Now that Bowe Bergdahl has been charged with desertion, as his platoon mates have suggested he should be since before the ill-fated swap was executed, the administration’s attempts to defend one of their worst decisions to date have predictably grown more absurd. Via RCP, hashtag diplomat Jen Psaki’s stammering efforts to deal with basic questions from Megyn Kelly are a pretty representative sample.
A few points deserve to be made about Psaki’s attempts to defend the indefensible. First, there is no acknowledgment of the fact that the United States’ obligation to bring its soldiers home might be somewhat less for soldiers who desert their way – mysteriously – directly into the enemy camp.
Second, every time Megyn Kelly presses Psaki on this point – and every time any Obama administration official is pressed on this point, they retreat immediately into the defense that this is an ongoing military justice case and they can’t comment upon it until the case has run its course. However, at the time of the swap, when the administration was already under withering criticism for one of the worst trades in history, they defended it by saying that Bergdahl served with “honor and distinction.” So at a time when it was convenient for them to do so, they felt perfectly comfortable commenting on the particulars of Bergdahl’s service but now that it has become impossible for them to do so favorably, they refuse to say anything until the full military justice system has run its course?
Finally, Psaki refuses to answer two critical questions that Kelly repeatedly posed to her – 1) did Obama know at the time of the swap that substantial questions existed about whether Bergdahl was a deserter, and 2) what alternate methods were considered to get Bergdahl back other than trading away five high value prisoners?
These questions go to the very heart of this particular controversy in terms of evaluating whether what the Obama administration did was wise or displayed good judgment – especially important questions given that the Bergdahl swap was unquestionably illegal. The facial bluster the Obama administration resorts to is that, as an American soldier, Bergdahl was entitled to have the United States do literally anything to get him back. However, when pressed on the point, even the perpetually clueless Psaki realizes that the American public has a concrete belief that Audie Murphy would have been entitled to a more strenuous effort at recover than, well.. than Bowe Bergdahl.
And second, it isn’t true that the government would have done literally anything to get Bergdahl back. Presumably, if his captors had demanded a nuclear weapon for his release, even the Obama administration would have demurred. So it follows that at some point, a cost-benefit analysis has to be engaged in during the course of these swaps that must of course include the possibility or probability that what we are trading away might ultimately be used against us in war in the future.
These are the sorts of factors any reasonable person would want to evaluate when determining the exact level of stupidity that infested the Obama administration’s decision-making process with respect to Bowe Bergdahl. And moreover, it is the kind of information to which Congress was legally entitled before the swap took place so that they could have conferred with the Administration to ensure that they knew about the concerns that Bergdahl was a deserter and evaluated whether the price given up for Bergdahl was too high.
The fact that the Obama administration continues to stonewall on these points, in addition to their illegal refusal to consult with Congress before the swap, lends credence to the theory set forth by Kelly which the Administration pretends to pooh pooh – that the Administration actually wanted these particular detainees set free, and viewed their release as a feature, not a bug. Because they have been essentially prevented from shutting down Gitmo by Congress, they saw an opportunity to release some of its prisoners and took it, using the trade for Bergdahl as a pretext.
It sounds insane, but no more insane than the actual terms of the Bergdahl swap itself.