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Monday, October 14, 2002

Byron's Bali Blathering-I haven't quite got my mind around the hotel bombing in Bali this weekend, but I think it is going to change a lot of things. Here's five quick bullet points. (1) If it's true that this is an al Qaeda affiliate behind the bombing, the Southeast Asian front, including Malaysia and the Philippines, has just come into play. (2) The bombing has gotten the Aussies mad, as many of the victims were Australian. On a per capita basis, Bali might be worse than 9/11. That will bring one more country strongly on board. (3) The world will start to focus on militant Islam in Indonesia. There has been an ongoing pogrom against Christians in Indonesia, but such news has not hit the front page. There may be a very slender link between the militant Islamic groups in Indonesia and al Qaeda; many of the groups may simply be fellow-travelers with a negligible link. (4) The focus on militant Islam might destroy the new democracy or start a civil war. To date, the west hasn't gotten on Indonesia's case to crack down for fear of creating a grid locked political system. A crackdown sufficient to do the job would have the Islamic parties walking out and forcing a unity coalition that would include the Golkar block of old Suharto cronies. The public at large wouldn't stand for such a coalition and might bring back martial law as the military decided to take over. Many provinces might decided to go independent and a world-class mess might develop. (5) If we had a pro-Islamic military junta installed (or an inept current government) that did little to stop future attacks, we could be looking at an invasion of Indonesia as a whole or of renegade sections of the country that might be run by al Qaeda sympathizers. If we had the disintegration of Indonesia, we could easily see one or more of the provinces becoming Talibanesque. Stay tuned; this could get uglier in a hurry.

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