Robert Kaplan of The Atlantic Monthly has an op-ed in the New York Times today presenting a novel and far-sighted reason for leaving Afghanistan–China, India and Russia need it stabilized far more than the United States. They don’t want to stabilize it, and won’t bother contributing troops and support to the Afghan mission until the Unites States withdraws, in which case they’ll be forced to respond.

In language characteristic of Kaplan, we are told that Beijing, New Delhi and Moscow foresee geopolitical and economic value in a stable Afghanistan. All three have made considerable business investments, with China poised to control the country’s vast mineral and uranium resources.

By staying in Afghanistan, NATO and the United States are doing these potential rivals a favour by a) providing security for their investments and b) draining the West’s own military, political and economic clout in a prolonged and futile conflict.

Afghanistan is not Vietnam–there is no zero-sum Great Power game of chess being played here–and this is not the Cold War. Let the regional powers sort out their spheres while the United States, the global hegemon, uses its might only when necessary.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s a link to Professor Stephen Walt’s talk on rethinking American grand strategy. He makes a similar argument.