Most Americans are very familiar with the United States’ “We don’t negotiate with terrorists” stance. It’s a phrase that has been said in numerous action films and television shows after all. Thus the recent headlines involving Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier who was released from captivity after five years in exchange for five Taliban prisoners, has naturally been confusing to many Americans. The main concern being that President Obama has opened the door for future negotiations with terrorists.
The reality is, that stance has never really been all that accurate. President Obama has been repeatedly criticized by many right wing supporters for “opening the door” for future negotiations with terrorists, when in fact such a door has been cracked for some time.
It should not be forgotten that the Regan administration infamously traded arms for hostages in what is now called the Iran–Contra affair, and the Carter administration negotiated with terrorists during the Iran hostage crisis. Such examples have been conveniently left unmentioned by those that continue to blame Obama for ruining our stance with terrorists.
Most organized terrorists likely remember these incidents, even if some Americans do not. It’s why such a stance has not deterred them from continuing to take hostages and asking for ransoms. In truth, it’s really time to start evaluating if such a rigid stance is really reasonable in the first place.
To simply state “We don’t negotiate with terrorists” may be fine in theory, but to fall back on such a stance and thus allow Americans to die is absolutely immoral. Especially soldiers who are sent into harm’s way with the promise that they will not be left behind.
Bowe Bergdahl may not be the most popular American right now after reports surfaced that he may or may not have abandoned his post which led to his capture, but that certainly does not mean he deserved to die in captivity. If he did in fact leave his post, the man has paid the price for such actions and will likely continue to do so for the rest of his life.
If the United States is ever in a situation where they can save the life of an American, they must do so. The deal that Obama made was ugly but the right one nonetheless. No one wants to see criminals let free, especially ones that are still very deadly, but even worse is letting an American die who could have been saved.
It is very possible that this entire controversy is more rooted in the upcoming elections this fall, with Republicans and Democrats searching for anything they can say that would deter voters from supporting the opposing party. It’s likely that if the parties were reversed, and Obama was Republican, Democrats would be the ones condemning him.
Obama did nothing different than many previous presidents before him and what he did was ultimately the right decision. Every president, regardless of party affiliation, needs to be prepared to do what it takes to save a life. Anyone who disagrees should consider how exactly they would react if Bergdahl had been one of their own loved ones, who had been held in captivity for five years.
Nick Ulferts is a senior English education major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding his column can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.