The seeds of what blossomed grotesquely in the Rose Garden last weekend — a celebration of the release of five senior Taliban military leaders in exchange for a U.S. sergeant purported to be a deserter — were sown a long time ago: on the second and third days of President Obama’s first term, to be precise. – Michael B. Mukasey [Washington Post]
IT DIDN’T take long for the Bergdahl release and Gitmo prisoner swap to get where Republicans love to go. James Taranto in the Wall Street Journal wallowed in their favorite talking point against Democrats, dragging Secretary John Kerry’s remarks from 1971 into the conversation to make a right-wing point that overflows with demagoguery. It’s everywhere in this story.
How in the world did an administration known for political competence, if for no other kind, manage to pull off such a public-relations disaster? The answer is that the left has a very large blind spot when it comes to military culture. – James Taranto
Can “weak on national security” be far behind?
It ignores that President Obama firmly believes “leave no soldier behind” is where he has the legal right to extract any soldier in harm’s way, held in captivity, a P.O.W., leaving the adjudication until later. He is, after all, commander in chief.
Mr. Taranto’s stemwinder folds everything he can muster into a toxic mix that isn’t very convincing, even if you think the White House had no business announcing the event in a Rose Garden ceremony, as I do, that Susan Rice was the wrong messenger, even if the prisoner swap was the correct decision.
It’s hypocrisy in its highest form to suggest that one American for 5 Taliban detainees is the wrong calculus. The Israelis exchanged 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit. When you get into weighing whose life is worth more you’ve lost the thread of why prisoners swaps are done.
If you want to read a coherent case from the right for why President Obama made his decision, John Podhoretz at least makes a good faith effort, minus the fact that he cannot end the article without demagoguery. It’s from the New York Post, but it does make important points that shows more thinking than most on the right.
He might have thought the Bergdahl-Taliban swap was a perfect blend of his policy interests and an example of the new way forward.
- The fact that US forces are, at his direction, going to pull out from Afghanistan at the end of 2015 meant that sooner or later the five Taliban commanders were going to have to be removed from the Gitmo prison.
- Their removal from Gitmo would help to make the case for shuttering it, as they were among the worst of the worst still there.
- The ability to strike a deal with the Taliban would prefigure the kinds of negotiations he thinks we and the Afghan government are going to have to undertake over the next couple of years. If the resolution of this first negotiation were seen as successful, that might portend future successes.
- The final US departure from Afghanistan couldn’t take place without bringing Bergdahl home — in part to prevent a repeat of the gruesome late ’70s/early ’80s fantasy that America had left POWs to rot in Vietnam.
- Taken all together, this swap would be a potent demonstration that the centerpiece of the Obama foreign policy is the ending of wars — perhaps even, finally, the War on Terror, the detritus of which sits inside the fences at Gitmo. “This war, like all wars, must end,” the president said last year.
Wherever you stand, the political ramifications of the Bergdahl prisoner swap are wide.
It puts Democratic allies of the White House in a position of adversary, because even though bringing home Bergdahl as the Afghanistan war winds down was a priority, every move from that decision has been close to impossible to defend.
President Obama has hurt himself throughout his presidency over his inability to build strong enough relationships that would allow him to go to Senate Democrats and get them behind the prisoner swap, building up a wall of support before it was announced. Once again, it’s the Obama White House against the world, this time it includes many in his own party whose trust he may be unlikely to get back.