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Maybe It Should Have Been Easier For Bowe Bergdahl To Get Out Of Combat

Bowe Bergdahl

J.D. Tucille makes an interesting point about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the circumstances under which he ended up in the hands of the Taliban, and the question of what might have led him to wander off post in a remote part of Afghanistan:

American troops have engaged in continuous war in Afghanistan since 2001, so nobody can claim that they don’t know that military service might require actual military service. Then again, military recruiters focus on the young not just because they’re physically fit, but also because they have little perspective on what they’re getting themselves into. More than a few studies have found that recruiters tend to be a bit shaky on the details and potential consequences of enlisting—a choice that, at least potentially, locks enlistees into a situation with high stakes.

Even in the age of the Internet and non-stop news cycles, concepts like combat, injury, and death can be abstract concepts for an 18-year-old.

So if Bowe Bergdahl decided that the bill of goods he was sold didn’t live up to the advertising—especially if he began to have moral qualms about his duties—I’m pretty sympathetic. And it’s pretty clear that was the case from the messages he sent to his parents, in which he wrote:

The future is too good to waste on lies. And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be american. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting.

But the military makes formal “conscientious objector” status difficult to attain for young people whose views change while they’re in uniform, at least officially. (There are sometimes back-channel ways of getting out that might not be readily apparent.) The Department of Defense directive regarding the subject is a masterpiece of bureacratese, full of lengthy definitions and procedures. Among other hurdles, it defines conscientious objection as “A firm, fixed, and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or the bearing of arms, by reason of religious training and/or belief.”

Morally objecting to the conflict at hand doesn’t make the cut. Nor does just having had enough.

Which is a damned shame, since it might well lead to foolishness like walking off into the hills of Afghanistan under disputed circumstances. That’s a stupid way to get out, though desparation sometimes overwhelms good sense. Worse, it might contribute to a disillusioned young deserter actually aiding the enemy after falling/walking into their hands, instead of just flying home.

I’ve never served in the military, of course, so I don’t have the benefit of that perspective on which to judge Tucille’s arguments here. However, it strikes me that he raises some valid point. The decade that America has been at war since the September 11th attacks is the longest in American history, and it’s unlike anything else that the all-volunteer military has seen since the draft was eliminated in the 1970s. We’ve already seen plenty of evidence of what PTSD does to soldiers once they come home, and the problems that can develop when those problems are not properly addressed. There hasn’t been nearly as much attention paid, though, to soldiers actually in the field who may be suffering from PTSD, depression, or whatever the case may be. Bergdahl’s emails home to his parents certainly raise red flags in retrospect, and there have been several reports of interviews with men he served with prior to disappearing that seem to indicate he was making the same kind of comments out in the field. Perhaps if some of those signs had been noticed and reported, Bergdahl could have been treated, reassigned or transferred out of the post that he was in, especially since it seems in retrospect that he wasn’t cut out for the job that had been assigned to him.

A potential objection, of course, is that Bergdahl volunteered for the military and that he shouldn’t be able to get out of his commitment just because he got lonely or sad. Perhaps there’s some truth in that, but that kind of response also ignores some very real issues. The fact that someone may have volunteered for the military doesn’t really mean much in and of itself, especially since it’s unlikely that they had any idea what they would be getting themselves into if they ended up in a combat until in remotest Afghanistan. If it becomes apparent that they aren’t well suited to the role they’ve been assigned to, then keeping them there doesn’t make much sense to me.

None of this is to dismiss the seriousness of any potential charges against Bergdahl, of course. The evidence support charges related to desertion certainly seems compelling and, as I’ve already noted, the Army has said that there will be an investigation of the circumstances of Bergdahl’s disappearance now that he’s safely back in American custody. If that investigation justifies it, then he should most assuredly be charged and tried under the military justice system, which would be better than trying him in the court of public opinion with unvetted and unconfirmed media reports, such as a recent Fox News claim that essentially charges Bergdahl with collaborating with the Taliban, a charge far more serious than desertion. At the same time, though, it is perhaps worth recognizing the strain of combat and the fact that not everyone is suited for that role. Perhaps if it had been easier for Bergdahl to be assigned to other duty, or if his family or fellow soldiers had alerted his superiors to signs they now seem to think were readily apparent, all of this could have been avoided.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. John Peabody says:

    This is damn dangerous ground. A helluva lot of disillusioned, depressed, and doubting servicemembers have managed to complete their tours without walking out of camp. When you serve, you are on a team. It doesn’t matter if you don’t belive in the mission of the country, but you had better believe in the mission of protecting your team. This is what is drilled into military training (or at least, it should be). -retired Army

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  2. michael reynolds says:

    I think it’s important to understand something from the start: the percentage of men who can be broken by combat is 100%. It’s just a matter of time. Given sufficient time under fire, everyone breaks. This isn’t controversial, we’ve known this since World War 1. It’s one of the reasons we now rotate men and units in and out, with R&R and retraining.

    We also know that some men are never going to be of use in combat. Despite the movie cliches, many combat soldiers refuse to fire at an enemy — even in extreme circumstances. We’ve reduced this problem with a volunteer army, but it’s still there.

    So, the question becomes, as a practical matter, is there anything to be gained by forcing a man who is either fundamentally unsuited, or who has been rendered unsuitable by virtue of combat stress, to stay in the field?

    I think the answer is obvious: no.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  3. @John Peabody:

    If someone ended up in a sniper unit but couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn no matter how much training they received, would you suggest they stay in that unit?

    I realize there’s a bit of a slippery slope here, but I’m suggesting that if there were signs that Bergdahl was having serious problems that role far above the level of what is often referred to as “malingering,” then maybe something should have been done about it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    I never served in SE Asia but I am a Vietnam era vet so I know many who did. It took a mental toll on those in combat but even then you knew it was only going to last a year unless you volunteered for another tour. Many of us in the military at that time thought that the war in Vietnam was was a waste and misguided. When LBJ’s White House tapes were released we discovered that those at the highest level also believed this which meant the continuation war was nothing short of criminal as over 50,000 of Americas young men died in a senseless war.
    The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are also senseless wars. Iraq is rapidly becoming a client state of Iran so we will end up having nothing to show for the blood and treasure we spent there. And it was worse than Vietnam – multiple tours and knowing that even if you survive one tour you will be back and not survive that one. The mental strain is something I can’t imagine. The same can be said for the war in Afghanistan. We will be out of there in a couple of years with nothing to show for all the blood and treasure we have spent. It will revert back to a “country” of tribal warfare with the Taliban probably picking up where they left off. Is it really all that surprising that some troops figure out they are on a fools errand?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  5. gVOR08 says:

    So if Bowe Bergdahl decided that the bill of goods he was sold didn’t live up to the advertising…

    The operative word here is IF. I suppose it’s asking too much for the media to wait ’til they actually know something before writing reams of speculation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  6. Mikey says:

    Anyone who joined the U. S. Army in 2008 and volunteered for infantry duty, as Bergdahl did, has no excuse for walking off the OP. We’d been at war in Afghanistan for seven years and Iraq for five, and anyone who joined knew 100% they would be deployed.

    Guys get disillusioned all the time. War sucks. You get really close to people and they get killed. You could get wounded or killed. Sometimes you don’t agree with the rationale for the war. These things have been true through all human history. But when you join, you take an oath, you make a commitment. Should we just let guys shed that commitment when the going gets tough?

    Might as well turn off the lights and hand the keys to the damn Russians. Feh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 9

  7. A potential objection, of course, is that Bergdahl volunteered for the military and that he shouldn’t be able to get out of his commitment just because he got lonely or sad.

    1. The punishment for breach of contract is monetary damages. If someone leaves the military early, then by all means make them responsible for the lost cost of their training and so forth. But no other employer can throw you in jail or threaten to kill your for quitting.

    2. That includes employers that hire for dangerous jobs. We have no problem staffing police, fire fighters, or hell even convenience store night clerks without making it illegal for them to quit. It’s not clear why this is not the case for the military as well.

    3. The suggestion all of our soldiers would leave given the oppurtunity is an insult to our soldiers. Some would leave no doubt, but I doubt most would.

    4. The argument here seems to be most soldiers have been sold a bill of goods and, upon realizing they’ve been conned, only stay under threat of jail. If that were true, that would make it MORE important to make it easier for them to leave, not less. Contracts obtained through fraud are not valid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Mikey:
    If a soldier has become useless isn’t it more dangerous to you and other soldiers keeping him in the unit? Isn’t it wiser to send him to a non-combat post?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  9. Rafer Janders says:

    @John Peabody:

    A helluva lot of disillusioned, depressed, and doubting servicemembers have managed to complete their tours without walking out of camp.

    If you’re in combat, do you WANT a disillusioned, depressed and doubting soldier next to you? Would you want your life to be in their hands? Why wouldn’t you want this guy to get out the field, both for his own safety and for yours?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  10. beth says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    3. The suggestion all of our soldiers would leave given the oppurtunity is an insult to our soldiers. Some would leave no doubt, but I doubt most would.

    Exactly – if this was true, we would have dealt with a situation like Bergdahl’s already, many times over.

    I’m just still in shock over the jump to judgment seen by the media and others – notice how a few posters here already refer to him as a deserter as if he’s been tried and convicted already. If a soldier got shot and in a fog of pain wandered off and got captured would you hold it against him? Why is the possibility of a mental illness not given the same weight as a physical illness? Lord knows enough of our soldiers have come home mentally disturbed enough to commit suicide in record numbers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  11. stonetools says:

    Related:


    Sergeant Bergdahl Desert The Army Or Did The Army Desert Him?

    ….The Army has tried to address issues like combat stress and PTSD, and we train our forces to look for signs and try to get people help when they need it. They can be pulled out of the fight to go on short mid-tour recuperation trips out of theater or to an in-theater “restoration center.” Apparently no such intervention was taken for Bergdahl, and the Army needs to try to understand why a soldier with a history of going AWOL was allowed to stay in the fight without adequate intervention.

    As of now, no one can say whether Bergdahl wandered off because he was delusional or suffering from some mental health issue. He may have gone AWOL, expecting to sneak back after a stroll. He may have been deserting with some notion of living among Afghan villagers. Or it could be worse: he may have been bent on treason and planning to join the Taliban. But we do not know. No matter how often news channels broadcast speculation as if it is fact, we do not know.

    Now that Bergdahl is back, he should get what all U.S. soldiers deserve: our gratitude for volunteering to serve; the best care we can provide; and a fair hearing before being labeled anything other than patriot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  12. steve says:

    There is a lot going on here that worries me. He went wandering before and came back. Nothing happened to him. In a war zone, with no boundaries. That suggests to me, at the very least, poor unit discipline. Were others doing this? It also concerns me that he left unobserved. If you arent seeing people leaving, you probably are not capable of seeing people coming in. What kind of security did they actually have? This really sounds like a dysfunctional platoon and this kid was a dysfunctional member. Was he the only one, or just the one who got caught?

    I kind of agree with Mikey, but only to an extent. There are plenty of people who want to be in the military when its not just a job, but a (fun) adventure. A fair number decide they dont like it when faced with the reality and/or things get tough. (Certainly saw a lot of ROAD warriors in Desert Storm bitching about having to be there.) Sorry, if you took the pay and agreed to serve that is mostly too bad. Where I would disagree with Mikey is that if someone is disillusioned enough to act out, lie leaving camp in hostile territory, then they need to be gotten rid of so you dont endanger everyone else. (I have ot wonder if they didnt decide to let him go wander again assuming he would get shot and that would teach him his lesson.)

    Steve

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  13. Matt Bernius says:

    @michael reynolds & @Rafer Janders:

    The difficulty that the military faces is separating the people who are truly washing out from those who simply don’t want to be there anymore (for whatever reason).

    And while it makes *theoretical* sense that you want to avoid having a less than fully committed fighting force, its hard to see how to make this work in practice beyond a better psychological support system.

    Or better yet, be more careful getting into multiple protracted wars. Again, I have a hard time seeing how any President, after 9/11, could have avoided Afghanistan. But Iraq could have been avoided and doing so might have greatly eased issues with staffing in Afghanistan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. Matt Bernius says:

    @steve:

    Where I would disagree with Mikey is that if someone is disillusioned enough to act out, lie leaving camp in hostile territory, then they need to be gotten rid of so you dont endanger everyone else. (I have ot wonder if they didnt decide to let him go wander again assuming he would get shot and that would teach him his lesson.)

    The question is what does that “getting rid” of look like. Is the individual sent back stateside to complete his/her contract in safety. Are they given a medical discharge? Are they rehabbed and resent to the field (as was down with shell shock folks in WWII)?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. Rafer Janders says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Yes, but part of this “you have to keep there at all costs” is a holdover from a pre-technological era when you went to war on foot and on horse, and were out in the field for weeks, months or years with no possibility of getting back home. If you were Belisarius in Italy, or Napoleon in Russia, you simply couldn’t send the collapsed home both because there was no physical way to get them there, and because you couldn’t easily replace them with reinforcements.

    But we don’t live in that world anymore (though we often act like we do). We have planes. We have helicopters. A soldier suffering from trauma can be out of the field and in a hospital in Germany within hours, and reinforcements can get to the field just as fast.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  16. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds: He gets treated and put back with his unit.

    The key is recognizing who needs treatment and getting him/her treated, not passing out “get out of the Army free cards” every time some guy decides he doesn’t like being part of Big Green.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  17. Another Mike says:

    @Mikey: Yes, I agree. I’ve been in the Army, and have even been an Army recruiter. I served in both the draft Army and the volunteer Army. No one joins the Army with the idea that they will be killed or hurt. I believe that this is how we all go through life. No matter how objectively dangerous something is, we somehow believe nothing will happen to us.
    I do not believe any sober person could enlist in the infantry in wartime and not know what they were getting into. And Bergdahl is in my opinion a high-functioning person who certainly knew what the deal was.
    The idea that at some point after enlistment one can just un-volunteer themselves, is just screwy. Well, I guess we could run an Army like that, but why even bother? We could run police departments and fire departments like this too. When the shooting starts and the fire is raging, you just un-volunteer yourself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  18. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders: Being doubting, disillusioned, and depressed is part of the deal. EVERYONE gets there at some point. 99.999% don’t walk off the OP.

    As I replied to Michael Reynolds, the key is figuring out who really needs treatment and getting them to treatment. Unfortunately, that can be difficult for guys serving in austere locations. Most of the time they lean on each other, but by all accounts Bergdahl was a loner who didn’t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  19. steve says:

    Matt- They should face a court martial. If it is determined he has severe mental health issues he gets separated. If he is just being a jerk, into the brig, then a dishonorable discharge. If he is having family issues or depression issues that can be addressed with counseling, medications or training, he goes back to his unit if it looks like he wont be a risk to them. If he might still be a risk, back to stateside to serve the rest of his four years or until he is fit for combat again. I think the safety of the unit should outweigh the need to force the guy to serve the rest of his tour.

    The last thing you do, I suspect Mikey will agree, is ignore it. I still find that a bit mind boggling.

    Steve

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. Matt Bernius says:

    @steve:

    The last thing you do, I suspect Mikey will agree, is ignore it. I still find that a bit mind boggling.

    Again, I agree. Though the question is whether this represents a systemic issue or a problem with his immediate commanders.

    If it’s true that he abandoned his post at least once before and no action was taken, then one has to wonder what was going on above him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @Mikey:

    I agree that treatment is the answer, and also agree that deserters need to face justice, hopefully tempered with mercy. I’m not suggesting soldiers can just quit.

    But many, many have quit, and according to most people who’ve looked at the cases, most guys who walk off walk right back. Many cases were studied during and after WW2, of guys who basically lost it, ran off, cooled down, came back, and in some cases performed heroically thereafter. The difference here seems to be that during the walking away period, Bergdahl was captured.

    It’s worth remembering that all through the Civil War units broke and ran. Some ran all the way home, some ran until they found themselves with a river at their back and came back. (Shiloh, IIRC) People do run away in war, it’s quite common. The trick is dealing with that in a way that can maintain cohesion and lead to recovery both for the soldier and the unit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  22. Mikey says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    If it’s true that he abandoned his post at least once before and no action was taken, then one has to wonder what was going on above him.

    I believe it was the late Michael Hastings’ 2012 Rolling Stone article on Bergdahl that stated his unit’s leadership had problems and the platoon leader was relieved of duty at one point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. KM says:

    @steve:

    That suggests to me, at the very least, poor unit discipline. Were others doing this? It also concerns me that he left unobserved. If you arent seeing people leaving, you probably are not capable of seeing people coming in. What kind of security did they actually have? This really sounds like a dysfunctional platoon and this kid was a dysfunctional member. Was he the only one, or just the one who got caught?

    This!! Perhaps that’s why they’re so quick to throw him under the bus. Easier for accusing squad-mates to point to Bergdahl as the lone problem rather then considering him a symptom and shining a light on the situation. If he wandered away repeatedly, then somebody’s gonna have to answer for that. If nobody saw him go or come, that’s a hell of a hole in security out where people are actively trying to kill you. Explanations will be had and somehow I don’t think they want that attention.

    All this red-meat deserter/dead soliders crap the squad-mates are throwing to the hate crowd could very well be a CYA for them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  24. Matt Bernius says:

    @Mikey:

    I believe it was the late Michael Hastings’ 2012 Rolling Stone article on Bergdahl that stated his unit’s leadership had problems and the platoon leader was relieved of duty at one point.

    If that’s the case, then that definitely should be taken into consideration if it is found that he deserted his post.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. Another Mike says:

    @michael reynolds: The Army is pretty good on mercy. Almost every AWOL/desertion case I was involved in processing was discharged in lieu of courts martial. The person simply decides whether they will accept discharge or would you rather face courts martial. If they accept, they are reduced to E1 and given an Undesirable Discharge. That is under other than honorable conditions. I am talking about soldiers who do not want to be in the Army, not cases where the soldier books up for a few days.

    Just for information: a Dishonorable Discharge has to be by a General Courts Martial. Most ordinary criminals face a Special Courts Martial and can get a Bad Conduct Discharge.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Many cases were studied during and after WW2, of guys who basically lost it, ran off, cooled down, came back, and in some cases performed heroically thereafter. The difference here seems to be that during the walking away period, Bergdahl was captured.

    I think in Bergdahl’s case it will be important to establish his intent (as far as it’s possible to do so, anyway). If he was just going on a bit of a walkabout, that’s one thing; if he intended never to return, it’s desertion.

    But even then, there can be mitigation.

    It’s just a shame he didn’t feel he could talk to someone in his platoon about where his mind was and what he felt compelled to do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  27. CarriesGunz says:

    @ beth

    notice how a few posters here already refer to him as a deserter as if he’s been tried and convicted already

    Also notice that the people doing this tend to be people who never served, and they tend to be of the chickenhawk variety. The Fighting 101st keyboardists are back!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  28. C. Clavin says:
  29. Matt Bernius says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It’s worth remembering that all through the Civil War units broke and ran. Some ran all the way home, some ran until they found themselves with a river at their back and came back.

    Thankfully we’ve given up on the practice — still common during the US civil war — of branding deserters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    I never served, but even I know just how wrong some of the things said here are.

    @michael reynolds: I think it’s important to understand something from the start: the percentage of men who can be broken by combat is 100%. It’s just a matter of time.

    Yes, but only one man in Bergdahl’s unit allegedly “broke.” The rest kept their oaths. Oaths that they voluntarily swore.

    And I find Obama’s calling Bergdahl a “boy” insulting. He was an adult, a man, and he assumed a man’s responsibilities. He sought them out and took them on willingly. And by doing so, he allegedly betrayed his brothers and sisters in arms.

    @Stormy Dragon: 1. The punishment for breach of contract is monetary damages. If someone leaves the military early, then by all means make them responsible for the lost cost of their training and so forth. But no other employer can throw you in jail or threaten to kill your for quitting.

    To quote a real veteran from another board I read, “A Veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America” for an amount of “up to and including my life.” ”

    Bergdahl, by willingly signing his enlistment papers, wrote that check. He voluntarily gave up a lot of his rights and agreed to abide by a whole bunch of rules that don’t apply to the rest of us. One of them is that the penalty for desertion in time of war can be up to death.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  31. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Bergdahl, by willingly signing his enlistment papers, wrote that check.

    No he didn’t. A legally uneforcable contract is not a valid contract regardless of who signed it. A contract of specific performance is not legally enforcable in the US, both implicitly under the basic concepts of common law and explicitly under the terms of the 13th ammendment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  32. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    The rest kept their oaths. Oaths that they voluntarily swore.

    Do you have proof that Bergdahl did not? Please present it. I won’t hold my breath, as you have already labeled him a deserter, even though you admit this is unproven. No one here is surprised that you would trash a combat vet for a perceived political advantage.

    We have a military justice system. I suggest to you and all the other commander chickenhawks that we leave it to the experts to decide what, if anything, he did wrong.

    Like you, I never served. Unlike you, I do not presume to judge a man who has served in combat. It’s called “supporting the troops”

    And I find Obama’s calling Bergdahl a “boy” insulting.

    Well, you are a famous idiot, so again, no surprise.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  33. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Stormy Dragon: No he didn’t. A legally uneforcable contract is not a valid contract regardless of who signed it. A contract of specific performance is not legally enforcable in the US, both implicitly under the basic concepts of common law and explicitly under the terms of the 13th ammendment.

    This is admittedly a trivial point, but you’re actually arguing that the enlistment contracts that the US military has used for decades (at least since the end of the draft) are invalid because you, who can’t even spell “unenforceable” and “amendment,” say so? You’re saying that the entire UCMJ is invalid? Jesus H. Christ, how many times have you watched “A Few Good Men” while muttering yourself “I can do that!”

    @anjin-san: Do you have proof that Bergdahl did not? Please present it.

    I’m actually applying a higher standard in the Bergdahl case than you did in the Zimmerman case. I’m willing to hear exculpatory evidence, But so far we have a LOT of people who served with Bergdahl when he vanished talking, and telling the same story. We have people who were in the intelligence loop telling the same story.

    On the other hand, in opposition, we have Susan Rice saying that Bergdahl “served with honor and distinction” and was “captured on the battlefield.” Two laughably wrong statements from someone with a history of cheerfully spouting whatever fabrications she’s handed without question.

    If I’m wrong here, I’ll cheerfully fess up and apologize. This will be in stark contrast to those who were so emotionally invested in hanging Zimmerman even after lie after uncounted lie about him were disproved, and the jury acquitted him,

    I’m pretty comfortable at this point in saying that Bergdahl’s conduct meets the acceptable standard for “desertion.” I’m also comfortable in predicting that he will spend a considerable amount of time hospitalized for his recovery (probably until after the election), at which point he will be granted a medical discharge and any disciplinary action will be canceled as being moot.

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  34. anjin-san says:

    I’m actually applying a higher standard in the Bergdahl case than you did in the Zimmerman case.

    Really? I guess you never noticed the photos of Martin’s dead body. Meanwhile, back in the real world, Bergdahl is a member of the US Armed Forces who was serving in a combat zone in frigging Afghanistan, enduring things that you and I can’t imagine, regardless of how many war movies we watch.

    Zimmermann, on the other hand, is a shaky character with an arrest record, a history of anger management issues, a history of obsessive nuisance calls to 911, and a restraining order against him from an old girlfriend. The praise you heaped on him over many months does not change that, and of course subsequent events have made it very clear what his true colors are.

    I’m also comfortable in predicting

    Yes, I am sure you are quite comfortable sitting on the sofa, casting yourself as Bergdahl’s judge, jury, and perhaps executioner…

    the penalty for desertion in time of war can be up to death.

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  35. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: Bergdahl is a member of the US Armed Forces who was serving in a combat zone in frigging Afghanistan, enduring things that you and I can’t imagine, regardless of how many war movies we watch.

    An awful lot of other young men endured exactly what Bergdahl went through, and they not only didn’t desert, but they have very poor opinions of him. I’m putting my faith in them.

    The praise you heaped on him (Zimmerman) over many months does not change that,

    I don’t recall “heaping praise” on him, but I do recall calling bullshit on a whole lot of lies about him.

    Zimmerman isn’t the subject here, but let’s play a little game: “George Zimmerman was this racist white guy who spotted Travon Martin walking through his neighborhood. He called the cops, who told him to not follow him on foot. Zimmerman defied the police’s orders and chased down Martin, gun in hand, then shot him dead in cold blood.”

    How many things are wrong with that summary?

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  36. anjin-san says:

    Zimmerman isn’t the subject here,

    You brought him up Skippy.

    How many things are wrong with that summary?

    Well for one, I did not say any of those things. But if you want to play “Hump the Strawman” go for it.

    I don’t recall “heaping praise” on him

    Everyone else does.

    I’m putting my faith in them.

    Yes, yes. Everything you needed to know you learned from Sean Hannity. We already know this.

    I’m sure you think you are being clever. Trash Bergdahl. If people that are actually competent to judge him decline to bring charges, of if he is charged and exonerated, you say everyone knows he was guilty but he was protected by the Obama administration.

    If you are going to support the troops, you have to support all of them, trusting them to take care of their own, be it on the battlefield or the court room. But we all know you are only looking for that club to bash Obama with that will actually hurt him after one phony scandal after another has ended up on the scrap heap of history.

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  37. rachel says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I never served, but…

    Stop right there. I never served either, and my opinion on the matter is uninformed (and therefore pretty much worthless). So’s yours, BTW, whether you admit it or not.

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  38. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    If I’m wrong here, I’ll cheerfully fess up and apologize.

    If past is precedent, no you won’t. *cough* tragedy of the commons *cough*

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  39. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Oh …here’s Jenos the torture advocate suggesting we abandon our POWs from the safety of his keyboard.
    Chickenhawk

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  40. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @rachel: top right there. I never served either, and my opinion on the matter is uninformed (and therefore pretty much worthless). So’s yours, BTW, whether you admit it or not.

    Interesting argument there, Rachel. You don’t want to offer an opinion, so I shouldn’t, either. And just why aren’t you trying to impose that standard on anyone else?

    @Grewgills: I did answer that, but since you’re occasionally, polite, I’ll repeat myself: one solution that never seems to occur to the control freaks is privatization. One of the earliest American colonies tried an early form of socialsim, and they nearly died out. Then they divided up the common into plots for individuals, and they prospered. It’s not the only solution, of course, but it works pretty damned well in enough cases.

    @anjin-san: On Zimmerman: you’re saying that I “heaped praise” on him, publicly, in writing, on numerous occasions that are preserved in this site’s archives, and “everyone else” also remembers that. I say I didn’t. Seems to me there’s an easy way to prove your point, annie…

    But back on point… no, it shouldn’t have been easier for Berghdahl to get out of combat. Because he volunteered and took an oath, and he needs to live up to that.

    Should he have been removed from the combat area? Quite possibly. But that was a decision to be made by his superiors, not him.

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  41. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    It has been repeatedly pointed out to you that your answer demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what the tragedy of the commons is. It is simply not possible for your answer to work for the oceans, great lakes, rivers, and the atmosphere as well as failing to address preserving habitat for threatened species. Farmland shared by a community is not a good example of a commons of the type being spoken of when we talk about the tragedy of the commons. The answer you are giving is a weak libertarian answer to a straw man version of what the tragedy of the commons is.
    If I own all of the atmosphere above my land and I build a factory that pumps out toxic gasses, those toxic gasses don’t stay on my property, they move and will enter the next person’s strip of atmosphere that your scheme has them owning. The notion that you can simply divvy up all of the earth, oceans, lakes, rivers, and atmosphere and solve the tragedy of the commons is frankly ridiculous and it is past time you admit you were dead wrong on this and did not understand the concept that you used in your argument. You should read Garrett Hardin to learn what this term actually refers to.

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  42. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I did answer that,

    Nope, he never answered that. Everyone pointed out that he was laughably wrong about what the term “the tragedy of the commons” means, but instead of “cheerfully fessing up and apologizing” he slunk away. Which is to be expected, since narcissistic sociopaths find apologizing to be psychologically very painful.

    but since you’re occasionally, polite, I’ll repeat myself: one solution that never seems to occur to the control freaks is privatization.

    Privatization! Why hasn’t anyone in America ever thought of that before?!?!

    One of the earliest American colonies tried an early form of socialsim, and they nearly died out.

    And the Israeli kibbutzim tried a form of socialism, and they thrived. Why does he hate Israel?

    then they divided up the common into plots for individuals, and they prospered. It’s not the only solution, of course, but it works pretty damned well in enough cases.

    For the third time, please explain how you can divide up the oceans, lakes and rivers into “common plots for individuals”. Or how you can divide up the air into “common plots.” Or even, staying on the ground, how roads and highways can be divided up, or hunting rights over migratory animals and birds.

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  43. rachel says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    You don’t want to offer an opinion, so I shouldn’t, either.

    You can offer all the opinions you want. They’re just a waste of pixels, but knock yourself out.

    And just why aren’t you trying to impose that standard on anyone else?

    You hung your ignorance on the topic out for everyone here to see when you wrote “I’ve never served, but…” You know nothing about what goes on in a situation like Bergdahl’s unit was in, and yet you seem to think you have some kind of moral standing to judge someone who was there–even before the facts in his case have been made public at a trial. Yeah, I’ll give that the respect it deserves.

    ETA: And by the way, I’ll be happy to say the same to any other person I notice being a fool like that.

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  44. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Grewgills: We’re having a fundamental misunderstanding here. I’m saying that privatization is AN alternative, and often the BETTER alternative.

    Let’s take that example of the oceans. We already have that — nations (the “individuals” in this case, when scaled up to fit the situation) have a certain amount of ocean (usually 12 miles off their shores) are their exclusive economic territory. Beyond that is handled as a collective matter, but those first twelve miles are not up to the collective.

    Atmosphere? Again, nations set their own standards. China and India aren’t subject to American laws.

    It’s just a matter of understanding that “individuals” doesn’t necessarily mean “people,” but “subset of the collective.”

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  45. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @rachel: ETA: And by the way, I’ll be happy to say the same to any other person I notice being a fool like that.

    Then may I call your attention to Stormy Dragon’s comment at 12:37 on Friday, when he asserted that the military’s penalty for desertion is unconstitutional, and the only recourse the government has in such cases is to sue the deserters for money. Is that enough of “being a fool like that” for you?

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  46. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    I’m saying that privatization is AN alternative, and often the BETTER alternative.

    And then you proceed to talk about waters within nations 12 mile limits as an example, which has absolutely nothing to do with privatization. In fact, privatization refers to taking things out of the government/public sector. So no, a nation state claiming territorial rights over a given area of ocean is not privatization in any way, shape, or form.

    Exactly how stupid are you?

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  47. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    It’s just a matter of understanding that “individuals” doesn’t necessarily mean “people,” but “subset of the collective.”

    ‘And only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!’

    ‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.

    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘

    ‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.

    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

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  48. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    You do realize nations are the collective that you were railing against, right? The leaving it up to the individual solution you espoused was what happened earlier in our country’s history when the West coast fisheries collapsed, other species were driven to near extinction, and poor ag practices helped usher in the dust bowl. Clean air and water legislation are among the collective actions that we made to address the tragedy of the commons problems we had domestically.

    It’s just a matter of understanding that “individuals” doesn’t necessarily mean “people,” but “subset of the collective.”

    You brought up the tragedy of the commons initially as a pro individual anti-group (in that instance national government) action, so no, you walking this back doesn’t fly. Why not just ”cheerfully fess up and apologize” for being dead wrong in your initial (condescending) usage?

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  49. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    It’s just a matter of understanding that “individuals” doesn’t necessarily mean “people,” but “subset of the collective.”

    To belabor the point a bit, this makes absolutely no sense in the context where you originally used it. You said,

    You seem like a semi-intelligent person, IP. Look up “the tragedy of the commons.”

    I said it before, and I’ll say it again: I have more faith in individuals than groups. You seem to want to have more faith in groups than individuals.

    in response to

    Funny how you trust them for all of these things but don’t seem to trust them at all if they are part of the government, particularly the federal government…

    Which makes your walking back individuals to include governments look a bit like trying to weasel out of a comment you can now see was dead wrong rather than cheerfully fessing up and apologizing. We all remember what you said and the context of it, so that simply will not work.

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  50. An Interested Party says:

    Which makes your walking back individuals to include governments look a bit like trying to weasel out of a comment you can now see was dead wrong rather than cheerfully fessing up and apologizing. We all remember what you said and the context of it, so that simply will not work.

    Perhaps someone who was at least semi-intelligent would be able to better argue his point rather than simply trying (and failing) to weasel his way out of his previous comment, alas…

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  51. Rafer Janders says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Who are you going to believe, him or the lying words you previously read in cold black and white?

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  52. rachel says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: This comment about what Stormy Dragon wrote is more than stupid enough for me. He made some common-sense and truthful observations about contracts and how they relate to other dangerous occupations v. how they relate to the military (without once bringing the Constitution into it). However, you interperet him as writing that penalties for desertion* are unconstitutional. Now I begin to see how you came to interpret the Tragedy of the Commons the way you do: your comprehension of arguments is crippled by an ideoligical filter.

    *Which has not been proven in Bergdahl’s case.

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  53. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: Sigh. I’d already cited an example with individual people — the early days of the Jamestown colony. Someone (I don’t remember who) brought up oceans, so I applied the same principle there. It’s a matter of scaling.

    And how odd that I’m arguing in favor of diversity in solutions here, against absolutism. Well, not really odd; I’ve noticed a decided lack of respect for diversity of opinion.

    @rachel: Upon re-reading Stormy’s comment, I see where I may have misunderstood him. I interpreted the comment as a challenge to the legality of military enlistments. I still think that was his point, but there is plausible deniability there.

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  54. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    I’ve noticed a decided lack of respect for diversity of opinion.

    What others have noticed is that you don’t have a clue about the tragedy of the commons, and you don’t appear to understand what privatization is. Instead of being the stand up guy you claim to be, and simply admitting you were wrong, you abandon your shovel, bring in a backhoe, and continue to dig ever more rapidly while hiding behind cheese like we see above.

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  55. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    It was me that brought up the oceans and I believe Rafer that brought in the atmosphere. I also pointed out that, even if accurate, your Jamestown example was NOT an example of tragedy of the commons outside of libertarian straw man versions of the argument. It is not that I don’t respect a diversity of possible solutions, it is that you fundamentally misunderstand the concept to which the solutions would be applied. Further, as has been pointed out at length by Matt B in an earlier thread, your Jamestown example is lacking in historicity.
    Come on man, it is well past time for you to ”cheerfully fess up and apologize”. I won’t be holding my breath waiting.

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  56. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Sigh. I’d already cited an example with individual people — the early days of the Jamestown colony. Someone (I don’t remember who) brought up oceans, so I applied the same principle there. It’s a matter of scaling.

    Shorter: Argle-bargle! Argle-bargle! Squirrel!

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  57. Rafer Janders says:

    @Grewgills:

    Come on man, it is well past time for you to ”cheerfully fess up and apologize”

    Ah, but a sociopath with narcissistic personality disorder CAN’T “cheerfully fess up and apologize.” It would put a crack in his carefully constructed veneer, and he can’t have that.

    If only he’d cheerfully fess up and apologize, I suppose it would be proof that he wasn’t a narcissistic sociopath….but that’ll never happen….

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  58. Matt Bernius says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Well, not really odd; I’ve noticed a decided lack of respect for diversity of opinion.

    As usual you miss the forrest for the trees. The lack of respect isn’t based on the diversity of your opinions — it’s based on all of the fundamentally inaccurate evidence you based your opinions on. Further, it’s exacerbated by your inability to accept how bad your evidence is when counter evidence is presented.

    Case and point:

    I’d already cited an example with individual people — the early days of the Jamestown colony [to prove socalization of the commons doesn't work].

    First, you never specifically mentioned which of the two major colonies you were discussing. I assumed it was the Plymouth colony (since the charge of socialism works slightly better there).

    The issue is that you are repeating *a legend* popularized by David Boaz, a non-historian writing a popular and not particularly well researched article at the Cato institute (and rewritten by conservative bloggers countless times) — as any historian of the Jamestown colony and early American colonization would tell you.

    The polemic skips over countless *historical facts* (including that the near failure of the colony had more to do with bad management and countless deaths from MALARIA than property rights, and that the success of the Jamestown colony had far more to do with the “discovery” and sudden popularity of tobacco than anything else).

    It also imagines the first versions of the Jamestown colony as some type of social experiment in communism (missing the fact that it was a “corporate” experiment and from the beginning founded as a for-profit enterprise). It never was intended to be a communal exercise and to the degree it was initially communal, it was because almost all successful colonies were/are initially communal.

    It also tends to put forward John Smith’s reciting of the biblical passage “if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians: 3) as proof! that this was an anti-socialist approach. What this misses are three critical things:

    1. Smith’s words were the following caveat: “(except by sickness he be disabled)” suggesting that there was already a social safety net being put in place.

    2. John Smith enacted this principle IN 1609, *before* “the Starving” period when the colony almost failed and most of the population died.

    3. The phrase “if any would not work, neither should he eat” IS A CORNERSTONE OF SOCIALISM! Marx wrote variations of it in countless places. Likewise it was so important to Lenin (who often quoted it) that its enshrined in the FRIGGIN’ SOVIET CONSTITUTION (Article 12).

    So, the fact is, you chose a single polemic to back up your argument that isn’t historically accurate. This is a repeated pattern for you (see all the junk science you put forward on Climate Change, your lack of understand of world religions, and countless other topics* where you *get it wrong* and never seem to be able to admit it).

    Of course, none of this would be *that frustrating* if people didn’t patiently point out *why your evidence* is wrong to you only to have you, a few comment threads later, post the same incorrect facts.

    That ongoing pattern suggest one of three things:
    a. you are stupid (which frankly I don’t believe)
    b. you are intentionally lying (i.e. know what you are saying is wrong but continue to post it as fact)
    c. you are so intellectually insecure that you refuse to examine anything that might shake your partisan based world view

    My personal vote is “c” btw.

    —-

    * – For the record, there are topics that it clearly seems that you know what you are talking about (military facts generally speaking is one). I’m not saying you don’t know anything — just that there’s a lot you continually get wrong despite multiple corrections.

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  59. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    One of the earliest American colonies tried an early form of socialsim, and they nearly died out.

    That failure of collectivism explains why the Quakers, the Mennonites, and the Amish failed so miserably leaving almost no trace.

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