The release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a captive of Islamist extremists for almost five years, is good news not only for his family but for all Americans. But the price the Obama administration paid for the 28-year-old soldier's repatriation was freedom for five detainees at
Critics of the administration say that price was too high, and they make three other arguments: that the exchange violated a long-standing U.S. policy of refusing to negotiate with terrorists; that this country shouldn't negotiate with the Taliban because it might legitimize the group in Afghanistan; and finally, that the swift release of the detainees violated U.S. law. Most of these arguments are invalid or overstated.
Undoubtedly there is a risk in releasing the detainees. Sen.
What about the other objections?
The policy of refusing to negotiate with terrorists has been honored as much in the breach as in the observance; a notable example is the 1981 agreement with Iran that secured the release of 52 Americans who had been held hostage after the Iranian revolution. As for negotiations with the Taliban, the U.S. and its allies long have been open to the possibility of an agreement between the Afghan government and elements of the Taliban that would be willing to participate in the political process. In the meantime, the Taliban and the U.S. are in a state of war, and sometimes enemies exchange prisoners.
Critics are on sounder ground in arguing that the deal conflicts with a law requiring the secretary of Defense to give
Obama made a similar argument last year when he signed the