Edge of Chaos is a political podcast starring Joe Ryan and Neurotoxin. Its aim is to have a free-flowing discussion of news and current events that also examines the empirical outcomes of public policy, avoiding biases based on ideology and policy intentions. Listener discretion is both advised and encouraged.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Bergdahl Swap: Everything That's Wrong W/ Our Foreign Policy In A Single Case

"So the house is burning and the butane blames the spark
Both can't comprehend that I'm with neither,
But the fire's indifferent so while it may seem dark -
You fleas don't stand a chance so I side with her."

(Neurotoxin, Alienation, From the Poetic Compilation "A-PATHY".)

For once, I'm actually impressed that a relevant, consequential political issue is dominating public discourse; a welcome change from the kindergarten quarrels of "all you have is Benghazi" vs "stop blaming Bush Jr". However, while the quantity of coverage is somewhat hope-inspiring, its quality boils down to the same desperation of 2 political establishments with nothing to offer trying to appeal to disgruntled, independent voters in a lackluster election year - and failing miserably. Put simply, the Bergdahl case is all the policy belligerence, Constitution neglect, and tolerance of executive overreach of the last 13 years finally coming back to bite us in the ass as a country. Both major party establishments are equally and egregiously responsible for these policy failures, and an electorate that grasps this will become even more disillusioned with them, speeding up their already in progress electoral purge and general move toward nullification of Federalism. For this reason, both mainstream and social media are afire with propaganda designed to manipulate public opinion to blame one side or the other. While I wish them a quick but painful mutually assured demise, my mission here is to make you impervious to propaganda - so let's examine what is really happening beneath its despicable barrage:

Is Bergdahl A Deserter and/or Traitor? (The belligerence factor.)

WE DON'T KNOW. There is not sufficient information to make these determinations. Desertion and treason are not just morally reprehensible behaviors - they are very serious crimes rightfully punishable by death. IF Bergdahl is in fact guilty of one or both of them, he deserves the appropriate legal repercussions. Conscientious objection while on deployment is a ludicrous idea, both because our service members enlist voluntarily, and because it endangers the lives of other service members and destroys the collective morale necessary for an effective military. However, I hold the old world belief that he should be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a trial or military tribunal. You know, where evidence is presented, witnesses are subpoenaed and their accounts are taken under oath and penalty of perjury, he has the right to be represented by an attorney - all those RIGHTS guaranteed to any citizen accused of a crime.

I revel in the discomfort of political propagandists as I insist on this. The memes and catchphrases thrown together from selective name drops and declarations is not worth dried dogshit as evidence; and every idiot making and spreading these is responsible for the decay of a justice system founded on presumption of innocence. I'm as emotional as anyone about combat casualties and the seriousness of the allegations against Bergdahl, but I REFUSE to surrender my Constitutional protections to calm the anxiety of immature, impatient mobs being manipulated by a Republican establishment desperate to link Obama to treason. The same public hysteria inspired by "no time to wait for conclusive evidence" arguments ushered in the Patriot Act, the invasion of Iraq in search of WMD the government had 0 evidence was there, AND the passage of Obamacare; so I unapologetically spit in the face of anyone advocating for more of it. Grow up and think critically, or be treated as a propaganda tool that must be neutralized. My incivility is self-defense against your assault on my civil liberties, and your hypocritical accusations are music to my ears.

Is Anyone Involved An Actual POW? (The Constitution neglect factor.)

THIS question ought to be central to the debate, but both sides are desperately downplaying it because it is so horridly inconvenient. The problem here is that the Taliban is a private international organization - NOT a government - and we lack a legal framework for dealing with such organizations. When our policymakers encounter a situation like this, it is their responsibility to develop such a framework, and one that fits into the bounds and restraints prescribed by the US Constitution. Instead, both Bush Jr's administration and Obama's have abjectly neglected this responsibility. They have used obsolete frameworks because these served their short-term political agendas, justifying themselves with the same hysteria-baiting rhetoric described in the last section. In doing so, both have enabled the Taliban and endangered the US Constitution.

Bush Jr. went to war against the Taliban knowing full well it was a private organization. He then rounded up 1000s of combatants fighting for it, slapped on them the highly adaptable label "terrorist", tortured them trying to extract LIES about WMD in Iraq, and proceeded to lock them up indefinitely. When it became convenient to remember the Taliban was a non-State actor, he justified these actions by cherrypicking the fact that it was not party to the compacts and treaties that define POWs. While I agree, where was that realization when we went to war against them? Because the pressures that exist on any government like compliant constituencies and tax revenue don't exist for the Taliban - it remains intact and battle-ready despite us technically having won a war a against it. This IS Bush's fault, he should have thought about it before treating them like a government.

When Obama inherited this clusterfuck, it was his responsibility as President to fix it. In fact, many younger voters supported him over Hillary and Edwards because they believed he would. Instead, he let it sit on the shelf for 6 years because it was too politically volatile. Now he is repeating Bush Jr's mistake of treating the Taliban as a government - only for the purposes of negotiation rather than war. THAT is the purpose of suddenly, conveniently labeling both sides' detainees as POWs; to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table as we prepare for our final withdrawal from Afghanistan. Needless to say, because the pressures that exist for governments don't apply to the Taliban, this will not work. The Taliban has 0 incentive to follow the terms of any agreement that is reached, and within a year they will lynch Karzai (who is a crook, a murderer, and deserves it) and take Afghanistan to its pre-2002 state. That, in turn, makes releasing their high level officials dangerous and stupid, and the prospect of the corrupt and double-dealing Qatari government supervising them is a colossal insult to Americans' intelligence. The aftermath of this, a powerful Taliban back in control of Afghanistan boasting a 2-0 score against superpowers WILL be Obama's fault - he inherited many mistakes but he had plenty of opportunity to address them and failed to do so.

I love to break Neocon hearts by pointing this out; but legal frameworks are not just convenient luxuries we can afford in times of peace and prosperity. They are necessities to keep the government on task and within the bounds of the Constitution; and without them it will neglect both responsibilities to serve special interests and enable our enemies. In this particular case, the reason we shouldn't negotiate with the Taliban isn't that it's morally wrong; our government has NEVER had a problem with morally wrong. We shouldn't negotiate with them because it's doomed to fail, and emphatic claims that we don't have time to develop a better alternative or any other concoction of emotional distractions in no way negate that reality. Hence, anyone defending Obama's foreign policy decisions with these Straw Men is contributing to enabling the Taliban, and I will unapologetically disregard civility in using my organizer skills to expose their ignorance and deny them a captive audience. When your ignorance is a personal attack, my aggressive exposition is self-defense for which I will not apologize; deal with it.

Labels Notwithstanding, Does Obama Have the Authority To Swap Bergdahl? (The overreach factor.)

No. Plain and simple. Remember when Joe laughed at the simple-mindedness of Americans who believed Obama's excuse for the powers granted him by the NDAA? "I'd never actually use it!" Well, here he is overstepping even the authority that completely unconstitutional legislation grants him. The 30 days notification of Congress clause was openly and admittedly neglected, and neither Obama nor any of his associates have even made a significant effort to justify this. Hagel, Carney, and others are lazily making up excuses that will barely convince even the most dedicated and thought-challenged Obama-zombies, counting on a newly developed culture that grudgingly accepts the executive branch acting unilaterally.

THIS CULTURE, not the status of some confused soldier that went AWOL in Afghanistan or attempts to negotiate with a private criminal organization as if it were a government, is the greatest threat to this country. It is the invariable product of swallowing propaganda as if it were fact and accepting the government's authority on faith in its intentions rather than demanding it produce evidence and remain within the bounds of the Constitution. I was talking about the dangers of this mentality on September 12, 2001, and now I proudly declare "I WAS RIGHT, AND THE HYSTERICAL CIRCUS THAT GAVE BUSH JR. HIS 95% APPROVAL RATING THAT DAY WAS WRONG".

So, We're Completely Screwed?

Not necessarily. The pendulum seems to be swinging in the other direction. Despite the propaganda on both sides being well-funded and acting as effigies for each other to eclipse third alternatives; independent voter registrations continue to hit new records and neither party appears to have any hope of accomplishing the political hegemony Republicans held 2002-6 and Democrats held 2008-10. Even the wave of Republican victories we witnessed in 2010 has fizzled out because many in the Tea Party have failed to stick to their electoral promises, instead negotiating with the GOP establishment and trying to advance obsolete issues like homophobia. What all this constitutes is an overall distrust for government from all sides, resulting directly from this chain of broken promises, neglected responsibilities, and overreach from all sides.

Coupled with and perpetuating the hopeless deadlock in DC, this effect will eventually kill the Federal government as we know it. As I predicted 3-4 years ago, nullification is now everywhere - from legalized recreational cannabis to Cliven Bundy to the myriad of social service alternatives rising up all over the country as Federal funding dries up. It's only a matter of time before the lack of resources reaches foreign policy and law enforcement, before there is no one to answer a belligerent President's call for a victimless citizen's arrest or a negotiation with a dangerous foreign entity. The United States' #1 advantage has always been our geographic location - a resource-plentiful land that is very far removed from the majority of foreign threats - and my hope is that this advantage can carry us through the coming re-alignment. The world is falling into chaos with the violent crises in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Nigeria, Ukraine, Viet Nam, Thailand, the CAR, and a myriad of other places, as well as the looming political disintegration of the EU, Russian Federation, and perhaps even China. As long as we rediscover non-intervention, they're likely to all be too busy killing each other to reach us even if they hate us - which is EXACTLY how Thomas Jefferson envisioned it.


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