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.