The asymmetry in terms of weaponry between the Indonesian armed forces and the Dutch troops is one of the most striking features of the war of decolonisation in Indonesia. The Dutch infantry was equipped with armoured vehicles, mortars and heavy machine guns, and was supported by land-based artillery, tanks, the air force and naval artillery. The Indonesian army and the various armed groups had far fewer weapons at their disposal and could only rarely count on fire support, as a result of which opting for guerrilla warfare was a logical and inevitable step for them. Although technological superiority was not a decisive factor in the outcome of the war, it played a part in the course of the war, the degree of force used and, more importantly, the number of victims.
This substudy therefore focuses on the use of heavy weapons in terms of the scale and effect of their use and the way in which their use was judged. In Dutch historiography, this use is sometimes referred to as ‘technical force’ (technisch geweld). Technical military aspects, such as the possible deployment of different weapon systems and their technical possibilities and limitations in terms of, for example, precision or a lack thereof, are dealt with first, after which the actual deployment of these weapon systems is considered. On the basis of what arguments and considerations did the commanders concerned decide to use heavy weapons? Were there major differences between the various units in terms of the degree of force used? And what role did education and training, doctrine, tradition and the learning ability of the Dutch armed forces play in decisions about how, and the times and locations at which, technical force was used? Furthermore, efforts are being made to gain more insight into the extent to which the Indonesian armed forces had heavy weapons and the way in which they used these weapons. The different Indonesian and Dutch perspectives regarding this type of force are also relevant to this substudy.
Other areas covered are the military and political results of the use of heavy weapons on the one hand and, on the other, the effects of this type of force on the adversary and the wider population. The focus in this regard is on the close correlation between the use of technical force and the risk of civilian casualties. This aspect is also considered in the light of the legal standards of the time, standards that differed from the ones in place today. To what extent was the use of technical force considered proportional in theory and practice by the actors of the time? And how was the use of technical force justified? Would this force be judged differently by today’s standards? What do Indonesian sources tell us about the effects of heavy weapons on the population and the response of the population to the use of heavy weapons? This substudy is seeking to answer these questions as well.
This project is being implemented by Azarja Harmanny.