If the Huffington Post‘s Stanley Weiss is right, and Prabowo is leading the pack among Indonesia’s presidential candidates, the implication is that SBY is Prabowo’s biggest electoral asset.

Prabowo: The future president of Indonesia?

Why? Because SBY’s namby-pamby, make-no-tough-decisions style is driving Indonesians to the level of frustration that Prabowo starts to look very good in contrast. In politics and logic this is called occupying the extremes. One someone else occupies an extreme position, you start to look good relative to that person.

So well done as Prabowo’s most effective campaigner, SBY!

The Courage to Jump in Indonesia

JAKARTA–Five years ago, one of the most respected soldiers in U.S. history died too soon. Wayne Downing was a West Point graduate and four-star general who served two tours in Vietnam and came out of retirement after 9/11 to serve as anti-terrorism advisor to President George W. Bush. Known as the father of the modern Rangers , Downing commanded America’s elite counter-terrorism teams in the 1990s and spent decades training foreign soldiers who came to Fort Bragg to learn about democracy. Not long before he died, I had lunch with General Downing at the White House. He told me that of all the foreign soldiers he ever trained, two stood out. One was Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein , the reigning King of Jordan. The other was Prabowo Subianto , the former commander of Indonesia’s special forces, and the current front-runner to be Indonesia’s next president in 2014.

Meeting with Prabowo , now a successful businessman, and his wealthy brother Hashim Djojohadikusumo here in this capital city, it’s not hard to see what General Downing saw. Prabowo is strategic and insightful, remarkably idealistic about his country and confident about its future. The scion of one of Indonesia’s most prestigious families, he grows passionate when he speaks about the nation’s income inequalities. He embodies a strength that is later captured well by Juwono Sudarsono , the respected former Minister of Defense, who tells me, “Prabowo leads the pack because he projects grit, firm leadership and decisiveness–which are seen to be lacking in our current leadership.”

That Prabowo is part of the conversation at all here is a testament to both his survival skills and the growing pains felt by this archipelago nation in its second decade of democracy. In some ways, he is the last person Westerners expected to be in a position of leadership–which has some wondering what his ascension means for Indonesia, and the future of Asia’s democracies.

Fourteen years ago, the former general was one of the most detested men in Indonesia . The then-son-in-law of former dictator Suharto, Prabowo was accused of leading deadly crackdowns against democracy activists in Suharto’s waning days, inciting riots that led to Suharto’s ouster and leading a coup attempt against his replacement. Although never charged with wrongdoing, Prabowo was found guilty of “exceeding orders ” by a military ethics committee and dismissed by the army . For his alleged role in the riots, he was the first person in U.S. history to be denied a visa for violating the United Nations Convention Against Torture. He is anathema to human rights organizations in the West- -but Indonesia may be willing to look past that history.

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