On Bergdahl, Obama Made the Least Bad Choice

 

ObamaBerghdalPresident 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?

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  1. rico Inactive
    rico
    @rico

    I still say the deal is overpriced. O’s mistake was to frame Bergdahl’s release as imperative. It wasn’t. Desirable? Yes, but not imperative. O fell into the salesman’s trap.

    O’s motivation was (as always) 100% political. That explains his willingness to negotiate with Taliban/Haqqani, despite his perpetual unwillingness to negotiate with Congress.

    • #31
  2. 3rd angle projection Member
    3rd angle projection
    @

    Jason Rudert:

    @3rd Angle, I’m going to bed, but yes, either Bergdahl was ailing or his captors were pushing for a resolution.

     You’re missing the point. He wasn’t ailing and his captors were not looking for a resolution. The dope has been pushing this deal since 2011.

    Wake up and smell the coffee Rudert. Sorry to be so hardcore about this but the country is at stake. Sleep well though. Bergdahl’s buddies and replacements are allowing for that. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

    • #32
  3. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    3rd angle projection: Wake up and smell the coffee Rudert. Sorry to be so hardcore about this but the country is at stake. Sleep well though. Bergdahl’s buddies and replacements are allowing for that. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

     The country’s future does not depend on Jason’s understanding of the Bergdahl issues. Whilst Ricochet is a place for a chat and coffee amongst friends, decaff is acceptable (or even warm milk for those who are totally barred from coffee). Even on the most heated of issues, aggression is neither required, nor often helpful. 

    Jason Rudert: 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. 

     I agree with this, but a few Congressmen and activists being unprincipled doesn’t make the position they would have taken right. If Obama let Bergdahl die, Obama would have been pilloried for taking the righteous position, as happens sometimes. 

    • #33
  4. 3rd angle projection Member
    3rd angle projection
    @

    James Of England:

     

    The country’s future does not depend on Jason’s understanding of the Bergdahl issues. Whilst Ricochet is a place for a chat and coffee amongst friends, decaff is acceptable (or even warm milk for those who are totally barred from coffee). Even on the most heated of issues, aggression is neither required, nor often helpful.


    It was aggressive James. I’ll admit that. 

    But we are at a tipping point. The country’s future does depend on how we respond. Whether here on Ricochet or more importantly in our communities.

    This is where the proverbial rubber hits the road. This where we decide if we are country of laws or a country of men. If we allow for what we did for Bergdahl then we have have definitely descended into a country of men. And that’s not good for anybody.

    I can have that opinion, no? It may be hurtful but I can still have that opinion nonetheless. By the way, I don’t drink coffee, caff or no caff.

     

    • #34
  5. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    3rd angle projection:
    It was aggressive James. I’ll admit that.

    But we are at a tipping point. The country’s future does depend on how we respond. Whether here on Ricochet or more importantly in our communities.

    This is where the proverbial rubber hits the road. This where we decide if we are country of laws or a country of men. If we allow for what we did for Bergdahl then we have have definitely descended into a country of men. And that’s not good for anybody.

    I can have that opinion, no? It may be hurtful but I can still have that opinion nonetheless. By the way, I don’t drink coffee, caff or no caff.

     What is the alternative to allowing for what happened? If there’s a proposed course of action that follows then I can perhaps understand your position a little more easily. Since the deal appears unrepeatable and irrevocable, I’d only seen the opinion side of things. 

    • #35
  6. user_1030767 Inactive
    user_1030767
    @TheQuestion

    We shouldn’t be titling this topic “Bergdahl.”  We should be titling it “Five High Ranking Taliban.”  Deliberately letting five dangerous killers go free should be the center of attention here.

    • #36
  7. user_549556 Inactive
    user_549556
    @VinceGuerra

    How many men were lost on missions undertaken to capture the five Taliban who were released? If they could call out from the grave, how many of them would approve of their Commander in Chief disregarding the price they paid, to keep us, and our soldiers in the field, safe?

    This is about more than one pathetic American soldier, its about all the rest who serve with honor and self-sacrifice. Obama willfully dishonored every person who fought, and some who died, to capture those enemies. I know many soldiers. I don’t know one who would allow himself to be traded for even one single captured Taliban, much less five. They have way too much honor for that.

    • #37
  8. Rudolf Halbensinn Inactive
    Rudolf Halbensinn
    @RudolfHalbensinn

    In Jason’s own words :

    Obama Broke the Law – Yes he did.

    Your honor, the prosecution rests.

    ———————

    People, we can reach so much using the left’s own words to demonstrate their hypocrisy.

    • #38
  9. Guruforhire Inactive
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    James Of England:

    The country’s future does not depend on Jason’s understanding of the Bergdahl issues. Whilst Ricochet is a place for a chat and coffee amongst friends, decaff is acceptable (or even warm milk for those who are totally barred from coffee). Even on the most heated of issues, aggression is neither required, nor often helpful.

    Decaf is a crime against humanity.

    • #39
  10. rich.anderson@urgnt.com Inactive
    rich.anderson@urgnt.com
    @Bozobit

    Seems to me the only reason to get him is if he was more dangerous to us working with the Taliban than sitting in the brig.   He can sit in the brig, now.

    • #40
  11. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    We should have treated him exactly the way we treated Mr. Charles Robert Jenkins.

    In 1965, Sgt Jenkins, aged 25, put down his rifle crossed the demilitarized zone, and defected to North Korea. The Army carried him on the rolls as a deserter. He regetted his decision almost immediately,and although he attempted to seek asylum form the Russians in Pyongyang in 1965 – the West was unaware that he was still alive until he showed up in a propaganda film in 1982. The news of which was revealed by the Clinton administration in 1996.

    Why Mr. Jenkins’ case was so compelling that LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II were jumping right on that to organize a prisioner swap. (/sarc off)

    Clinton didn’t even offer the exchange as a ‘deal sweetner’ during the crafting of the ‘agreed framework’ that allowed NK to develop their Nuclear Weapons! (This is despite Hillary’s claims of moral certitude here.)
    So, let’s see: 

    Young and stupid; Check (23 vs 25)
    Deserter; Check
    Time of War; Check (Korean war is not yet resolved)
    Held in unsavory conditions; Check

    Gee, these cases are so similar – and the precedent is abundantly clear.

    • #41
  12. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    This post is a joke.  For something much better consider:
    http://townhall.com/columnists/michellemalkin/2014/06/04/exclusive-the-story-you-havent-yet-heard-about-bowe-bergdahls-desertion-n1847173/page/full

    • #42
  13. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Manfred Arcane:

    This post is a joke. For something much better consider:

    http://townhall.com/columnists/michellemalkin/2014/06/04/exclusive-the-story-you-havent-yet-heard-about-bowe-bergdahls-desertion-n1847173/page/full

     Wow. Damning.

    Just re-iterates my position he should not have been exchanged for anyone.

    • #43
  14. Idahoklahoman Member
    Idahoklahoman
    @Idahoklahoman

    Why is it that the only U.S. soldier Obama has lifted a finger to help is a deserter whose father repeats muslim prayers at the White House? I mean, there is a Marine being held prisoner in Mexico and he won’t lift the phone to call the Mexican government to get him out.

    At this point, I’m tempted to believe he is just rubbing our noses in it. I’m a little worried that his last act as President will be to scream Allahu Akbar! and set off a suicide vest at the inauguration of his successor.

    • #44
  15. Idahoklahoman Member
    Idahoklahoman
    @Idahoklahoman

    BTW, I’m just musing. I don’t actually think the president is a Muslim. How could I know? Nor do I know whether Bergdahl was a deserter. 

    • #45
  16. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Jason, I am surprised to disagree this much with something you posted but who wants to agree with everything!  :-)
    1. No, we don’t trade enemy combatants for hostages…..what this encourages seems obvious.
    2.The only account that I have heard alleging he was captured in action was Susan Rice’s so you can bank on the truth being 180 degrees from that.  I have yet to hear even one person that served with him defend his actions.  
    3. He did not “wander off” according to several members of his unit but made arrangements to ship his belongings home, neatly stacked his body armor, weapon and other gear and snuck out.
    4.  It appears that the Army is aware of all this and all that remains to determine is if he merely deserted or actively collaborated with the enemy.  
    5.  The only principle that Obama is standing up for is the principle of distracting attention from the V.A. scandal, he could give two sh…s about leaving troops behind.  He would definitely like it to look like he does.  Remember, EVERYTHING he does is political.

    • #46
  17. Richard O'Shea Coolidge
    Richard O'Shea
    @RichardOShea

    Initially, I thought that there must be much more to this trade than was seen on the surface.  Now, I think this was just a political and foreign policy blunder made by the incompetents that are currently in charge.

    This whole incident undermines our foreign policy, the presidency, this war, the rule of law and military morale in general.  Further, it makes the world a more dangerous place.  There is no benefit to our nation for this disastrous trade.

    The fact that the Obama administration saw none of this coming reinforces the stereotype many of us have of their childlike view of the world.

    I bet if the President could push a button and undo it, he would.

    • #47
  18. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Jason Rudert:

    Western Chauvinist:

    Are you just being provocative, Jason? ‘Cause I’ve never disagreed so thoroughly with you on every point.

    I really mean what I wrote, and looking this over after twelve hours or so I wouldn’t change it…… 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.

    Your last sentence strikes me as the heart of your argument.  Apparently there is a rare unanimity of opinion among the legislators and intelligence people who were consulted on this, i.e., against the swap, which probably won’t impress you as it does me, so while I pray that you are right,  I think you are dead wrong. 

    • #48
  19. user_96427 Contributor
    user_96427
    @tommeyer

    Jason Rudert: First the message to other servicemen is that if there are questions about your disappearance, we will leave you to die.

    I haven’t been following this issue close enough to offer much, but I think Jason offers a very valid point here.  There are countervailing points as well — e.g., that it’s also a bad for soldiers to see a (likely) deserter treated as if he’s just one of the boys — but that doesn’t invalidate Jason’s.

    Obama may well have made the wrong call on this, but there probably weren’t any good ones this side of reality.

    • #49
  20. Franco Inactive
    Franco
    @Franco

    I also disagree with every point, Jason. 

    One more thing. Hostilities i.e. “the war on terror” are not over. Prisoner swaps have taken place but after cessation of hostilities.

    You don’t trade five independent killers for one reluctant GI in a ‘war’ like this. One soldier operating within a military unit isn’t some destructive force that can’t be replicated easily or replaced, while 5 independent self-motivated terrorists can return to cause a lot of destruction.
    There is also the effect on morale, which is an important factor in a ‘war’ like this (sorry but I have to use the quotes) They got five heroes free we have this one deserter. Even a one-for-one swap under these conditions would have been a bad deal.

    MY morale, as a civilian just took a big punch in the gut.  I now distrust my government more, and have been soured on the effectiveness of the entire ‘war on terror’. It makes getting searched boarding a plane seem that much more ridiculous and more of an assualt on my rights as an American after this. 

    • #50
  21. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    As someone who likes to take a contrary view, Jason, I appreciate your willingness to make an unpopular case. 

    As for the details of your argument, I could point out a few disagreements, but others are doing that already. Instead, let me ask you the question that’s been bugging me:  even if you were right, and Obama’s deal isn’t as bad as everyone might think … why now?  Was it just coincidence that a deal that had been on the table for two years was suddenly acceptable? There is no battlefield reason to make this deal right now. 

    That’s what makes me suspect that the deal was motivated more by politics than diplomatic or military necessity. And since the deal had been rejected by everyone else in the US government up until now, I resent the idea that Obama made a bad deal just for the sake of his own political fortune.

    • #51
  22. user_1029039 Inactive
    user_1029039
    @JasonRudert

    KC Mulville:

    As someone who likes to take a contrary view, Jason, I appreciate your willingness to make an unpopular case.

    That’s what makes me suspect that the deal was motivated more by politics than diplomatic or military necessity. And since the deal had been rejected by everyone else in the US government up until now, I resent the idea that Obama made a bad deal just for the sake of his own political fortune.

     The deciding thing here will be revealed when we know more about Bergdahl’s health. The argument put forward by the administration is that he was ailing, and they had to do the swap. if he’s fine and bounces right back and he’s waterskiing next week, then we’ll know that this whole thing was timed as you say. But as soon as someone is held in captivity, their mental and physical health deteriorates and after five years in captivity it’s not unreasonable to believe that he wasn’t going to last much longer.

    • #52
  23. user_435274 Thatcher
    user_435274
    @JohnHanson

    I also disagree with your points, except that Obama made a bad choice, there you are correct. 

    As I have been listening to the coverage over the last few days, it becomes more obvious the individual was a deserter, in time of war, in the face of the enemy.  The declaration that congress made allowing the Afghan war to begin with is a legal declaration of war.  The words “Declare War” are not required.

    There are reasonably credible reports that Bergdahl was actively collaborating with the Taliban, teaching them methods of IED manufacture among other issues.  He left a letter blaming the US for the war, when he left the base.  The Pentagon never listed him as missing, but never finished its preliminary investigation, but reports about that investigation indicated the Army believed him to have deserted.

    Far from causing morale problems by not trading for him, the trade is highly destructive of morale, and good order.  It says to the Troops that we value deserters more than heroes, and that committing almost the worst crime a serviceman can commit will be answered by praise.

    The Taliban in releasing him called him an “Honored Guest” and nothing I have heard indicates he was kept in harsh conditions.  Rather it points to him living with the Taliban, and actively supporting their efforts.

    The collective effect of the reports I have heard leads me to think he agreed to let the Taliban exchange him, at some risk of Court Martial and Jail for himself, so the Taliban could accomplish the result of gaining the release of its five most influential persons remaining in US custody.  Thus a huge victory for Terrorism, and an abject craven defeat for the US.  Hope I’m wrong. 

    Reports are also that the Qataris, far from keeping these individuals isolated for a year, are celebrating them as heroes, and all five are already back in their war against the US.

    • #53
  24. AR Inactive
    AR
    @AR

    Jason Rudert: 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.

     Jason, I don’t believe this is accurate. Most of us do place an enormous amount of value on Bergdahl’s life and on bringing him home. The difference is that we understand it is a negative value. Bringing Bergdahl back in this way to face justice (which he won’t btw) actually makes the world worse off.

    • #54
  25. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Sandy:

    Jason Rudert:

    Western Chauvinist:

    Are you just being provocative, Jason? ‘Cause I’ve never disagreed so thoroughly with you on every point.

    …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.

    Your last sentence strikes me as the heart of your argument. Apparently there is a rare unanimity of opinion among the legislators and intelligence people who were consulted on this, i.e., against the swap, which probably won’t impress you as it does me, so while I pray that you are right, I think you are dead wrong.

    Yes, because the only important risk is the risk to you. These are leaders of an organization which promotes the throwing of acid in the faces of girls who turn up at school. They promote honor killings, and have been known to behead infidels on camera (which is actually another suspicion I have about Bergdahl managing to survive for five years. Was he collaborating? Is there doubt he (his family) might be sympathetic to Islamists?)

    • #55
  26. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Jason Rudert:

    The deciding thing here will be revealed when we know more about Bergdahl’s health. The argument put forward by the administration is that he was ailing, and they had to do the swap.

     Well, I partly agree. I have my suspicions about what’s really going on, but I’ll be happy to reverse my opinion if something more reasonable comes out. The story they’re telling up until now just isn’t believable. 

    Maybe John Hanson is right, and Bergdahl was traded in an effort to stop him from causing further damage. If so, maybe that would justify pulling the trigger on a deal that we wouldn’t have done otherwise. OK, maybe I can see that. 

    But if I had to bet, I wouldn’t bet that the Administration was acting out of such secret motives. If that was their motive, that wouldn’t explain Susan Rice and Jay Carney bragging about how Bergdahl served honorably, and some such nonsense. They presented this deal as “Saving Private Bergdahl,” and if they really meant it, they would have no reason to withhold notification from their own Dianne Feinstein. 

    Doesn’t add up.

    • #56
  27. Roberto Inactive
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    Tom Meyer:

    Jason Rudert: First the message to other servicemen is that if there are questions about your disappearance, we will leave you to die.

    I haven’t been following this issue close enough to offer much, but I think Jason offers a very valid point here.

    Find me a single serviceman making this argument and I might give it some credence. I have certainly not seen any member of the armed forces rank and file rise up to defend this deal, quite the opposite it has been uniform outrage. The message they seem to actually be getting is that the only type of soldier this administration is willing to go above and beyond for is one who has betrayed his unit.

    • #57
  28. JimGoneWild Coolidge
    JimGoneWild
    @JimGoneWild

    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?

    This can’t true because he was assigned to the 501st Airborne Battalion, had not attended Airborne School, but would have been a volunteer for Airborne training.

    • #58
  29. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    You’re completely wrong about your assertion that I’d be critical of Obama for “leaving Bergdahl behind.” When the Israelis release a hundred terrorists for just one of their own, I always think it’s a huge mistake to put the sharks back in the pool. It’s a kind of conceit to say that we value life so much that we’ll expend the lives of others to save this one.

    I would have no problem letting Bergdahl live with the consequences of his choice. That’s also a very conservative position.

    • #59
  30. rico Inactive
    rico
    @rico

    Tom Meyer: Obama may well have made the wrong call on this, but there probably weren’t any good ones this side of reality.

    If there weren’t any good choices, then he should have refrained from taking action.
    This was the wrong call, and it is wrong to excuse it.

    • #60
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