Let me say clearly, I am personally gratified that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is no longer being held hostage by terrorists in Afghanistan. We should never stop trying to secure the release of any American soldier who is being held hostage. I know all Americans feel this way.
I completely disagree, however, with the manner in which the Obama administration achieved Bergdahl’s freedom. This is a major departure from American policy, and one that could generate disastrous consequences for our soldiers, our diplomats, and any American who travels abroad.
When terrorists and criminals unequivocally know, as they did prior to this week, that the United States of America does not negotiate with them, they have far less incentive to abduct our citizens.
By its actions has the Obama administration inadvertently put a target on the backs of all Americans travelling abroad? Let’s hope not.
Refusing to negotiate with terrorists makes our people safer. Terrorists all over the world need to know that our interaction with them will be limited solely to our effort to destroy them.
The White House is now saying that Bergdahl’s release was nothing more than a prisoner exchange, which it contends is common in times of war. If we were to accept that notion, perhaps we should take a look at this so called “prisoner exchange. “ But the White House certainly doesn’t want you to do that.
When you look at the rap sheets of the five terrorists we released from detention at Guantanamo, it is ugly. These men were five hardened terrorists with blood on their hands, all of whom were deemed by the U.S. military to be “high risk” to return to the fight.
For instance, the military report says of Mulla Norullah Noori that “he led troops against the US and Coalition forces”, and that he “is wanted by the UN for possible war crimes.” Does anyone anywhere believe these five will now change their ways, and become peaceful men? Of course not.
And what of Mr. Bergdahl? The picture here is murky. It appears that he became very disillusioned with the war in Afghanistan, and he is quoted as saying, prior to captivity, that he was “ashamed to be an American” and that “the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools.”
It has also been suggested, though not confirmed, that he may have deserted, and that other American soldiers may have lost their lives in an effort to rescue him.
Then there is the small detail that President Obama likely broke the law – by failing to properly notify Congressional leaders -- in the way he released the five terrorists being held at Guantanamo.
The sad truth is that this aspect of the story is a yawner. Why? Because it is now well established that the president has no problem breaking the law or making up his own rules. For instance, under what legal theory did the president delay the employer mandate in ObamaCare? There isn’t one.
Finally, this entire episode flies directly in the face not only of long established American foreign policy, but it also directly contradicts what the New York Times and other publications note is the official foreign policy of the Obama administration – “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff.” But of course, in keeping with the style of this White House, they used a less polite word than “stuff.”
The president may have swapped much more than meets the eye here. To gain the release of one soldier, he may have agreed to the release of five terrorists who will kill again. After all, that is why we were still holding these five men until Saturday.
The president has swapped the intimidating certainty of “we do not negotiate with terrorists” that deters our adversaries. The president may have swapped our country’s honor and the trust our allies place in us that we really do mean what we say. And, finally the president may have swapped the assurance that America will do the right thing, every time, even when it is hard.
Republican Bobby Jindal is governor of Louisiana and Honorary Chairman of America Next, a conservative policy group that focuses on winning the war of ideas.