Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

When Is It Okay to Negotiate with Terrorists?

Created: 10 June, 2014
Updated: 14 October, 2022
3 min read

In the wake of all of the controversy surrounding the release of five Guantanamo Bay detainees in exchange for the freedom of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a number of questions have been hotly debated and even more cliché catchphrases have been thrown around.

"Nobody gets left behind," was the phrase the Obama administration is using to justify the decision, while "we don't negotiate with terrorists," is the quote of choice for critics.

This train wreck of a week for news has created controversy about everything from the legality of the trade to the testimonies from Bergdahl's former squad mates questioning his loyalty to his country.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) on Bergdahl swap:

"I believe this decision will threaten the lives of American soldiers for years to come.”

The controversy has led to a massive amount of speculation, with critics like Rogers, who added, "This fundamental shift in U.S. policy signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take U.S. hostages.”

Additional speculation emerged questioning the loyalty of Bergdahl, with some going as far as to brand him and his family as terrorist sympathizers.

As with any event in an ultra-partisan political system, a reasonable amount of speculation is to be expected. However, the decision to exchange one questionable U.S. soldier for five detainees has resulted in two completely different levels of concern from the media.

Fox News host Dana Perino referred to the five released prisoners as the "dream team" of the Taliban, while CNN brought on an expert to assure the audience that at least three of the five were exceptionally cooperative and may have possibly undergone sufficient rehabilitation to be cleared of the watch list.

Are we to trust the less sensationalist of the two media outlets, or are we better off living in fear as these terrorists go free?

The problem is that partisanship has made this story about the Obama administration when, in fact, any president would have done the same. We do negotiate with terrorists. Prisoner swaps aren't a new concept to this nation, and has only truly been given such strong objection because of the "Benghazification" of the news.

Of course we don't want to make the enemy think that all they need to do to get their people back is to capture ours, but we also have standards to which we owe our troops, and we have to do whatever it takes to bring them back.

Since high-ranking political officials like Rogers are concerned with the image we're portraying to terrorist groups by making this exchange, there is a plethora of other questions that could be asked had this gone any other way.

What kind of message would we be sending to our own people if we weren't willing to do whatever it takes to get one of our soldiers back? It's a given that negotiating with terrorists has potential to be a slippery slope to bigger problems, but no media organization should be making such a large effort to slander the name of a U.S. soldier who has been living in captivity for the last five years before getting his side of the story.

Innocent until proven guilty is a real mantra that has been codified as part of U.S. law. Until given a fair trial, no armchair activist has the right to prosecute Bergdahl for deserting his country.