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TIME 100: AUGUST 23-30, 1999 VOL. 154 NO. 7/8

America's Unseen Hand


In the late 1950s, when the United States was losing patience with what it considered to be the crypto-communist, anti-Western ways of Indonesia's Sukarno, the Central Intelligence Agency was ordered to destabilize his regime. A life-like mask of Sukarno was made and sent to Hollywood, where a porn star wore it while being filmed in action. The resulting movie and some still photographs from it were passed around influential circles in Indonesia. But the CIA miscalculated. Rather than express surprise and outrage at their leader's apparent peccadilloes, Indonesians shrugged. They expected no less. Unsuccessful in shaming Sukarno out of office, the CIA sent B-26 bombers to Indonesia in support of a 1958 rebellion of colonels. One of the CIA pilots was shot down and captured. Embarrassed, Allen Dulles, then the agency's director, declared that "we must disengage." Yet in 1965, a bloody spasm of violence left tens of thousands dead, the Indonesian Communist Party was destroyed and Sukarno was deposed. The CIA denied complicity in the upheaval, but few took the denial seriously.

m o r e
Sukarno: Revolution's Star
The glamorous spellbinder united a disparate nation

The CIA played a major role in Asia's passage through the last half of the 20th century (the agency was formally founded in 1947). Its failures were numerous, as were its successes, and nearly all its operations were significant. The CIA missed both the warnings of the 1950 North Korean attack on the South and the Chinese intervention in the war later that year. But when CIA officer Edward Lansdale successfully employed a mix of propaganda, community development and covert military operations to help the Philippines put down the Huk rebellion in the 1950s, an agency model for counter-insurgency operations was set in place. The system failed to yield much success in Vietnam, where the agency was constantly battling with the U.S. State Department and Pentagon over the best strategy for the war. While hundreds of CIA officers were running a not-so-secret war in Laos and a ruthless program to eliminate communist supporters in the villages of South Vietnam, others were writing largely unheeded--and prophetic--reports warning that America's venture in Southeast Asia was doomed to failure.

Chastened by the U.S. defeat in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, the CIA became more cautious in Asia. In the 1970s and 1980s, its operations--and successes--were less dramatic and public. "Like all aging institutions," says a former officer, "we badly needed to reassess what we were doing." Agency intelligence reports helped squelch secret programs to develop nuclear weapons in South Korea, Taiwan and, U.S. officials hope, North Korea--while failing to check their advance in India and Pakistan. Without generating much publicity or getting its hands too dirty, the agency successfully assisted in waging the war that drove the Soviets from Afghanistan, but it was unable to persuade its former clients in Kabul to live in peace with each other. As elsewhere in the world, the CIA's methods and goals in Asia have changed. It gathers information increasingly by high-tech means rather than by stealth. Satellites, not spies, do most of the listening and watching. CIA analysts today are more commonly concerned about economic data--and less likely to worry about the sex lives of government officials.

The Most Influential Asians of the Century

Asians of the Century
A cavalcade of towering individuals and a newly awakened populace

Why Adam Smith Would Love Asia
Asia has been the proving ground for global capitalism

Ending Silence
Asian women are celebrating hard-won triumphs

Embrace the wisdom of democracy and capitalism

t h e  l i s t

Ho Chi Minh
Pol Pot
Issey Miyake
Daisuke Inoue
Rabindranath Tagore
Sun Yat-sen
Mohandas Gandhi
Mao Zedong
Lee Kuan Yew
Deng Xiaoping
Corazon Aquino
Park Chung Hee
Eiji Toyoda
King Rama
Akira Kurosawa
Dalai Lama
Akio Morita

This edition's table of contents



U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

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