For Obama, Was Bowe Bergdahl's Trade For Taliban Detainees A Lose-Lose Situation?
Over the weekend, the United States extracted its only POW in Afghanistan, and Republicans are pissed about it. OK, it's not quite that simple. But lawmakers have voiced distress that they were kept in the dark about the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban detainees. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel explained that safety concerns and Bergdahl's deteriorating health called for quick moves; thus, the Pentagon broke protocol and did not give Congress the 30-day notice for the release of detainees. Seems logical, right? This is an American that has been held by the Taliban for five years. Who is sick. In Afghanistan. Did I mention that he is a prisoner of war?
Conservatives spent the weekend decrying Obama for exercising constitutional authority granted to him as, you know, the elected president of the United States, to free the five detainees from Guantanamo. Ted Cruz, John McCain, and John Bolton were all quick to jump on the president, with Cruz even offering his own military strategy: take him by force. Yeah, I'm sure no one thought of that.
What should be a victory and (maybe? Hopefully?) important step to start winding down a war that has been going on since 2001 has now fallen victim to partisan bickering, just like everything else. But at the end of the day, this was always going to be a lose-lose for Obama. It's true that you can't please everyone, but there isn't a politically feasible decision he could've made in this situation to avoid being lambasted by the entire Republican Party. And the beauty of Republicans' ignorance in these dealings is that they can comment without anyone actually knowing what would have happened if they ruled America.
Let's say Obama's presented with the trade option and does nothing. Then he becomes the villain for not doing whatever it takes to free our sole POW in Afghanistan. So, Obama and a handful of other really smart politicians put their heads together and decide that this is the best option to bring Bergdahl home. Now, Obama's a law breaker who rubs elbows with the Taliban and wants to turn the population of Gitmo into the wild.
So what if Obama had taken it to Congress and further risked the health and safety of the sergeant? Experience shows that it would've been drowned out with cries of "we don't negotiate with terrorists!" Which, by the way, is largely untrue. This would've faltered, once again, and Bergdahl would've been left in the most remote mountains of Afghanistan even longer.
At the end of the day, a decision was made that brought an American soldier back home after a half-decade of unthinkable horrors. It's just too bad that we're welcoming him back with party line fireworks.