bombing is found to be the work of Muslim extremists, "it's going to be the Muslims of Indonesia who in huge numbers are going to be angriest," he says.

Wolfowitz says that the U.S. must not pressure Indonesia to crack down on terrorists. After a half-century of living under various autocracies and dictatorships, the Indonesians are leery of giving police too much power. "The Indonesians have been slow to arrest people," Wolfowitz acknowledges. "You get into difficult judgments — we would say that the evidence is there and that they're simply too concerned about the possibility, which is real, that it will be misunderstood by their public as simply a cracking down on people for their religious beliefs, which happen to be the beliefs of a great majority.

"But, on the other hand, they would say, look, as you see in so many U.S. domestic cases, the evidence always has a somewhat-murky quality," says Wolfowitz. "Americans need to understand we're dealing with a country that only recently became a free country, after some 50 years of different forms of dictatorship. They're leery about (giving) too much authority to the police. The very kind of civil-liberties issues that make it difficult for us, in many ways make it much more difficult for them."

Indonesia's tolerance for troublemakers is rooted in its recently history, not in its culture. "The principal difference is not something indigenous to Indonesian culture, but something that grows out of the particular challenges of a struggling, young democracy that's emerged after 50 years of dictatorship, and that's unique in the region," the No. 2 official at the Pentagon says. "Singapore and Malaysia have very different political systems in which the balance is definitely struck on the side of security."

Indonesia must get over its fledgling-democracy jitters and do the same, Wolfowitz says. "I think we should be a little bit careful about being judgmental, but I do think that they have got to shift the balance a little more to the security side rather than the caution about over-reaching," he says.