Saturday, June 14, 2014

Thoughts on Bergdahl: Yes, One Man Is Worth It

As an admitted student of Machiavelli, I fully understand that most of the time, life presents humanity with impossible decisions. Would that there is always a clear "right" or "wrong" answer for every situation, but as the Joker says in The Dark Knight, "[people] are only as good as the world allows them to be." Given the infinite combinations of no-win situations humans are faced with on a daily basis, it's little wonder that many of us abandon the notion of the ideal for the more practical application of sound decision-making of the "Greater Good."

Lately, the media circus has focused on one particular no-win situation, that of U.S. Army Sgt. Bergdahl who was recently released from 5 years of Al-Qaeda captivity. It would be nice if we could simply sit back in joy and relief that one of our own has been saved from the enemy, but as life would have it, nothing is ever quite that simple.

Did Bergdahl desert his post? Was he just taking a leisurely stroll while on watch (which would still amount to abandoning his post)? I don't have the answers to these questions, and until an investigation is completed, neither will anyone else. Legally, we have to figure out whether or not President Obama violated the law by not notifying Congress prior to Bergdahl's release. We have to determine whether there truly were safety concerns and extenuating circumstance that warranted a different approach. For that, we won't have the answers until an investigation is completed by Congress.

Important questions that need to be answered, but for me the more pressing issue involves America's very soul: was it worth saving one man for the risk of endangering others and weakening America's opposition to global terrorism?

A lot of pundits have been vocal about why it is American policy is never to negotiate with terrorists. A lot of Republicans have cried foul that by conducting a prisoner exchange--one that seems to heavily favor the enemy--America now appears weak to our enemies. To those men and women I ask this: do you really think that terrorists consider America to be strong in the first place? Are you truly all that concerned with how America is perceived by whack-jobs who are willing to strap bombs to their chests and blow up school buses full of children? Perhaps we should be more concerned with actually being strong than appearing to be strong.

Then some say, "this sets a dangerous precedent. Now Al-Qaeda will try harder to capture more Americans. They've already stated that they will try harder!" Here's another question: do you honestly think that before this incident, capturing an American was not a high priority on Al-Qaeda's to-do list? Taking hostages is a staple of terrorism, regardless of the organization or its cause. If Al-Qaeda truly had the capability to capture more Americans, they would have been doing that long before Bergdahl's release. The incentive to capturing Americans is creating a sense of terror, and that incentive remains. Prisoner exchange is not even really a bonus for them, because the ultimate goal is breaking our spirit.

So when I ask myself, "was one man worth it?" I answer: yes. Am I pleased about how everything unfolded? It probably could have been handled in a better way, but ultimately I'm glad that someone in our government stood up and said "yes, one man is worth it." Whether or not you agree with how Obama went about it, bringing Bergdahl home shows the terrorists that they have not won.

Their goal is to dehumanize us--to break our resolve and bring us down to their level of horror and inhumanity. Now, we have shown them--and the world--that America still has a soul and, to some degree, that we still believe that no one is ever truly expendable.


Jersey McJones said...

I agree with pretty much everything you said, with the stark exception of this: "...the ultimate goal is breaking our spirit. ...Their goal is to dehumanize us--to break our resolve and bring us down to their level of horror and inhumanity."

I think it's terribly important that we understand why we're the targets of terrorism, and I think it's a terrible mistake to assume it has anything intrinsically to do with us or who we are or what we're about. That would be the height of arrogance.

They don't care about our freedom, our values, our resolve or anything else about us. Not everything in the world is about us.

What they want is a common unifying enemy, and we've been more than happy to supply them with one. They know our arrogance, and they know poking at it will get our attention. Once we realize that, we will be able to deal with this in a smarter, and less arrogant, way.


Jack Camwell said...


They do care about our values and our way of life. They think that American/Western culture is the downfall of everything, and they want it to go away.

Think you're right in insinuating that the motives of Al Qaeda and such are more political than religious or cultural. I've said for a long time that those in charge of the "Jihad" actually don't give two shits about Islam, or Allah, or any of that business. They just want a piece of the pie that they feel America stole from them.

The Islam thing is just a way to get the sheeple to rally to their cause (the sheeple who they would inevitably subjugate and rule). Their followers wouldn't put their lives on the line just so they can end up subjects to a different corrupt government--but for Allah? They'd lay down their lives.

America is little different than any other country in terms of its own arrogance. If you think exceptionalism is a purely American characteristic--or if you think America even invented the concept of exceptionalism--then you might want to read a little more into history.

Tell me that China and Russia aren't arrogant on the world stage. Throughout history, what superpower has ever been humble?

The sad irony is that those who combat "American arrogance," are, themselves, arrogant. I guarantee that if Al Qaeda had its way and was allowed to somehow create one giant Islamic state in the Middle East, they would be just as ridiculous as any super-power.

Loosely quoting Machiavelli: in a world full of wolves, the lambs get devoured.

AHB said...

To use your line Jackie:

"I understand you, but I do not agree"

This exchange was pure non-sense. It wasn't that people *may* be hurt, people were killed/hurt already in the process.

With all the accusations and what not flying around, is this cat truly "free" now? Traded one prison for another it would seem.

As for your truly weak question, I dunno... technically they have to know somewhere deep down that unless they concoct the oceans eleven of guerrilla warfare, they won't stand much of a chance against us, even on their court.

I guess in my mind, it just seems sort of a stark reminder how our society is led around by perceived value. It wasn't 70 years ago that people died by the MILLIONS in combat/defense... now some 2500 people die in a building and it's worth sacrificing 35,000, and liquidating 140,000 or so with our military. 60 people die in a year to "mass murderers" and it's worth upsetting balance to another 350,000,000. Like everyone with a piece is going off firing it everywhere, at all times, killing everyone in sight... just bodies piled up in mass graves and the 747 supertanker comes by and has to dump lye on them every 3 minutes just to keep up with the body count, omfg the sky is falling, people are dying... WHY. HELP US JOE BIDEN.

I realize it sucks, but god dammit, if we don't start getting practical about some realities it's going to bite us in the asshole.

Jersey McJones said...

10,000 pound nuclear lambs don't have to fuss so much over a few wolves, Jack.


Grung_e_Gene said...

No matter what the question or incident, Conservatives would declare it a scandal and throw a tantrum. Republicans and Conservatives believed that if they flung enough shit and shut down the government enough times, everyday Americans who are working harder and longer to try an reach the American Dream and don't have time to uncover all the Right-Wing lies and bullshit, would just throw up their hands and let the Republicans have the Presidency as happened in 2000.
Fortunately, unlike in 2000 when Republicans were allowed to steal the Presidency, and the Nation and entire world were cursed with the evil ineptitude of the George W(orst President Ever) Regime, which resulted in thousands of Americans dead and wounded in the worst attack on American soil in the Nation's History, thousands of Americans dead and tens of thousands wounded in Iraq, $5 Trillion dollars of tax payer dollars wasted and stolen, and the impoverishment of millions of Americans at home during the Republican Recession and Bush housing bubble.
Over and over the Republicans F$#@$ up the nation and expect the Democratic President to clean up their messes all the while they and their conservative media allies blame the Democratic Party for the Right-Wing Agenda in the first place.
Thankfully a man of honor, Barack Obama, is in the White House now and the Nation's enemies both foreign and domestic hate him. Meanwhile, the Republicans create terrorist enemies of the US. And the Democrats capture and/or kill them.President Obama has deployed 170 forces into Baghdad to support the US Embassy, in the old Green Zone. There are an additional 100 waiting in reserve. And apparently there was discussion of inserting Special Forces Operators into the New Iraqi Army to provide support and bolster their flagging morale. Sadly, this has the smell of advisers all over it.
Of course, I'm glad he did it before Republicans Benghazi'ed the President again. For you see Republicans have this nasty habit of undermining the Troops and underfunding security for Agencies and then blaming the President for their despicable misdeeds
Who makes us safer?

Jack Camwell said...


Thank you for your spirited comments. I will have to quibble with you on a few things you said, however.

Two of the things that you blamed on GWB--9/11 and the great recession--were both events set into motion BEFORE Bush took over the Presidency.

Al Qaeda existed well before the Bush years, and because of the drastic spending cuts to the US's foreign intelligence budget, we were left rather blinded.

As for the recession, if you remember it began during the fall of the dotcoms, and it was exacerbated by the housing bubble: both things that happened while Clinton was President.

Ad I'm sure that Obama means well, but it's sort of hard to swallow "man of honor" when he pushed for the extension of the patriot act, and when the NSA expanded its role into illegal domestic spying under Obama's watch.

But lets get one thing straight: the Republicans would have us bow to the rich while the Democrats would have us bow to the government. Personally, I'd rather bow to no one. Just keep the people safe, create opportunity for social mobility, and everything will be hunky dory.