The Obama Era: The View from Indonesia
US President Barack Obama’s election was watched particularly closely in Indonesia, where Obama had spent formative years of his childhood. For some scholars and policymakers, the election of the first US-Indonesian president in Washington, combined with a government in Jakarta interested in boosting Indonesia’s regional and global influence, offered a rare chance to transcend lingering and fundamentally transform the bilateral relationship.
Obama’s two terms proved that accomplishing this was a much more difficult goal than was initially forecast. Indonesian public and elite opinion were both characterized by what one might call “sustained ambivalence” during the Obama era: with some increased confidence in America’s image and regional presence; but lingering uncertainty about its policies in the region and its future geopolitical position. And even as the Obama administration did advance the bilateral relationship in many ways, familiar challenges—from history to policy implementation—continued to limit its success.