Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
On Bergdahl, Obama Made the Least Bad Choice
President Obama has come under enormous criticism for his handling of the repatriation of Sgt Bergdahl. As always, he couldn’t help but do it in the most grandstanding way possible. The central decision, though, was the best of a bad set of choices. I’m not convinced by any of the arguments that I’ve seen here or elsewhere on the web that he could have done this much differently.
Here then, are the complaints:
We Negotiated With Terrorists
Of course we did. The Taliban have the upper hand in Afghanistan and they know it. We were always going to have to give up something to get him back; it was just a matter of negotiating down to the smallest number of prisoners they were willing to exchange for him.
But He’s a Deserter
Suppose he had been captured in action, as some accounts say. After losing a certain number of men trying to free him, the military would have decided the cost was too high and we would have been forced to negotiate anyway.
We Should Have Left Him to Rot
Had Obama done that, would everyone on the right be backing him up on that decision? Or would everyone be talking about how he cravenly left one of our brave warriors behind? Obama has, for once, acted according to principle: you don’t leave anyone behind. To make that happen, he’s had to push other moral considerations aside.
He Needs to be Tried
After five years in captivity, there may not be enough of Bowe Bergdahl left inside the head of Sergeant Bergdahl to have a trial. Were his genitals cut off? How many times was he raped? How many times was he beaten? How much brain damage has he incurred as a result of five years of malnutrition, exposure, and isolation? Has he picked up some chronic disease in captivity? After some rehabilitation, he might be propped up in a chair and made to face a court-martial, but what are you going to do to him that hasn’t been done already?
But He’s a Deserter
When did this first start to show up, specifically? How long before he wandered off? Was he ever really cut out for infantry duty or did a desperate military send him to the front because they needed a warm body to fill a slot? And when he first started showing signs of disloyalty, was that dealt with or did everyone just sort of cross their fingers and hope he could hold it together for a few more months?
We were told early on that “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had.” True then, true now. Expediency and exigency are the foundation on which the Global War on Terror was built. It’s a system that has served everyone stateside very well; the actual consequences of this way of doing things have been borne entirely by the man in uniform. An investigation may show that Bergdahl failed his responsibilities, but who in the American government is ever going to be held responsible for this mess in the first place? Loyalty is a two-way street.
Obama Broke the Law
Yes he did. But realistically, was Congress going to think this through reasonably and approve the swap or would they have used Bergdahl as a political football? The administration claims his health was deteriorating quickly enough that the stipulated 30 days was too long to wait. Even if that proves to be another one of their lies, was five years not long enough to wait? What, other than moral grandstanding, would our congressmen have done with those thirty days?Published in General
At the risk of appearing very dense: why’d he have to do it at all?
I’m afraid I disagree with every point you’ve raised.
‘We were always going to have to give something up to get him back.’ Why, exactly? And why now, after five years? Deserters in other wars have not been exchanged for.
‘But, he’s a deserter.’ Exactly. Repeating it later as if those who raise this inconvenient fact are overly concerned about it doesn’t negate its importance. Bergdahl willingly went over to a murderous enemy. He chose them over us, and jeopardized the lives of the men who minutes before were his comrades. Six of them might have died looking for him. He knew we would search for him, and that the Taliban would use that fact to set ambushes. And he didn’t care.
‘What else are you going to do to him?’ Serve justice. The men who didn’t shirk deserve that.
‘Obama broke the law.’ If he didn’t intend to execute the law, he should have vetoed it.
There definitely are those on the right who will criticize Obama over anything, fair or not. Just as there were those with Bush Derangement Syndrome, there are those with Obama Derangement Syndrome. But I don’t picture even Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh complaining that Obama let the chance go by to trade one American GI (who may be a deserter) for five murderous terrorists.
Desertion is a serious charge, punishable by death under Article 85 of the UCMJ.
I think it comes down to two things. First the message to other servicemen is that if there are questions about your disappearance, we will leave you to die. Second, if you’re an enemy of the US, go ahead and kill any prisoners right off, we don’t negotiate with terrorists.
Well, only in a time of war, which technically hasn’t applied since WWII. So five years, max.
As for the rest of this, in addition to what’s already been said, it’s just a horrible incentive and precedent to let the enemy know we’re willing to trade heaven and earth for anyone captured. This is one area where I agree with Jack Bauer’s negotiation style–if you give us our Soldiers back, we won’t kill you.
We are not in a position to make these sort of threats. At least in any sort of voice that the Taliban won’t just laugh at. They took him, held him, moved him across the border and handed him over with impunity.
OK, I think Obama wanted those guys out and punk boy was an excuse. As far as feeling that being raped is punishment enough for killing 6 of his fellow soldiers, eh, not really. I’d execute him.
I’m sorry, I see no reason at all why Obama needed to release those five Taliban. I’m all for alleviating suffering, even if Bergdahl is a bad man, but how much suffering will be caused by those five Taliban? I’m not a veteran, but I doubt they are willing to see the accomplishments they suffered for completely undone in order to get a prisoner back. As I see it, Bergdahl isn’t really that important. The five Taliban being set free is really important.
Well, that’s not true. They did it carefully, and took a lot of measures to avoid showing up on cameras and sensors and cell phone towers. Impunity is the planning that the guys hanging out in Qatar get to do.
We could have just put a round through his skull…..
That would have been the baller move. Show up at the exchange and cap that worthless D-bag in the head and leave.
Nope. The dude’s a traitor based on what I’ve seen and should be eligible for the death penalty. You don’t go about trading 5 senior terrorists for one guy who at a bare minimum deserves to be hogtied and fed to wild boar. Bergdahl has no value as a human being and thus any trade for him benefits our enemies.
At least six deserters were left behind in Korea, probably more than forty in Vietnam. Both wars most say we lost. Some say there were as many as forty thousand in Europe that walked away from the battlefield and weren’t accounted for. Obama is repeating a myth.
By the way , he was not held by the Taliban but by a group equivalent to the Afghan Mafia.
I may have to agree about the message to servicemen: we won’t let you die, we will do everything we can to get you back. Then might we say, “innocent until proven guilty.” Until Bergdahl is proved a deserter, he should be perceived as a prisoner. Thus we would need to honor his “service” and get him back?
He was a fool to wander off his post–and has reaped a painful consequence for that choice.
I think we are better people taking opportunity to applaud our men & women who serve well, than spending energy deriding those who served poorly.
Celebrate our heros!Let the military deal with their standards of service and how Bergdahl meets or misses the mark.
Honestly, the abuse he may have suffered may indeed be worse than a death sentence and an even greater punishment for his family.
What is frightening to me is what those five former prisoners traded for Bergdahl will sow in terms of world-wide terror upon their release. Are there four or five horseman of the proverbial Apocalypse?
This talk of a bad message sent to our servicemen by leaving Bergdahl behind is belied by the actual response to the swap of actual servicemen who actually served with Bergdahl. They’re pissed. Drawing a moral equivalence between men who love their country and serve honorably and Bergdahl? That’s just bad form. Which servicemen are going to approve of having their honor so impugned?
Obama has quite literally squandered the gains honorable men had achieved by risking, and sometimes losing, their lives. And now five Taliban commanders will be put back into action against the weakened and demoralized remnant who remain. It’s not the least bad choice. It’s treasonous.
What’s done now is done. That very fact – that the action is done & can’t possibly be undone – and the fact that now Dianne Feinstein says she was not told till the exchange happened, brings a new thought :
O’s protecting the rest of the Democrats with this. He’ll continue to go rogue and not tell Congressional leaders – that way he can indeed be the fall guy, he won’t be running again – and D’s will not share the blame, since they’ll honestly throw their hands up and say We didn’t know, or we would have opposed it!
Republicans must hang this around the necks of the Dems NOW. Republicans have to go on the offensive and say in every interview: this is what the Democrats want, to release killers so they can kill again. Harsh, but otherwise Dems will not get the blame – and they deserve the blame, they’ve covered for this quisling. To ever win another election, Republicans must lay this on the entire Democrat party.
I can’t agree with anything in your list. He was a deserter. How many that deserted in Vietnam got left behind? We traded 5 major league all-stars for 1 minor leaguer who knew he was in the wrong sport. Bottom line, DocJay is right. Obama used the loser to start emptying Gitmo. And he knowingly broke the law to do it. I’ve never been this angry with our government. The dope (my new nickname for O) has put every American at risk. And you say he did the least amount of damage. Sorry, you’re flat wrong. He did not have to do what he did. He did it for 2014 votes. Disgusting. As WC says, treasonous. Perhaps he and Bergdahl can share the same court room and jail cell. At least they’ll both know where Mecca is.
Are you just being provocative, Jason? ‘Cause I’ve never disagreed so thoroughly with you on every point.
This is an interesting question. I read Jason’s post about reparations and thought that is was so ludicrous I didn’t bother reading the comments let alone posting my incredulitity. But this post is beyond the pale and felt it worthy to dissent in no uncertain terms. So what is it Rudert? Do believe your premise or are you just being provocative. You’ve been unusually quite on something that you started.
I really mean what I wrote, and looking this over after twelve hours or so I wouldn’t change it. Again, this isn’t a win for Obama, or America, and I think Bergdahl should have been quietly sent home and ignored. But looking at the various duties he has to balance, and the reality of what he has to work with, Obama settled on the least awful solution. Most of the people commenting here see this as a much more morally clear situation than I do, but that’s because they leave out any value for Bergdahl’s life, or any value for the example of bringing him home. I can’t make you change your views on this. I would only add that I’m willing to accept whatever tiny additional risk I’m exposed to by releasing these men. In the balancing of these bad choices, I think all of you are vastly oversetimating the danger these released captives pose.
What was Obama’s urgency?
The comments here have been uniform and repetitive enough that I didn’t see any point in responding to each one. There’s also a lot of fantasizing about violence going on here. You know very well that shooting Bergdahl in the head was never an option. I am being provocative, because the loathing of Obama is spilling over into the scapegoating of Bergdahl. And I’m still convinced that if he’d died in captivity two months from now, all of the venom would be turned around at Obama for letting him die. There are already a few congressmen who a few months ago were hammering on the president for not doing enough to bring him back, and now have jumped on the bandwagon. McCain said in an interview a while back that he’d be fine with a swap.
There are principled objections to this exchange, but you can’t switch from one argument to another just because you hate Obama.
Until I hear otherwise, I’m taking their claim at face value that Bergdahl’s health was deteriorating. Yes, the source for that was his captors–they may have inflcted it to move things along–but given how long he’d been held, it’s not an unreasonable assumption.
There’s nothing wrong with a little “devil’s advocacy” but I’m not biting. You’re being a little mischievous here, no? I’m guessing that your thinking is more along these lines:
Had Bergdahl been an actual war hero, this still would have been a terrible choice. Considering the potential damage in releasing these despicable (and more importantly, dangerous) beasts O should have never even considered the deal.
I state this confidently without even reading the subsidiary arguments you listed in order to refute. You’ve created a great comment magnet, but this is the last straw, man.
So you’re predicating your whole argument on that Bregdahl is on the edge of death. Yeah? There are also more than a few senators in 2010, I believe, who nixed this very same deal.
Why? What has Obama told you in the last 6 years that has led you to believe him in this case or any other case? Do you think the VA problem is real or is it a vast right wing conspiracy. That’s unfair I know but you get the gist. What is it though really?
Looks like I’m going to have to let you down here, rico. When this first came up, I thought it was crazy to make the trade, but the more I thought about it, the options Obama had here narrow down pretty quickly. We’re stuck negotiating with the Taliban because we have spent the last thirteen years proving that we can’t or won’t defeat them. They know all they have to do is wait us out. So when it came to negotiating with them, about all our side was ever going to accomplish was talking them down from twenty to five prisoners. The only comment that’s caused me to question any of this is that he was actually held by the Haqqani network–more of a mafia organization. It had to have been a very peculiar deal to go US->Qatar->Taliban->Haqqani to make this happen. But I don’t think it really changes the calculus in the oval office.
@3rd Angle, I’m going to bed, but yes, either Bergdahl was ailing or his captors were pushing for a resolution.