6/15/14

A lot has been said in the media about the release of five senior Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for one captive American soldier—Bowe Bergdahl.

I am not going to comment on the particular features of this controversy, such as was Bergdahl worth saving as a likely deserter? Did the White House handle this properly (was this a reason to celebrate with a Rose Garden event?), or comment on the very difficult heart-wrenching decision that faces leaders of countries in the West where every life is paramount; but I do want to unmask few media canards:

  • “No man left behind” is rubbish. Armies, and the U.S. army included, always keep “men” behind. It is always a matter of price. You will not send a unit to try and release or retrieve a prisoner or a wounded soldier on the battlefield if you know that in doing so you will save one person but the high probability is that ten will die. While a worthwhile and honored credo, it is always a matter of price.
  • Many in the media keep referencing the experience of Israel which more than once released hundreds, indeed one thousand, prisoners in order to get one soldier back alive, or sometime even the body of a fallen soldier. This is misleading. Israel NEVER agreed to release top-level leaders or commanders. The main reason Gilad Shalit (the latest such exchange to occur about two and a half years ago ) was held in captivity for FIVE years is EXACTLY because there was no agreement between Hamas (who kidnapped him) and Israel on the NAMES and identity of those released. There was never a big debate on the quantity. Quality matters, which brings me to the main theme of this blog: LEADERS MATTER.

Take ISIS for instance (see my Blog on ISIS of today’s date); Its leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, now considered to be the most dangerous terrorist in the world, was actually a prisoner held in Iraq by the U.S. forces and was released against objections from many in the military and on the right (the objection was to the overall notion of transferring prisoners deemed dangerous to Iraqi control, not to him specifically) as part of Obama’s policy of handing over prisoners to Iraq. Sound familiar? Do shades of Guantanamo and the released Taliban come to mind?

Leaders do matter. While the killing of Osama Bin Laden was really only symbolic (though very important) and did not make much change in the operation of Al Qaeda, that was due to the fact that he was already marginalized and incapable of leading due to the total manhunt for him.

Active leaders do matter. The assassination of prime mister Rabin and before him President Sadat changed the course of the Middle East. The choice of leaders does matter as I keep preaching regarding the lack of leadership by president Obama. The release of leadership material from detention as enemy combatants does matter and is a costly mistake.

One never knows how the future will play out and how soon, but it is very likely that one of the five Taliban will reach the top levels of the Taliban and will lead it to fame and prominence (infamous and evil prominence, but still).

Whether or not Obama will still be the president when this occurs is hard to know but what is likely is that he, his cohorts, and the enlisted media will do summersaults to avoid putting the blame on him.

There is a direct line between leaders and the success of their countries, movements, and even terror groups. The release of the Taliban Five was a dangerous mistake and I predict that it will be directly linked to a high price that the U.S. and U.S. interests will pay for this impetus behavior by President Obama.