Clips from a speech by Gerindra Party chairman and former general Prabowo Subianto, which were posted to Gerindra’s official Facebook page on Sunday, caused a stir in Indonesia with its bold claim that “…in other countries they have made studies where the Republic of Indonesia has been declared no more in 2030.” Some saw the fiery speech, with its dark predictions about the country’s elites selling off the nation’s wealth to foreign powers, as a preview of Prabowo’s probable campaign strategy against President Joko Widodo, who he is widely expected to challenge (yet again) in 2019.
But political prognostications aside, many were curious about this mysterious “study” that Prabowo referred to that said Indonesia might be no more in a mere 12 years, as no such study seemed to be available online (some found reports saying Indonesia could have one of the biggest economies in the world by 2030 instead). Gerindra officials offered vague responses when asked about what study Prabowo was referring to.
“So you see, Pak Prabowo has read various writings of people that are outside the country, intellectual observers that exist. You can also see them online,” said Elnino M. Husein Mohi, the chairman of Gerindra’s Gorontalo faction, as quoted by Tribun today.
As it turns out, the “intellectual observers” that Elnino was referring to are August Cole and P. W. Singer. And you can indeed see their work online, though you’d have to purchase their “study” as an e-book through Amazon because it’s not so much a study as it is a fictional sci-fi techno-war-thriller in the vein of Tom Clancy.
We can be quite sure that Prabowo was referring to “Ghost Fleet” in regards to the prediction of Indonesia’s demise in his speech as he had specifically referred to the novel and its prediction of Indonesia breaking apart by 2030 in another speech at the University of Indonesia on September 18, 2017 (he starts talking about the book at 19:20 in this video of the speech)
Now Prabowo makes clear in the speech that he knows the book is a fictional novel, but he praises its predictions nonetheless and even gives out free copies of it to attendees (along with two other non-fiction books).
“Ghost Fleet, this is actually a novel but written by two American strategists, and it describes a scenario of war between China and America in 2030. What is interesting from this for us is that they predict that in 2030 the Republic of Indonesia will no longer exist,” he tells the crowd.
According to the novel’s official website, the authors are indeed “two leading experts on the cutting edge of national security”. In the author bio sections it says “August Cole is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council” while P.W. Singer “is Strategist and Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, the author of multiple award-winning books, and a contributing editor at Popular Science.”
Ghost Fleet, which the publisher’s site describes as a “ripping, near-futuristic thriller” “in the spirit of early Tom Clancy”, is the duo’s debut novel. And while it is based around a theoretical war between the US and China, the publisher’s copy says “the book smashes together the technothriller and nonfiction genres. It is a novel, but with 400 endnotes, showing how every trend and technology featured in book— no matter how sci-fi it may seem — is real.”
So what does Ghost Fleet have to say about Indonesia’s disintegration? Well we haven’t read the whole book but here’s the most relevant passage we could find from a Google Book search of its text.
Other brief references to Indonesia we saw in the book did not seem to elaborate on this premise and don’t seem connected to Prabowo’s speech in which he talks about the country’s elites selling off the country’s natural resources to foreign powers. It seems as if Indonesia’s demise is only mentioned in passing as window dressing to the primary conflict (and perhaps so that they could spice things up by putting more pirates in the story).
It does seems telling, however, that Prabowo would praise a book predicting a second war in Timor as causing the dissolution of Indonesia, considering the controversy over his actions in East Timor while he was leading counter-insurgency troops in the 1990s.
All in all, Ghost Fleet seems like it could be an interesting read (apparently the military brass at the Pentagon loves it so we can see why Prabowo might as well). But to call it a “study” would be a huge stretch by most definitions of the word and certainly makes one wonder why the potential presidential candidate would bother obfuscating that.
The answer must be that Prabowo thinks the message that Indonesia could cease to exist in the near future is that important, either because he believes it’s a winning political platform or perhaps because he just actually believes it. Either way, we’ll now get to see what the general public thinks of that message now that they know its actual source.