JAKARTA - The deadly Christmas and New Year bombings in Indonesia and Manila, which killed 40 people and left hundreds injured, have Indonesians and Filipinos puzzled. Is radical Islam, they wonder, entering a dangerous new phase in Southeast Asia? Or is Islamic militancy, as police investigators and analysts now seem convinced, merely a convenient cover for politically powerful rivals bent on using terror campaigns in their struggle for supremacy? In this era of wrenching change when forces with different agendas make for unlikely bedfellows, evidence from Indonesia's 24 Christmas Eve blasts across Java and Sumatra points clearly to the involvement of both elements. Police have put the blame for these blasts and for similar incidents over the past two years on well-heeled remnants of President Suharto's New Order regime, who they say have been drawing on a loose mercenary network of active and retired soldiers, Muslim extremists and disparate criminal element. Their motive: to head off the prosecution of Suharto-era crimes, and to install a government more compliant with the preservation of their financial and political interests. In the Philippines, official suspicion for the deaths of 22 people in five separate explosions at the New Year has fallen on Mindanao's secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front. But there are doubts whether the MILF, after suffering a heavy battlefield setback last July, is capable of mounting such an operation in Manila, far from its traditional stronghold. Many Filipinos are more convinced the bombings were planned by supporters of then-President Joseph Estrada trying to distract public attention from his impeachment trial, or by a military faction eager to build the case for martial law. In Indonesia, President Abdurrahman Wahid is in serious political trouble and has been unable to halt the country's lingering economic crisis or put reforms in place. His government suffers from institutional decay and has failed to fill the political and leadership vacuum left by Suharto. Indeed, not only has the bombing campaign underlined the difficulty of uprooting Suharto's New Order regime and its pervasive culture, but it also demonstrates how a collapse in law and order has opened the door for extremist Muslim groups willing to use violence to get their way. A few years ago, the Indonesian military would never have tolerated groups such as Laskar Jihad, still operating in Maluku, and the Defenders of Islam Front (FPI), whose specialty is wrecking Jakarta bars and restaurants in the name of Islam. Political analyst Marcus Meitzner, a specialist on the army and Islam, believes that with the apparent erosion of the state doctrine of Pancasila--and its philosophy of sectarianism--the military's traditionally strict adherence to national security and stability has given way to simply the protection of its own institutional interests. That view of the decay of military principles seems to be shared by former army chief of staff Gen. Hartono, long regarded as a member of the military's Islamic wing, and recently cited by Wahid as a possible suspect in the bomb attacks. "Under Suharto, this would never have happened--so why does it happen now?" he says in a rare interview in his South Jakarta home. "I myself am disappointed with the military because it seems they are very afraid of being accused of committing human rights abuses. I would rather sacrifice the human rights of one person, rather than the human rights of many people. The military is too scared now to carry out its duties, even in safe-guarding the nation."