The Desertion of Sgt. Bergdahl
I come at this debate with the presumption that even if Sgt. Bergdahl deserted, it was worth trying to get him back — but that if he deserted, that should lower the price we are willing to bear to get him back (in terms of both lives lost in trying to rescue him and concessions to his captors). Will Saletan pushes back, in Slate, against the idea that his alleged conduct should be relevant to how the government should have treated the case. Obama’s critics, he writes, are
ignoring the message his abandonment would have sent to our troops, their families, and prospective military recruits. It would have betrayed our pledge that if you’re captured in service to our country, we’ll free you. . . .
The larger principle is that our allegiance to our soldiers has to be as solid as their allegiance to us. We don’t have to love their character, any more than they have to love the character of their commanders. In the military, loyalty transcends personality. And loyalty goes both ways.
Don’t these comments undermine Saletan’s argument? If Bergdahl deserted, then he wasn’t captured “in service to our country,” his “allegiance to us” wasn’t “solid,” and loyalty wasn’t going both ways.