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Learning How to Survive As Military Retirees: Luhut Binsar Panjaitan’s Experience

 In this essay, I am interested in discussing the figure of Luhut Binsar Panjaitan. I want to imagine what if Indonesia no longer has the figure of Luhut Binsar Panjaitan. His character reminds me of the figure of Leonardus Benjamin Moerdani. This last figure was so agile in guarding the Suharto government until finally he was expelled from the palace.

Later, the name Luhut Binsar Panjaitan emerged on the map of power in Indonesia. His military career was brilliant. His knowledge of intelligence and combat is unquestionable. The awards he has received are countless. His positions in government are also always very strategic. Since the Gus Dur era, he has been active, until, during the Jokowi era, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan became a “field star” in the current government.

I suspect that Luhut is using his military knowledge, particularly combat and intelligence, to stay strong in the political arena and strengthen his business empire, as well as his charitable social network. I am not interested in commenting on the controversy caused by Luhut Binsar Panjaitan. For me, what is interesting is how a retired military officer can combine his business skills, politics, and influence within a country. Luhut’s military network capabilities, both at home and abroad, in the corridor of “corporate spirit,” have been used by Luhut to devote all of his talents to the country.

A retired military will usually choose a “political cart” to fulfill his financial situation. In addition, they will usually become advisors or commissioners in state or private companies. Sometimes they are assigned as diplomats, i.e., ambassadors. In essence, they need to generate income to show their social class after being no longer active in the military.

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Business people also need the influence of the generals for the security and stability of their companies. Political parties also need their talents to develop strategies to gain power. Unless they are financially sufficient, retirees will always think about how they can survive in any situation.

Those who are victorious will succeed whoever is behind them. Will make their hometown successful. Will strive for their family to reach a degree of glory, with the influence of their father or grandfather as general, whether active or not.

In this context, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan’s success can be understood. It is very natural, if Luhut’s style of speech, it is as if he understands the battlefield he is facing very well. He made the enemy an opponent who must be exterminated.

Therefore, whoever is the country’s leader will need loyalty and intelligence like Luhut Binsar Panjaitan. Jokowi was lucky to be friends with Luhut before he became president.

Luhut can reach top business people in this country. He can change strategic policies if it disturbs the hopes of his master. He can move the entire state system to secure his master, who is president. It seems that Luhut and Jokowi’s tenure will end in 2024. Except, Luhut starts to build a relationship, as he started with Jokowi when he was in Solo. However, in 2024, Luhut will be 77 years old. This age seems to have reached the level of being a wise man and no longer being a “field star.”

LB Moerdani played a role like Luhut when he was still active in the military. Instead, Luhut played the drama of his life after retiring. These two figures will probably be remembered by this nation, that there are the best soldiers of the TNI who can give loyalty to their nation until the end of their lives.

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He is currently escorting his son and family to get a strategic position in this country. He understands very well that after 2024, the situation may not favor him and his family. This is also what SBY did when he asked his son AHY to retire early from the military service. Because SBY understands very well that his son’s military career will not skyrocket like him, this is because AHY’s father is not part of the regime that is currently in power. We still remember the strength of the family of SBY and Ibu Ani in the Indonesian military.

What we see from Luhut’s behavior is normal within abnormality. Everything he did was not expected, but all these behaviors were perfectly legal for a former soldier, for his nation, his family, his hometown, and his religion. There is no need to be jealous and hurt by what Luhut has shown in the last two decades. His model and style are shown as a father who feels constantly threatened by the situation in front of him, which is the principle in the military world. The enemy could come at any time. In intelligence lessons, it is taught that no one person can be trusted when carrying out an operation. Luhut’s operation is perpetual. The concept of an enemy to be conquered was also precisely when he was still a soldier.

Even if Luhut is no longer in the circle of power in 2024, his influence will still emerge. However, he no longer influences strategic policy. For example, to create a friendly climate for foreign investment, Luhut, through his influence in the military, was able to eliminate the danger of the arrival of China as the emergence of communism. The investment climate it creates must be supported by state apparatus so that money from abroad enters Indonesia.

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For example, other influences have the power to choose their people to be in strategic positions. Thus, his pyramid of power will be more solid down to the bottom which is because he has “planted” his confidants.

This behavior is not only found in Luhut. Almost all leaders worldwide will place their trusted people in strategic positions to secure the lead. This, I once got from the story of Tan Sri Sanusi Juned in Malaysia, when he accompanied Tun Mahathir as Prime Minister of that country. He is a confidant of Tun Mahathir. Many undercover stories about how he helped Tun Mahathir place elected people in strategic positions were obtained from Tan Sri.

This is “acceptable” behavior in a democratic country, such as Indonesia. The closer you are to power, the more people you must eliminate. The further you are from power, the more disappointment you will have to swallow. These are the essential lessons we can learn from the figure of Luhut Binsar Panjaitan.

Kamaruzzaman Bustamam Ahmad

Kamaruzzaman Bustamam-Ahmad (KBA) has followed his curiosity throughout life, which has carried him into the fields of Sociology of Anthropology of Religion in Southeast Asia, Islamic Studies, Sufism, Cosmology, and Security, Geostrategy, Terrorism, and Geopolitics. KBA is the author of over 30 books and 50 academic and professional journal articles and book chapters. His academic training is in social anthropology at La Trobe University, Islamic Political Science at the University of Malaya, and Islamic Legal Studies at UIN Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta. He received many fellowships: Asian Public Intellectual (The Nippon Foundation), IVLP (American Government), Young Muslim Intellectual (Japan Foundation), and Islamic Studies from Within (Rockefeller Foundation). He is based in Banda Aceh and can be reached at ceninnets@yahoo.com.au

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