It’s one round of bad news after another for the Obama administration. While playing diplomatic games of syntax over the ISIS attacks in Iraq, the controversy surrounding the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange has yet to die down entirely. Of course, these issues are two sides of the same coin. Both are symptomatic of what happens when you rush through the end of a war with none of the determination, thoroughness, or idealistic fervor that started it. What were our reasons for being in Iraq in 2010, for instance? What are our reasons for being in Afghanistan today? These answers were easy to come by in 2001-2003, even if they weren’t entirely satisfactory. Today, reporters don’t even bother to ask.
Of course, ending the war once and for all is only one possible explanation for the Bergdahl situation. On his program last week, Rush Limbaugh had another theory. Citing insider sources that insist the administration was blindsided by the public’s reaction to the trade – which saw the Army sergeant released from the Taliban’s grip through the release of five of their top commanders from Guantanamo Bay – Limbaugh believes that this is a step toward closing Gitmo entirely.
This theory can’t be dismissed as political filler, as Obama campaigned on just such a promise in his first bid for the White House. Would the administration’s top brass allow such a dangerous exchange simply to fulfill a political promise? Absolutely, if what Limbaugh says about their surprise is true. They expected the exchange to be celebrated in the media, that voters would be lining the streets with American flags. That they considered this reaction a probability points to either overconfidence or incompetence.
Whatever the motivation behind the trade – for their part, the Obama administration has insisted America doesn’t leave its men behind – it seems clear that the Taliban regard the scenario as a major victory. Taliban commander Mullah Omar emerged from his dusty hole in the ground to send a message of hope to his followers, and several videos and interviews have shown a reflected joy in his troops. Was Bowe Bergdahl, a solider being characterized as little more than a deserter of the armed forces, worth giving strength to the enemy? It’s easy to step back and say, well, yeah, he’s a human being and he was over there fighting for us, but if his release leads directly or indirectly to more American deaths…as his desertion already did…it certainly gives one pause for thought.
Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, has some strong feelings on the matter. Speaking in a radio interview last week, Inhofe called Obama on the carpet. “Somehow he feels he is above the law,” Inhofe said, opining that the President has made a habit out of violating the Constitution in pursuit of his administration’s goals.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, think of them as you will, were begun because these countries posed a clear and present threat to the well being of America and her foreign interests. With cities dropping to Al-Qaeda in Iraq and important Taliban leaders being released back into Qatar, you can’t help but wonder if all of those years and all of those lost lives will ultimately be in vain. A hasty end to these wars can’t erase what’s already been lost, and if we don’t ensure that our missions are accomplished – or at least decide what those missions are – we’ll be back there in a decade cleaning up another mess.