On Sunday, Politico reported that the Obama administration has made a concerted effort over the past several weeks to publicize a new foreign policy doctrine. First reported by the Los Angeles Times in April, and later parroted by both the Chicago Tribune and New York Times, the West Wing’s new foreign policy strategy is: “don’t do stupid stuff” (but, as each of these papers point out, with “stuff” replaced with a four letter expletive). Apparently, we are all supposed to be impressed.
The revelation of such a sophomoric, frat-boy attitude towards foreign policy helps explain how the Obama administration continues to blunder into mistake after mistake, confounding our allies, delighting our enemies and weakening our standing in the world. Platitudes, such as “don’t do stupid stuff”, are, by nature, subjective in their application, resulting in seemingly schizophrenic outcomes. In no case is the phenomenon more apparent than in the prisoner swap President Obama just completed with Taliban terrorists.
In 2009 while serving in Afghanistan, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl abandoned his post and disappeared. He left a letter in his tent saying that he was disillusioned with the army, no longer supported the American mission in Afghanistan, and was walking away to start a new life. Upon leaving the safety of the U.S. military base, Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban. In the subsequent weeks, as U.S. military commanders frantically sought to rescue Bergdahl, several U.S. soldiers, including some from Bergdahl’s own unit, were killed in Taliban ambushes while searching for him. Eventually, Bergdahl’s perfidy became known, and the military stopped looking for him. On several occasions over the past five years, Pentagon officials had ground level intelligence on Bergdahl’s whereabouts, including how many Taliban soldiers were guarding him, but chose not to risk more American lives for someone they considered to be a deserter.
With the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan coming to a close, the Obama administration, citing the old military adage that “no one gets left behind”, decided to bring Bergdahl home. It seemed the right thing to do. Since apparently no one was willing to risk more American lives for a suspected deserter, which also probably seemed like the right thing to do, the Obama administration began negotiating with the Taliban for Bergdahl’s release.
This past week, to widespread surprise and dismay, President Obama announced the release of five Taliban detainees from the U.S. military installation at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in exchange for Bergdahl. These Taliban leaders, in the words of Sen. John McCain, were the “hardest of the hard core” detainees in U.S. custody, including Mullah Mohammed Fazl, the Taliban’s top military commander responsible for murdering thousands of Afghanis prior to the U.S. invasion in 2001, and Abdel Haq Wasiq, the Taliban’s deputy chief of intelligence. These brutal Taliban leaders are now free in Qatar, and as soon as their one-year travel restrictions are lifted, will undoubtedly end up right back in the Afghanistan Hindu Kush Mountains, terrorizing the Afghani people.
The Obama administration’s actions in the Bergdahl saga are inexplicable, inexcusable. The President, by trying so hard not to do “stupid stuff”, has backed us into a devastating and dangerous foreign policy reversal. President Obama has announced to terrorists around the world that the United States is willing to negotiate. He has also set the market price for future American hostages.
“Don’t do stupid stuff” is not a foreign policy. It is the justification for not having a foreign policy altogether. By foolishly relying on such a subjective standard, President Obama has cast his leadership responsibilities, and with them our national security interests, onto the winds of circumstance.
Dan Liljenquist is a former state senator and U.S. Senate candidate.