The release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is something to be celebrated. Yes, questions remain about the circumstances of the deal with the Taliban — indeed, questions remain about the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture.
And those questions must be answered in the days and weeks to come. But for now, Bergdahl’s homecoming should be a cause for joy. That’s because the underlying principle — “we leave no one behind” — is about us, not about the person “left behind,” and it’s not about our foes.
One of the earliest manifestations of this principle is found in the Bible, in Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Luke.
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them,” Jesus says (in the New International Version). “Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’”
The shepherd doesn’t make a cost/benefit analysis — the ratio is 1 to 99, and a 1 percent loss might otherwise be acceptable, right? But the shepherd leaves the 99 to seek the one because that’s what shepherds do. And the recovery of the one is cause for celebration.
In the principle’s more contemporary version, it is found in the U.S. Army’s “Soldier’s Creed.”
“I will never leave a fallen comrade,” every U.S. soldier pledges as part of that creed. What’s notable about the creed itself is that every sentence, every pledge starts with the word “I.”
“I am an American soldier,” it begins. “I am a warrior and a member of a team.”
The emphasis is on identity, not circumstance. It’s “I am,” not “soldiers are.” It’s “I will,” not “soldiers should.”
See the difference?
Americans don’t leave people behind because we’re Americans. That’s not something that changes because of circumstances.
It’s true the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s entire ordeal are murky. Did he leave the base voluntarily? Was he going away or even deserting?
Did the Obama administration violate the law by exchanging Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay prison, without consulting Congress? Possibly. Let’s investigate.
Did the exchange itself amount to negotiating with terrorists? Maybe. Again, let’s investigate.
But those things are separate and apart from the recovery of Bowe Bergdahl.
Let’s say we eventually find that Bergdahl’s actions were suspect. In that case, he would deserve a trial, and if found guilty, he would deserve to face military justice.
But the proper venue for that is the U.S. military justice system — not a squalid Taliban encampment in or near Pakistan.
Likewise, the truth will come out about the Obama administration’s actions.
But those actions are on Barack Obama, not on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.