Pakistan's Long March to Isolation

10/05/2011 08:32 pm ET | Updated Dec 05, 2011

American Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a strong warning to a long-time US ally last weekend, warning that if they don't change their stubborn adherence to a paranoid and unrealistic foreign policy, they face international isolation. That ally? Israel. But before our hyper-nationalist chattering classes begin pointing to this as further evidence that the West is collapsing, perhaps we should take a moment to think about what the American Defense Secretary said.

"Is it enough to maintain a military edge if you're isolating yourself in the diplomatic arena?" He continued, "Real security can only be achieved by both a strong diplomatic effort as well as a strong effort to project your military strength."

The only really surprising thing about Leon Panetta's warning is how long it took for the Americans to realize what the rest of the world has known for years -- Israel's stubbornly myopic foreign policy is actually making it less secure. What is less clear is whether those responsible for directing our own foreign policy understand why.

Pakistan's military strength is unquestioned. We have the 7th largest standing military, with over 48 million more brave Pakistani men who will answer any threat to our national security with a swift and strong response. Our SSG commandos are second to none, and we have the fourth largest nuclear arsenal of the world. Unfortunately, the security provided by such military strength is being taken advantage of by some who are repeating Israel's misguided foreign policy and pushing Pakistan to the brink of international isolation, weakening our security in the process.

Similarly, reading the commentary of right-wingers in the media makes it clear that many are taking the wrong lesson from the American frustration in Afghanistan. This line has been showing up more and more across the media -- that the Americans stand on the brink of defeat in Afghanistan. The lesson we should be taking is not that America can be defeated, it's that military strength without diplomacy is not sufficient.

The delusional fantasies of some retired officers notwithstanding, America is not on the brink of collapse, and a new Sino-Pakistani Empire is not ascending to take its place as the world's only superpower. Since last week's All Parties Conference, China announced that it was pulling out of a $19 billion investment in Pakistan due to a lack of security, and Afghanistan announced that it's signing a strategic pact with India. What has all of this chest beating accomplished except to bruise ourselves?

No nation can prosper in the modern world without maintaining strong international ties with both its neighbors and other major economic powers. Sadly, too many in our own nation are suggesting our leaders do just that. We tried unity governments that thumbed their noses at the world in the past, and each time it set Pakistan back. The greatest threat to Pakistan today comes not from an external enemy, but an internal mindset that is increasingly withdrawn from the world around it.