The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Not spying – just a mutual awareness doctrine

Well, hi there neighbor – good to see you Mr Bambang; you’ve been away so long you must have plenty to talk about.

Maybe we could get together after Friday prayers and have a few cold ones to catch up?  No?  OK, some other time maybe.

A chat now?  Well sure, that’s fine; I’ll just tell Julie where I’ve gone so the missus doesn’t think I’m having a foreign affair!

Not funny, eh?  Sorry, but we Aussies like to share a joke or two to crack the ice. I’ll be round in a tick as soon as I’ve made a couple of calls to Canberra.

Now, what’s the problem Mr Bambang?  Our dogs barking too much?  The new satellite dish blotting out your sunlight?  Those antenna wires singing in the wind? I find them damn annoying too, as I told our community head when he complained.

Look mate, let’s keep this man-to-man.  I know there’s been a bit of tittle-tattle in the street, and to be perfectly clear the good lady wife does tend to chat a bit to the American neighbors on the other side.

She particularly likes Mrs Michelle – you know how it is with women - and maybe she passes on a thing or two to her husband when they’re talking about Syria and Iran and the price of rice.  But it’s all harmless stuff.  As you and I keep assuring the folks roundabouts, we cooperate, we’re good friends, we respect each other.

Alright Sir, calm down. Let me explain what happened – fair dinkum. That means straight up and down – no funny business. Not that we ever do.

One day the maid was polishing a wine glass which she inadvertently put against the wall and heard noises from next door.

Well, I explained how sound travels, and we all had a go – it was jolly fun really, more like a game.  And to tell the truth (as we always do) I thought this might be a handy way of protecting you by gathering information. Gotong royong and all that looking after each other stuff that you guys do so well.  Gee, I love your culture.

Look Mr Bambang, don’t get annoyed.  To be frank (as we always are) you’re off in Bali quite a bit, and there’s more than a few shady characters coming and going in your absence.  Who knows what they’re plotting behind your back?  Some of them might want to hop the fence and get into our back yard.

Calm down, no need to take umbrage. I agree that using the wine glass was a mite crude so I’ve asked our techies to  see if things can’t be improved.  I specifically told them not to drill holes in the wall, but they might have got a bit too enthusiastic.  I’ll send Greg around to clean up the mess.

I see you’re still annoyed so let’s put our cards on the table, as we always do.  We’re mates, right?  Please Sir, I’d like your confirmation.

I’ll certainly sack the maid and get rid of the wine glasses – how’s that?  Not enough? Well, I could call for a report and get a committee together to put up some recommendations. But with Christmas and the New Year and your election coming up I can’t see any reporting this side of Idul Fitri.

Can we just stop beating about the bush?  Everyone knows we listen to each other all the time – it’s impossible not to with all this megaphone diplomacy.

I bet you folks have already got my cellphone number and password, which is TRUSTUS if you’re interested.  See – we’re open and transparent. Ha, ha.

Let’s hit this thing for six.  Of course it’s not spying – these are just operational matters.  Spying wouldn’t be cricket as my cobber Marty says – an idiom picked up when doing his paper round in Australia, along with his designer stubble. 

Let’s call it for what it is – a Mutual Awareness Doctrine (MAD).  It’s in both our national interests. 

Enough robust exchange of views.  Let’s have a quiet chat off the record.  Grab a seat will you – a bit closer to the vase of flowers, thanks.  Duncan Graham

(First published in The Jakarta Post 17 November 2013)


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