From the Yellow Sea to Kabul

December 13, 2010

From the Yellow Sea to Kabul

Center for International Policy Asia program director Selig Harrison and retired U.S. Army Lt. General John Cushman think they know how to stop the fighting in the Yellow Sea between the two occupants of the Korean peninsula. Noting that the latest tussle (in which the North first sunk a South Korean warship in March and then shelled a sparsly occupied island in the disputed waters) is only the most recent in a string of naval incidents going back to the end of the Korean War, the authors write in the New York Times that the main problem is that the boundary line, originally meant to "impose a limit on any potential South Korean encroachment" on the North, in fact gives "the best fishing grounds" to the South. Now that Seoul is light years ahead of Pyongyang economically, it can afford to give some ground in order to prevent further "accidental" conflicts. And luckily (since the ROK's "hard-liner" President Lee Myung-bak might not be so keen on the idea), the 1950 UN Security Council resolution that gave Washington the power to redraw the boundary is still in effect, so President Obama doesn't even need permission from the South Koreans to take care of the problem. Harrison and Cushman also float North Korean General Ri Chan-bok's proposal to replace the 1953 armistice with a "trilateral peace regime," and say Pyongyang would even accept the presence of U.S. forces on the peninsula if it means replacing the original treaty.

In the Wall Street Journal, Brookings Institution scholar Michael O'Hanlon worries that Afghan President Hamid Karzai might try to stay in power past his 2014 mandate, whether by constitutional amendment, military coup or otherwise. In order to head off the impending problem, O'Hanlon says U.S. officials should start—"publicly" but "delicately"—talking about a post-2014 Afganistan without Karzai. The country also "needs political movements tied to ideas and governing principles" rather than "patronage," which Washington can encourage by "strengthening Afghan political organizations." And although this would require a "long-term" outlook, it could have "shorter-term" benefits, too, by encouraging other "Afghan politicians" to "take notice and start developing ideas they can run on."

As if on cue, the Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran has a lengthy front-page article on the "tortured" and "fractured" relationship between Karzai and Washington that details the "standoff" between the Afghan leader and Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry over Karzai's order for private security contractors to get out of the country.

And a truck bombing at a "new jointly operated outpost in southern Afghanistan" that killed six U.S. soldiers has made the rounds in cyberspace. Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal notes that it was third assault in Khandahar in two days, but the Taliban have "suffered heavy losses" over the last six months. Spencer Ackerman warns, however, that the "sheer number of" Taliban bombings "show no signs of slowing" and America "has long accepted that it can't kill it's way to success." Max Boot claims the attack proves the idea that negotiation with the Taliban is the only path to peace "is simply delusional." But Juan Cole sees the wheels coming off: the bombings, the lack of loyalty to the United States on the part of the Afghan army and public, continued fraud allegations over the country's parliamentary elections last October and the news that U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke "is in critical condition after being operated on for a torn aorta."