24 JANUARY 1964, Page 15

THE UNNECESSARY WAR Sin,—Your leader's title (Spectator, January 10), with

all its pejorative undertones, seems a singularly inappropriate description of the defence of the frontiers of a fellow-member of the Commonwealth and one to whom we are bound by treaty. It also seems to ignore the real significance of what is going on in South-East Asia—where we arc now entering a new chapter of the long struggle which began in the summer of 1948 with the murder of a handful of British planters in Perak.

Why should Sukarno be so ■ 'delighted' at our defence of this frontier? He would surely have been even happier if we—like the Dutch in West Irian— had decided not to defend it? This is not to deny that

it would be admirable for Malaysia to defend her own frontiers. Unfortunately that position is not yet in sight, and until it is what would we or anyone else —except our enemies—gain by our desertion of our friends? Have we forgotten Czechoslovakia and


You say that the views of Indonesia and the Philippines should be respected because they are so much nearer at hand than Britain. This presupposes a pretty close identity of views between these two countries—and the latest Manila meeting seems to give the lie to that. It also propounds the doctrine that geographical propinquity confers a special capacity for the correct solution of political problems. How Hitler would have loved to hear that! In any case the British presence has been in this part of the world for nearly two centuries.

You imply that Australia has not committed her troops because she has a better method of dealing with the situation. Surely the answer is that she now has her own frontier with Indonesia in New Guinea to defend, and not over much in the way of trained resources for this purpose. In any case Australia, which always fights magnificently when trouble starts, has never been very good at anticipating trouble.

By all means let us try to persuade Malaysia to involve the United Nations—this is what the organisation is for. But let us not think that this is an alternative to manning the frontiers, and let us not forget that for anything to be achieved Sukarno himself must agree to United Nations intervention. His rejection of U Thant's proposals last autumn do not augur well for this line of approach.

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