I am not going to pretend that I have enough information to pass judgment on the swap for Bowe. No one I’ve read is working with the information and in the moment the President acted. I am perplexed he did not consult Congress, IF he didn’t. Credible deniability baby.
Here are some takeaways I haven’t seen discussed. Bowe Bergdahl is an intelligence coup. The process of negotiation even through an intermediary in Qatar must have yielded all sorts of high value information. The jerks we sent back are no more high value (right in the head) as combatants than Bowe will be (that this isn’t appreciated makes it obvious that PTSD just isn’t generally understood); their value to the “cause” will be zilch point nada (we treated them very poorly and that will last forever). We are supposedly in a war, though Congress never had the cojones to declare it. In war there are always trades and releases of captives. The angry reaction that has followed this swap negates any concern that we have established a precedent for “negotiating with terrorists.”
Bowe is a walking encyclopedia of information about language, customs, mores, tactics, and other information about the Taliban. Unlike the five guys we released, we won’t have to torture him to harvest that information. As in we might actually be able to rely on what he hands us. Even Bowe doesn’t know what he knows.
If I were President and I were going to authorize the process that yielded Bowe’s release, I’d want to give anyone involved cover. People who have never had it do not understand the hierarchy of clearance to information and intelligence. Some refer to the authorities that exist and the corresponding clearances as echelons above God. People who have that kind of access don’t walk around bragging about it or what they know. That is just downright stupid to do, not to mention illegal. The buck stops in the White House and it certainly has in this case. It matters that Congress was not consulted but we may never know if it was. Is that transparent? No, not for 50 years or so. There are many circumstances we just don’t know about and stand to make us fools when we reach unfounded conclusions without that information.
Let me explain why the turmoil negates the concern that we have dealt with terrorists. The message that we negotiate is now loud and garbled. If I am a terrorist looking at this, I see the reaction and the charges against the President. Will he ever have the authority again? Has unwritten policy become etched in stone? No clear message has been telegraphed to anyone. We are basically back to where we were before the swap regarding perception.
Now maybe I am giving this Administration more credit than it deserves when viewing its foreign affairs performance. But that’s just it. Persons I’ve heard screaming are either without enough information to support their positions or are part of a deliberate ruse (either way). I certainly don’t claim to be certain. Suspect the motives of those who are. And give the President the benefit of the doubt just like we traditionally have his predecessors until demonstrably betrayed.