Thursday, June 5, 2014

What Happens When Wars End

Call it the cosi fan tutti defense. The Obama administration did it because everyone does it.

The “it” in question is trading deserter Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban commanders.  The Obama administration has insisted that when wars are over you must try to get your imprisoned soldiers back.

A worthy principle, but not the truth. As the Wall Street Journal responds, the war is not over:

"This is what happens at the end of wars," Mr. Obama said in Warsaw. "At some point you try to make sure that you get your folks back." Yes, but the Afghan war isn't over, never mind the continuing and larger war on terror in which the Taliban and al Qaeda are allies. When the Taliban killers do leave Qatar, several thousand U.S. troops will still be in Afghanistan and the Afghan-Pakistan border will still be an al Qaeda sanctuary.

James Taranto elaborates the point:

[Susan] Rice also said: "We have a sacred obligation that we have upheld since the founding of our republic to do our utmost to bring back our men and women who are taken in battle, and we did that in this instance." Obama sounded the same theme in Warsaw yesterday: "The United States has always had a pretty sacred rule, and that is we don't leave our men or women in uniform behind. . . . Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We don't condition that."

In Warsaw yesterday, after acknowledging the continued danger they pose, the president explained: "But this is what happens at the end of wars. That was true for George Washington; that was true for Abraham Lincoln; that was true for FDR; that's been true of every combat situation--that at some point, you make sure that you try to get your folks back."

The analogy fails, Taranto adds, because those wars had not only ended, but they ended with American victory:

The predecessors Obama cited all commanded wars that ended with a clear victory. (He should have mentioned Truman along with FDR, who died a few weeks before the Germans surrendered.) Obama, by contrast, is trying to wind down an unpopular war via a negotiated settlement.

Today, everyone is saying that Bowe Bergdahl deserves a proper investigation and trial before being found to be a deserter. Fair enough. But, its useful to keep in mind how Dwight Eisenhower dealt with deserters during World War II. Ann Coulter reports:

… let's review the execution of Pvt. Eddie Slovik. Slovik's offense: desertion in wartime. (See the tie-in?)

Unlike Bowe Bergdahl, who deserted his unit, according to the accounts of his comrades, Slovik never actually deserted. He also didn't call America a "disgusting" country or say he was "ashamed to be an American."

Slovik was just a chicken.
In October 1944, as Allied forces were sweeping through France, Slovik left his position on the front lines, walked to the rear of his unit and handed a note to the cook, confessing his desertion. The letter explained that he was "so scared" that he had already abandoned his unit once, and concluded: "AND I'LL RUN AWAY AGAIN IF I HAVE TO GO OUT THERE." 

Coulter continues:

In the middle of World War II, the military court-martialed Slovik, tried him and sentenced him to death.

Allied Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower denied Slovik's pardon request, saying it would encourage more desertions, just as the fighting was getting especially hot. Slovik was executed by firing squad and buried among the numbered graves of court-martialed rapists and murderers in an American military cemetery in France. 

The problem is, Obama is not just an anti-war president. He seems actively to disdain the military. He seems viscerally opposed to the martial culture that prevails there. When it comes to honor, duty, and loyalty to country, both Obama and Susan Rice have a tin ear.

Ralph Peters described their attitude:

Both President Obama and Ms. Rice seem to think that the crime of desertion in wartime is kind of like skipping class. They have no idea of how great a sin desertion in the face of the enemy is to those in our military. The only worse sin is to side actively with the enemy and kill your brothers in arms. This is not sleeping in on Monday morning and ducking Gender Studies 101.

The Obama administration has conducted policy with an eye to the culture wars. Most especially, it has wanted to diminish traditional masculine cultures. And that begins with the military.

The attitude even pervades the minds of leading military officers. Admiral Samuel Locklear,III, leader of the Pacific Command,  has sounded American retreat from Asia.

Bill Gertz wrote:

Locklear first came to national attention in 2009 because of a surprising interview with the Boston Globe, in which he said North Korea’s belligerence and China’s mounting aggression and military build-up were not his main concerns. Rather, this four-star admiral, in charge of the 300,000 Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corp personnel based in Asia and the Pacific, said the most serious security problem facing the United States was climate change. “People are surprised sometimes” by his concern, he said, even as he insisted that the global upheaval due to rising sea levels was more likely to “cripple the security environment” than anything else.

In January of this year, Locklear gave a speech about the threats and challenges in the Asia Pacific and listed them in presumed order of importance: natural disasters, transnational crime and drug trafficking, human trafficking, competition for food and water, territorial disputes, North Korea, and a rising India and—in last place—China. Note how Locklear lumped the rise of these countries, as if the world’s largest democracy poses the same challenges as the Communist dictatorship in Beijing armed with nuclear weapons.

Of course, one thing that doesn’t happen at the end of wars is that we free the captured leaders of enemy armies. Surely, it has never been done before a war was over.

After World War II, we put twenty-three leaders of the Third Reich on trial in Nuremberg. They were adjudged guilty and either executed or imprisoned.

Releasing enemy commanders during a war establishes a new precedent. It shows weakness. It is the mentality of a loser.

Was the exchange part of another strategy?

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline suggests that the administration was trying to make nice with the Taliban:

…  I think the real driver was Obama’s desire to make a deal with the Taliban that, in his view, would pave the way to improved relations. A ransom, even assuming the Taliban accepted it, would not have made the Taliban as happy as getting its commanders back. Therefore, it would not “open the door for broader discussions. . .about the future of [Afghanistan] by building confidence” with the Taliban, as Obama has said he hopes the prisoner swap will.

It’s the nicey-nice policy. If only we are nice to them, they will be nice to us. Because, you know, the only reason why the Taliban hates America, the only reason why Islamists hate America is that we have not been nice enough to them.


Lastango said...

“People are surprised sometimes” by his concern, (Locklear) said, even as he insisted that the global upheaval due to rising sea levels was more likely to “cripple the security environment”

A willingness to say that sort of thing is precisely how one rises through the senior ranks to become a "four-star admiral, in charge of the 300,000 Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corp personnel based in Asia and the Pacific"... which is also why the Joint Chiefs and their proclamations are routinely as useful as a pitcherfull of warm spit.

Sam L. said...

The Stupid is extremely strong in this administration.

Anonymous said...

You think this is outrageous. Just wait til you see the kind of people Obama pardons at the end of his term.

It will be more outrageous than Clinton pardoning Marc Rich.

Anonymous said...

It's important to point out and people either don't know or don't understand--bergdahl wasn't being held by taliban, they are haqqani. The five released were not haqqani but taliban. So this was some kind of multi-team trade.
Retrieving bergdahl was not the priority, he was the goat.

Anonymous said...

I like the analogy to the multi-team trade. Which begs the question: who is the "player to be named later?"

Sam: "May The Stupid be with you."

And yes, I agree... the pardons at the end of this term will be outrageous. The Weather Underground will be able to live in daylight once again.