Despite the flurry of American activity, it's by no means clear that Washington is any closer to understanding the dynamics in South-Central Asia.
The United States is already failing to grasp not only the details of other powers' maneuverings in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the extent to which these dealings could eclipse even the most brilliant US shuttle diplomacy by Holbrooke.
China's long-term strategy is clear: It has become the largest investor in Afghanistan, developing highways to connect Iran and the giant Aynak copper mine south of Kabul.
Building roads and controlling their usage has for centuries been the foundation of spreading Silk Road influence, as well as the key to success in the 19th-century Great Game. Today's struggle for control follows similar rules.
All parties join in a game of "pretend," that nothing has really happened to the fundamental equations of business life, as the whole system, the whole way of life, enters upon a circle-jerk of mutual denial in a last desperate effort to forestall the mandates of reality.
How long will these games go on?