Despite Republican outcry over President Obama’s decision to release five prisoners from Guantanamo in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, prisoner swaps during war is nothing new and under international law, it’s considered a way to make war seem civilized. Maybe it’s the optics of the prisoner exchange. Bergdahl’s release doesn’t resemble prisoner exchanges from a well-defined enemy like Germany or Japan with distinct borders when conventional warfare was the method for fighting our adversary.
Today’s conflicts center on terrorist organizations without defined borders where asymmetrical techniques for engaging the enemy are the most common tactic. Perhaps this new style of engagement lends itself to some of the criticism surrounding Bergdahl's situation. Despite the five detainees released who may return home and continue to plot against the United States, there is still an obligation by the U.S. military to rescue a fallen soldier. There is historical precedent of exchanging prisoners during war or conflict dating back to the Barbary pirates of North Africa. While the conventional enemy has changed to an asymmetrical nemesis international law hasn’t changed and making deals with an adversary in exchange for soldiers has been around since war itself.
Bergdahl’s case is a prickly pear for the White House as some critics label the Army sergeant a deserter but that is irrelevant to his case. The U.S. doesn’t take kindly to the enemy making prisoners out of our soldiers and punishing them for their behavior. If anybody is going to reprimand Bergdahl it’s the United States Army. Bowe Bergdahl's story doesn’t fit the stereotypical prisoner of war Hollywood Blockbuster movie nor will it bring him a hero’s welcome complete with a ticker-tape parade. However, what is monumentally important is how we treat the brave men and women on and off the battlefield. There are thirteen lines to the Soldiers Creed and one of them states, “I will never leave a fallen comrade." Regardless the circumstances of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release from five years as a prisoner of war he is still an American soldier like it or not.