Why We Shouldn’t Forget About Bowe Bergdahl

Bowe Bergdahl returned to work this week, taking up active duty at a military base in Texas. This might signal the end of the saga of America’s most prominent POW, deserter, and bargaining chip. After all, Bowe has reportedly issued a big fat thanks-a-bunch to Obama for striking the deal that set him free, and it seems that the Administration has no intention of pressing formal desertion charges against Bergdahl. Everything is tied up in a neat little package. But not so fast. There are at least two reasons not to forget about Bowe Bergdahl any time soon.

First, the Bowe Bergdahl saga is without a doubt the most interesting story of 2014. Even before we knew who this guy was or that he apparently had a penchant for going AWOL, his story was open to endless analysis. Should we ever strike a deal with terrorist groups? Is it worth trading some very bad dudes for one of our own [presumably] good dudes? Even if it is, are we okay with the Prez taking this action without Congressional approval? Is the problem simply that we’ve made a deal with terrorists, or does it depend upon which particular prisoners we’re trading away?

And then came the desertion bombshell. Does it matter if the guy we’re trading for might have been a deserter? Are non-deserters worth trading for, while deserters are not? And once we’ve made the trade for a deserter, should we charge him with that crime, or is his time as a POW punishment enough? And did the President totally screw this up because, well, that’s just what it’s popular to think he does these days? The list of questions is bottomless, and regardless of your answers the fact is that they’re all completely open for discussion. You could keep a political philosophy class busy for an entire semester just discussing Bergdahl. Good luck finding another news story with this much gray area any time soon.

Second, Bergdahl will be an important part of the 2016 presidential campaign whether he likes it or not. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from recent elections, it’s that the ‘publicans love to dredge up the questionable actions of Dem leaders and charge them to the party as a whole. Big O’s decision to trade terrorists for an alleged deserter is sure to be one of the prime examples of supposed Democratic weakness that Conservatives will harp on repeatedly, perhaps second only to Benghazi. Just because O won’t be in the race, doesn’t mean the Democratic candidate won’t have to answer for everything he’s ever done. And the fact that Le Prez struck the Bergdahl deal without permission from Congress, which is technically illegal (and by “technically” I mean “obviously”), is just icing on the bitter cake that is Conservative campaign strategy.

So if you’ve already stopped thinking about Bowe Bergdahl don’t get too comfortable. Some news stories won’t go quietly. I have a feeling this story, unlike Bergdahl, won’t desert us any time soon. Mmmm, dessert.


  1. Enjoyed the article. Some very good points. However conservatives may stress that Obama made this deal without Congressional authorization, but sadly I don’t think many Americans care about separation of duties and balancing powers. So I’m not sure how effective it will be. The story is fascinating to me because I find so many absurdities and bad decisions. Negotiating with terrorist is not ideal, but trading five super terrorist for one deserter is a bad deal that would make anyone cringe.

  2. Captain Fred · · Reply

    Amazing how Republicans were screaming for Bergdahl’s release, until Obama did that, then they condemned Obama for the very thing they demanded he do.

    Also, if you want to hold yourself out as an expert on military matters, it might help to learn what the hell you’re talking about first, and learn the difference between a soldier who is AWOL and one who has deserted. There are important differences.

    1. There are differences, but the soldiers who knew him said he deserted. I trust their words over politicians. And I’m not sure who was demanding his release. Many did not want to negotiate with terrorists in the first place, and if they knew that he allegedly deserted, then they probably would not have demanded his release.

  3. Conservatives are convinced Bergdahl is a traitor based on third-hand hearsay and rumors, but when faced with exhaustive scientific documentation that climate change is real, they say there’s not enough evidence to decide.

  4. I’m not sure that anyone is actually totally convinced that Bergdahl was in a fact a deserter, but there is significant evidence that he was. Maybe I’m just a cynic, but many conservatives would accuse Bergdahl of being a leprechaun if it would make the Prez look bad.

    I don’t think that anyone has confused the distinction between going AWOL and deserting, the fact is that in this case it may not matter since desertion charges will never be filed.

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