If nothing else, l'affaire Bergdahl brings into sharp focus one of the problems that has bedeviled the entire "war on terror" concept from the beginning - that there's no agreement on what it is. Is it a war? Is it a counter-terrorism campaign? Is it law enforcement, in which the "accused" are "brought to justice" and tried in regular courtrooms with all-American dream-team legal representation?
The Afghan end of this thing is the nearest to a conventional war there is. A sovereign state was invaded and its government toppled. But the toppled party never quite went away, and they're assuredly going to be part of Afghanistan's post-US future. When Obama says this is how wars end, he's wrong. Wars end either by being won or lost or drawn. Either way, there's generally a written agreement that the war is over, and a prisoner exchange occurs only as part of that agreement. This is true of civil wars, too. In this case, there's no agreement. The Taliban are going to continue fighting until they're back in partial or total control of the Afghan government, and they will kill anyone who stands between them and that end - American, Nato troops, Afghan army... So Obama is replenishing the enemy in time of war. Seen strictly in war terms, there is no deal.
Unless it's not a war. One of the justifications offered for the Bergdahl trade is that his captors were threatening to kill him. So that's not a "prisoner exchange" between lawful combatants but a hostage negotiation with terrorists. Every civilized nation says it will not negotiate with terrorists, but sometimes, whatever their protestations to the contrary, governments wind up doing exactly that. And, when they do, terrorists wind up walking out of their cells as free men. Under the Good Friday Agreement in the Nineties, London and Dublin both agreed to the early release of IRA prisoners from British and Irish gaols. As you might imagine, this stuck in the craw of a lot of people who'd been on the receiving end of the IRA's bombing campaign. Nevertheless, in return for releasing these guys, the United Kingdom got the IRA to sign a peace deal and agree to turning over their weaponry. It has been at times a precarious peace, but it has held, and it has been warmer than one might expect, at least in turns of the personal relationships between the Loyalist and Republican leaders at Stormont. And the bombing has stopped. So yes, there's a few people wandering around Belfast and Derry one might prefer to see hanging from a gibbet, but at least they're not blowing the legs off grannies at bus stops. That's not a small thing. In this case, the Taliban will still be engaging in the Afghan equivalent of granny-bombing - killing and terrorizing their way back to power. So again, in terrorist-negotiation terms, there is no deal.
What of "law enforcement"? That's how many of the senior figures in the Administration and the broader Democrat left see the war: Bush and Rummy and the gang oversold the whole thing; it's basically law enforcement. You catch these guys, you charge them with a crime, and you process them through the same crappy, sclerotic courtrooms I'm currently mired in. Even by this reductive measure, the Bergdahl deal is a flop. In his sloughed-off address at West Point, Obama advanced the bizarre definition of "American exceptionalism" that what makes America exceptional is that it follows "international norms". But in this case he's releasing on to the world stage war criminals accused of war crimes by the "international community", who would like at least two of this guys on trial in the Hague. Mullah Noori, for example, is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Shia Muslims. Meanwhile, a schlub who made the mistake of having dinner at a Boston restaurant with the Tsarnaev brothers is facing 40 years in the slammer. So, even in law-enforcement terms, there is no deal.
That's the point to remember about this debacle: There is no deal. None. Washington gave away five war criminals who are already pledging to get back to killing - and the superpower got nothing in return. The deserter and his kooky dad are merely the cover for the fact that the United States entered into an end-of-war prisoner exchange without ending the war; or an agreement with terrorists without persuading the terrorists to agree to anything; or a criminal-justice suspended sentence without getting the criminals to suspend their criminality.
This is a disgraceful dereliction of duty. The President has always been a remarkable narcissist. Two years ago, he referred on ABC News to "those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf". We didn't know how literally he meant it. But Barack Obama supposedly did his no-deal "deal" because he pledged way back when, six years ago, that he would close Gitmo - and putting himself back in good order with his anti-war base counts for more than his responsibilties as commander-in-chief or the national interests of the United States - or even those "international norms" he claims to be fond of.
~One of those out there "fighting on my behalf" was Mark Allen. His wife Shannon challenges her husband's commander-in-chief:
Meet my husband, injuries directly brought to you by the actions of this traitor. He can't give an account of what went down, because he can no longer speak. Now, which guy is a "hero" again?!? Sick.
Careful, Mrs Allen. Or the court eunuchs of the Obama media will soon be accusing you of "Swiftboating" and your husband of being a "psycho".
Watch that Rose Garden ceremony again and ask yourself Shannon Allen's question: Which guy is the hero? Pace Susan Rice, there are three dishonorable men in that short photo-op: a deserter who broke his oath, a father who sympathizes publicly with the enemy ...and a president lying before the nation, to make them complicit in that dishonor. Mr Obama is unworthy of the men who fight on "his" behalf.
~The Bergdahl disgrace was not helped by being juxtaposed against the D-Day observances. Speaking of heroes, here is the tale of Bernard Jordan, who was told by his carers at his nursing home in Sussex that he couldn't attend the 70th anniversary ceremonies with his fellow veterans. So he bust out of the home and hightailed it a cross the Channel, just like he did seven decades ago. If you're doing your math, yes, he was 19 years old on D-Day. He was 17 when he lied about his age to get into the Royal Navy. As Laura Rosen Cohen says:
Now think about "kids" these days, and their eternal childhood.
What a world it was, what a world we have now.