Nuclear Pakistan, we are often told, is the Islamic-state equivalent of a Wall Street firm: In geostrategic terms, it is too big to fail. That explains why, even as the Obama administration begins preparing for modest troop withdrawals from Afghanistan this July, it dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Islamabad last week to smooth over bilateral relations with Pakistan's paranoid regime, which were strained even before the killing of Osama bin Laden. But Clinton's trip and the Obama administration's instinctive embrace of Islamabad is a fool's errand, doomed by history, geography and globalization itself.
In fact, the U.S. should drop the entire Afghanistan-Pakistan mess in China's lap now, while the getting is good, and here are the reasons why:
Over the long haul, the U.S cannot possibly throw as many bodies and bucks at the problem as China can. The U.S. is currently negotiating with both Iraq and Afghanistan regarding a long-term U.S. troop presence, at the same time that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is proposing military pay cuts and the U.S. government is breaking its latest debt ceiling at $14.3 trillion. Meanwhile, cash-rich China, which has already seeded commercial interests throughout Asia and Africa over the past decade, is planning to send $2 trillion overseas in investments over the next 10 years. Moreover, China actually borders both Afghanistan, where it recently plunked down a $3.4 billion investment in a copper mine, and Pakistan, with whom China has almost twice as much trade as America does.