Walking off post is not serving with honor and distinction. As Ralph Peters noted, desertion is not the equivalent of skipping class. And it appears that is what Bergdahl did. We should all be very careful about judging too harshly the decisions of those caught in the fog of war. However, it seems that his decision was less foggy than it was sympathetic to the Islamists he signed up to defend against. If similar evidence existed for a mall or school shooter that revealed similar ideological ties to the tea party, there is no doubt that the media would escort the judge, jury and executioner to the public square to hasten the tedious timeline of justice. But we still should be careful, and as Jonah Goldberg cautions, "Indeed, there are so many unknowns here that it might be best to withhold judgment on a lot of aspects to this story."
The notion of not leaving anyone behind is honorable (although, apparently, a post-Benghazi sentiment). And yes, Bergdahl is somebody's son. But those Taliban henchmen that were released are going to kill innocents again - maybe Americans and maybe not. But no matter who they kill, the slain will be humans that we should care about and they too are somebody's child. So yes, we seek to not leave anybody behind. But that honorable notion is competing with many other honorable notions. (And some not so great consequences like the increased risk to American service men and women - who are also somebody's son or daughter - of being taken hostage.) And such is the case with most of life's decisions and almost always is the case with foreign policy decisions. It is rarely black and white.
One of the problems in this whole affair is the same problem that has existed for the last six years. Everything is treated by the administration as though it is simply black and white issue for which they have the unambiguous answer. Anyone who dares to disagree or question any decision is either a fool or a villain with bad motives (ala the dismissals as a racist, sexist, homophobic, wealthy, anti-science or any other of a list of horribles) who is only deserving of mockery and contempt. It is not possible that anyone of moderate or higher intelligence could possibly disagree with them. And God forbid one should call into question the legality of such a move. Those who do are sure to be dismissed as kooks and wackos who are immediately thrown in with birthers that can only be motivated by racism. All of this is compounded by a lickspittle press who rarely confronts this President.
Foreign policy is ridiculously difficult at best. There are competing principles, ideologies, desires, goods and ramifications to every option. You often have to hold your nose and partner with, or make deals with, horrible, evil people. But we don't get a sense that these decisions are contemplative and filled with heart-rending trade offs but rather there are just wrong answers and our answers. There is such confidence in their Manichaean ways that consultation with Congress isn't even required.
As Nordlinger commented, that the story we get from the President is merely "Sergeant Bergdahl is somebody’s child, we don’t leave anyone behind, and that’s that. If only he could acknowledge trade-offs, in a messy, wicked world: a world of difficult and excruciating choices — but he cannot, apparently. For eight years of Ronald Reagan and eight years of George W. Bush, I heard the same thing: 'The president is simplistic. Everything is black-and-white to him. There is no nuance.' That wasn’t true. Before the invasion of Iraq, for example, Bush said over and over, 'There are risks of action and risks of inaction.' He had to weigh those risks. In Obama’s mind, however, everything seems to be clear-cut, inarguable. There is no gray at all. It’s his way or the highway. Before he was elected, we were assured that, whatever his policy views, he had a first-class temperament." That just isn't so.
It is no small bit of hypocrisy that the groups that used to look down their noses at the supposed simpletons that used to occupy the White House now seek to operate in simplistic black and white ways and then feign shock and disdain whenever somebody has the temerity to question. To be told in the face of contradictory information that this man served with honor and distinction makes it all feel more like narrow political interest than humanitarian. (Not to mention that Susan Rice seems to have no capacity for shame given the whoppers she has told and continues to tell.)
There is also the 'wag the dog' feel of all of this. This certainly knocked the VA controversy and the EPA's lawmaking without the formality and tedium of running it through Congress from the front pages. The dribbling out of different reasons to not inform Congress does not instill great confidence but more feels like rationale de jour to just see what sticks. For people who tout the greatness of government they sure do government badly.
One suspects this will run its course as all other difficulties for this administration have: the President will find out about this by reading about it in the papers, he will be more outraged than anyone, an investigation will ensue, construct fantastical strawman and smugly decapitate them in front of the world, dismiss those who disagree with the profound decrees or decisions with reddit-style snarky name calling, nobody will be fired, drag feet until we are all finally lectured about how this has all been discussed already and is old news followed by a 'what difference at this point does it make' style declaration.
And all of this without the benefit of an adversarial press. But don't worry, they haven't gone extinct. They'll return as soon as another Republican is elected.