The last one standing is Joe Biden - not because he is the Vice President, but because he has clung behind the scenes to his original position that the US needed to scale down its military and political objectives in Afghanistan while his rivals have fallen by the wayside or have been replaced by others in their roles with lesser stature.
Joe Biden's warnings during the strategic review process that America needed to keep a modest military footprint, focus on al Qaeda, and set up the capacity to "shape the choices made by the Taliban" rather than the Petraeus formulation of "defeating al Qaeda and its affiliates" (i.e. the Taliban)" have ultimately emerged as President Obama's choice - but only after the military failed to translate hundreds of billions of dollars of resources and a large military deployment into success.
No one is fighting hard to be at the table when Afghanistan policy is discussed now. Rather than a path to power and national security celebrity, this portfolio is burdensome and tired.
But this is what Joe Biden is surprisingly good at managing - the portfolios that no one really wants, that may have been front burners in the public eye gone stale.
As an example, Biden drilled down deeply into the who's who of Iraq's byzantine political world, knowing not only the primary leaders of the cultural and ethnic rallying poles in the country - but the rivals of rivals within each of these factions. But perhaps more importantly, Biden also drilled down into the divides inside the US government - reconciling and forcing a bridge between rival State Department and Pentagon views on Iraq. He then built a non-public but important relationship with Ad Melkert, the UN's Special Representative for Iraq, who became a vital partner to Biden in hammering out the myriad back deals that have thus far kept Iraq from falling back into civil war and moving forward something that looks like the beginning of a representative democracy.
Biden has told me he doesn't want the Afghanistan portfolio; that he has enough to do and that there are others who can now implement the general course of action that President Obama has now outlined, committing to a withdrawal of surge forces by the end of 2012 and a withdrawal of all troops by 2014.
But there is no one left to really run the show. No one wants it.
Afghanistan's internal fragility in which a civil war is underway with a proxy war between India and Pakistan stacked on top is exactly the kind of Rubik's Cube challenge that Joe Biden excels at.
Biden's original Afghanistan plan with some modest hybridization and adjustment by President Obama is now the course we are on. Afghanistan spikes in the press now and then - most recently because of blowback from a stressed out American public realizing that the US is spending $120 billion a year in a nation with a $14 billion GDP, but on the whole - there is a long list of other topics that Americans prefer to distract themselves with rather than what is happening in this war.