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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