Afghanistan

It Should Have Been Easier for Bowe Bergdahl to Quit the Military

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Bowe Bergdahl
U.S. Army

I'm generally sympathetic to those who are resistant to military discipline. My own family's un-glorious history with the U.S. military is rife with demotions, insubordination, and a generally disdainful attitude toward anything framed more firmly than a friendly suggestion. So I extend the benefit of the doubt to Bowe Bergdahl, who appears to have had a crisis of conscience during his service in Afghanistan, while recognizing that he was a volunteer—unlike say, Eddie Slovik, who was murdered by the U.S. government for refusing to fight as a conscript in a war he wanted no part of.

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.

We don't know that's what happened in Bergdahl's case. But the whole controversy, including the exchange of potentially dangerous detainees for one guy who wanted to quit, might have been avoided if there was an easy way out of military service for people who develop moral objections, or simply burn out, during the life-and-death conflicts in which they find themselves.

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  1. Oh man, I can’t wait for the comments to come pouring in.

    1. I dread them yet can’t look away.

    2. tried to make a similar argument (albeit poorly) when this first came out and I got a bunch of “but but but the contractz!?!”. Thought that was strange for Reason.

      1. “The contract” is valid, but not the issue here. No contract is absolute. One can always walk away from it. There is no DEATH penalty, but there is a price to be paid. Tucille raised a good point, but most squawkers here ignore the context, which was the trade.

        We might agree that Bergdahl had a moral right to walk away, but that would absolve the government of any responsibility or obligation to see his freedom. In effect, Obama’s supporters claim Bergdahl deserves the protection of a contract HE WALKED AWAY FROM. He is the one who broke the contract, so he has no claim to its protection.

        1. sure, I agree. And I think he deserted and should be punished. But if you retain your free will- like I think you do- after signing a contract, we have to wonder where the “acceptable” line is.

          I wouldn’t have deserted. And certainly the men who died looking for him are damages that he caused. For that he has to answer. But if he just walked off and said fuck it, then I guess he exercised his free will.

          Contract rights are key, but I have a hard time ith contracts that have no means to dissolve them, or provide no avenue for amending. Marriage contracts are “forever”, and mortgages are for a set period- but you can still get out of those without being shot.

          1. Contracts that aren’t morally valid aren’t valid themselves. Ergo a contract to kill 3rd parties unrelated to the contract, is not enforceable or legitimate.

            1. probably, but there is no coercion in signing a miliatry contract. Fraud, haha perhaps- recruiters are bastards. But with the AVF, we can’t really stand on the moral claim at the time of the initial signing.

              1. my problem is when people (libertarians even!) add the social contract element into the argument. “but but but the military contract is different than a job contract because ‘murca, freedom bald eagles etc.

                If, as an individual, you decide to no longer associate with your unit or do that job- or to the wars that the State is conducting- and if fundamentally, you own yourself , then you CAN do that. HOWEVER, that also entails that the State owes you no promise of safety from the Taliban.

                1. my problem is when people (libertarians even!) add the social contract element into the argument. “but but but the military contract is different than a job contract because ‘murca, freedom bald eagles etc.

                  Which, it should be pointed out, literally NO ONE did in the last discussion of the subject to which you are referring, even though you kept bringing it up and insisting that it was somehow relevant.

  2. It doesn’t matter if you had moral qualms, you voluntarily signed a contract, stating that for at least 8 years the Military owns your ass.

    1. Fuck that.

      You get married for *life* and you can still get out of that contract.

      1. But your wife doesn’t spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on training you that will be lost if you divorce her before your contract is up.

        Military service is hard. You know that signing up, and you gotta gut your way through it.

        1. Then hold them responsible for such damages, but not specific performance

        2. I spent tens of thousands paying for my x-wife’s CPA & MBA. And then I tossed her ass out, which cost tens of thousands more.

          1. Gangsta!

        3. Private businesses already have a way of dealing with that with their employees.

          Its usually mandating a minimum employment time and performance standard. Failure to adhere to it puts you on the hook for a pro-rated (at the least) reimbursement of the training costs.

          It does not involve the threat of jail or execution if you choose to terminate your employment early.

      2. Should be easier to get out of your student loan, an underwater mortgage, a contract to build a guy a house in the middle of construction, to fire a contracted employee by the employer breaking the contract….

        NAP, “I own myself”, right?

        1. Like any property, you can sell it in whole or in part for definite or indefinite terms.

          I definitely think it was wrong to forbid indentured servitude, not least of all because the government gets a special unwritten exception to the rule.

      3. You get married for *life* and you can still get out of that contract.

        But it costs you. Unless you married up, then it’s a payday.

      4. And btw, only religious people get “married for life”. The rest of us? Not so much.

    2. That sounds a lot like indentured servitude. The enlistee who wants to breach their contract should have to face damages, but specific performance is problematic.

      1. They are signing a specific performance contract. And the penalties for non-performance are clearly spelled out to them before they sign it.

        Sorry, but we have a 100% volunteer force. I have zero sympathy for any of them that want out after the fact barring their refusal to follow an illegal order.

        Maybe if more people read the contract before signing it, our military would shrink to the size where these wars wouldn’t be so fucking easy for our leaders to entangle us in.

        1. Or if we stopped dangling fake candy in front of stupid high schoolers like LIFETIME HEALTHCARE, FREE COLLAGE, JOB TRAINING.

          The military exists to kill people in other countries. Be honest about it and you may get a smaller YET more dedicated volunteer force.

          1. or college

            Either one, some kids go for art class.

    3. And the punishment for breach of contract is generally not specific performance, but rather economic damages.

      1. If the punishment for not honoring a contract you didn’t even sign is imprisonment (see: Snipes, Wesley), then specific performance contracts to enter military service with imprisonment as a consequence for breach are perfectly acceptable.

        1. So you’re defending this by pointing to the jailing if those who don’t pay their taxes?

          1. No, I’m just pointing out that if our government can legally jail someone for not honoring an unsigned contract that is IMPOSED upon a citizen, then they sure as he’ll ought to be able to enforce a contract a citizen willingly entered into that places them in jail for violating it’s very explicit terms.

    4. It doesn’t matter if you had moral qualms, you voluntarily signed a contract, stating that for at least 8 years the Military owns your ass.

      A contract to murder and violate the rights of others is not a valid contract. The validity of a contract is dependent in part, on the morality of it’s content.

      1. There is nothing in the NAP nor libertarian philosophic (nor even AnCap) principles that would call a voluntary protective service contract and immoral.

        1. Keyword: protective.

  3. Confession – did not read article.

    But my reaction to the headline was instantaneous =

    “Making it harder to join; or at least clearer what the terms and consequences are, makes more sense than making it easier to quit”

    The other reaction was, ‘is it really that hard to shoot your own foot’?

    1. Probably ^This.

    2. And what, end up at a VA hospital?

    3. Its hard to shoot your own foot, make it not look like you shot your own foot, have your story survive the investigation into how your foot got shot, and injure yourself sufficiently to actually get sent home instead of a light-work job somewhere else in theater.

      1. “Agammamon|6.5.14 @ 4:13PM|#

        Its hard to shoot your own foot, make it not look like you shot your own foot

        Who said anything about the latter? shoot away, go to jail.

    4. Now i’ve read the article, and my reaction is exactly the same.

      Making it ‘easier to quit’ is absurd and insane and would make the concept of the ‘All Volunteer Force’ completely untenable.

      I’d switch to a John T Reed-style support for the fucking draft first.

      No – actually i wouldn’t = i’d simply demand what I said above: make it harder to get in, and the requirements/penalties/consequences etc. clear as day. We’d have to make due with a smaller armed force, but the fact is we probaly don’t need a million active duty personnel anyway.

      1. Shouldn’t the benefits that come with completing one’s contract be the sticking point for a volunteer army, rather than the penalties for changing one’s mind?

        By all means, yank the objector’s bennies and charge him for the flight home. But calling a commitment enforced under legal duress “voluntary” is no better than the “choice” to forego coverage under the ACA.

        1. you completely gloss over the fact that people volunteer to join the military and are provided full clarity of what will be required.

          Do you also think people should be free to stop paying their college bills if it turns out their Masters Degree in Puppetry isn’t a ticket to superstardom?

          1. The difference being that I can change my mind midway through my master’s and escape with just the debt I’ve already incurred. I’m not locked in for the full term, nor the full bill.

            Of course, having done so I forfeit the diploma and the title. Just as an objector would forfeit his pay and benefits if he discharges early (pun potentially intended).

          2. and are provided full clarity of what will be required.

            That’s a crock.

        2. This guy joined while the war was in full swing. He knew exactly what he was getting into. And don’t forget, this same dumbass went to France and tried to join the French Foreign Legion. He thought it all looked like great fun and when he found out that there were very few giggles involved he became disillusioned. No excuse.

          1. So you put someone in the predicament of objecting to his circumstance and being unable to do anything about it, other than, apparently, shut up and nut up.

            And then we’re surprised he does something blitheringly stupid like wander out into the desert and get captured.

            (Do bear in mind, I’m not defending Bergdahl nor taking a stance on whether this man deserves to be tried for desertion.)

          2. He didn’t just enlist during wartime – he volunteered for the Airborne Infantry – a move that pretty well guaranteed he would be in combat.

            Want the military benefits without getting shot at? Sign up for Air Force logistics. Want to fight on the front lines or behind them – go Airborne!

            1. Is having a volunteer military that really doesn’t want to be there really good for the military?

          3. He knew exactly what he was getting into.

            We already know the government is completely full of shit and the media is complicit.

            How could anyone know EXACTLY what he was getting into? Signing up is pretty much proof that he didn’t know exactly what he was getting into.

            1. Signing up is pretty much proof that he didn’t know exactly what he was getting into.

              Well then by all means let’s infantilize society even further and void all military contracts. Fucking seriously?

      2. Making it ‘easier to quit’ is absurd and insane and would make the concept of the ‘All Volunteer Force’ completely untenable.

        Why? Every other employer has no problem maintaining an “all volunteer workforce” despite it being easy to quit.

        The only way this could be true is if a significant percentage of soldiers, once they get in, consider themselves to have been conned and only remain because of the threat of legal sanction. I don’t think that’s actually true, but if it is, that makes it even MORE important to make it easier to quit.

        1. “Every other employer has no problem maintaining an “all volunteer workforce” despite it being easy to quit.

          Every other job does not have you risking your life for shit pay.

          Your comparison is completely specious. People aren’t joining the fucking Peace Corps. They know what is expected when they join.

          1. Bullshit. There’s plenty of dangerous jobs that get crappy pay. And yet we manage to find night clerks for convenience stores without chaining them to the cash registers.

            Hell, where I live, we have a volunteer fire department. So there’s apparently a significant pool of people that will do a dangerous job for free!

          2. You argument is useless and morally irrelevent .. unless breach of contract is punishable by death.

            No contracts are absolute. None. But breaking them does demand a price which varies with the type of contract. And breach of contact is rarely a crime, mostly a civil matter, ever since we outlawed debtor’s prisons.

            Tucille is at fault for making his point sloppily. His premise seems to assume that Obama had a right (or obligation), though questionable, which would not exist if Bergdahl had some right to walk away.

            No, Bergdahl committed a breech of contract. We might debate what he forfeits by doing so, but he cannot claim the protection of a contract he has refused to honor. He has every right to seek an amendment to his contract, but BOTH parties must agree.

            Let’s keep the focus where it belongs — yet another Obama screwup, and ignore most of the blather in these comments.

    5. Deliberately injuring oneself to render oneself unfit for duty is a crime in the UCMJ.

      (2) Intentional self-inflicted injury in time of war or in a hostile fire pay zone. Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 5 years.

      1. I know.

        So is abandoning your post and going AWOL.

        i think shooting yourself is actually the ‘less harmful to others’ route.

    6. Saying it should be “harder to join” is saying that people are somehow not really responsible for their actions. You have to sign a contract and go take a physical and do a bunch of other things. It is not like people get drunk one night and find themselves kidnapped by a press gang or its like getting a tattoo.

      This whole thing is just a good example of the douche bag class snobery at reason. Reason is all for personal responsibility. They totally would be for holding people to their debts or any other contract. But when it comes to the military people like JD and Richman just can’t help but think anyone who joined the military must just be such a stupid sub human that we really can’t consider their consent valid or their oath something we could hold them to. That is really all it is. And they can both go fuck themselves as far as I am concerned.

      1. “John|6.5.14 @ 4:18PM|#

        Saying it should be “harder to join” is saying that people are somehow not really responsible for their actions.

        I get where you’re coming from, but you have to be aware of the stories of the predatory recruiting done in the last decade.

        Meaning, they took fatties, mentally unfit, people with minor criminal backgrounds, emotionally unstable, etc. all to hit recruiting numbers.

        The fact we got a lot of suicides and walkers like Berghdal is partly the consequence of that.

        I agree with everything you say in theory – and I object entirely to this idea of ‘making it easier to quit’. but what counter proposal can one have other than ‘make sure they ARE responsible for their own decisions’?

        1. Wars suck. You always get deserters and suicides and such. And the military “suicide problem” was actually a myth. The military was just ahead of the curve. Its suicide rate went up but then within a couple of years the civilian rates caught up too. This generation just seems to be doing that more.

          And yes, recruiters are generally scumbags. But everyone who joins is still an adult. It is not like anyone who joins doesn’t know what is involved or has any real excuse not to know.

          1. You don’t address the point that many people recruited have been later determined unfit to serve.

            My comment was that if they did their recruiting jobs properly, that this shouldn’t be an issue.

            1. If someone is unfit, then the military owes it to itself to get rid of them. But this guy didn’t seem to be unfit, he just got tried of it and wanted to go home.

              IF he were retarded or sick or something or some kind of deviant, I would agree with you. But he wasn’t.

            2. He volunteered for the Airborne Infantry. He wanted combat and had to pass extra tests and training to qualify for the Airborne.

              It’s not like was some truck driver stuck on the front lines.

        2. Remove “fatties” and “people with minor criminal backgrounds” from your diatribe and I’ll probably agree with you.

          1. The Army has indeed had problems with “Fatties”

            “Fifteen times more troops were discharged from the US Army this year due to obesity than five years prior. With scores of recruits unfit to serve due to the extra pounds, the country’s top brass have deemed it a national security concern.

            ?…During the last 10 months alone, 1,625 troops were dismissed from the US army due to being overweight, the Washington Post reported. Over the last 15 years, the figures of obese people actively serving more than tripled. Armed Forces Health reported that in 2010, 86,186 servicemen (5.3 per cent of the military) had at least one obesity-related diagnosis.”

            And crooks too

            ” February 14, 2007

            WASHINGTON ? More recruits with criminal records, including felony convictions, are being allowed to join the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, as the armed services cope with a dwindling pool of volunteers during wartime.

            The military routinely grants waivers to take in recruits who have criminal records, medical problems or low aptitude scores that would otherwise disqualify them from service. Most are moral waivers, which include some felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic and drug offenses”

            1. The same government calling them obese that uses BMI as a measuring stick?

              Either way, fat people should still be able to sign up.just look at Dewey Oxburger. He turned into a lean, mean fighting machine.

              And sure, there letting a lot more people with minor criminal records in. I’m sure there’s a lot,of overlap in that group with the black kids from inner cities that are subjected to random searches, bullshit charges and malicious prosecutions with piss-poor public defenders as counsel. I doubt we’re letting rapists in in lieu of jail.

      2. Good one. I think the military’s top down, frankly fascist, nature bothers them. But it’s a fascist organization you volunteer to join. Shouldn’t that be ok, too?

      3. The US soldiers are children:

        “As commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, I am responsible for those kids, and I get letters from parents who say, ‘If you are in fact sending my child to war, make sure that child is being taken care of,'” he told reporters in Belgium.

        “The American people understand that this is somebody’s child, and that we don’t condition whether or not we make that effort to try to get them back,” said Obama.

        1. Obama views them as His children as he views himself as their Father.

  4. JD if your family is so fucking stupid that they joined the military and then were shocked that that meant doing what they told you, I don’t know what to tell you other than I am glad you all are at least smart enough to feed yourselves and live in an unsupervised environment.

    No, it shouldn’t have been easier for him to leave. There is nothing to be sympathetic about this guy. There are literally tens of thousands of people who have made unimaginable sacrifices and endured all kinds of personal misery and didn’t just walk away. There are people who are over there right now whose kids’ are sick or who are on their fifth or sixth tour. There are people that have a hundred times more reason to walk away than this loser did and don’t.

    Just stop it with this shit. If you think trading for this guy’s release was a good idea, make your case. But stop it with the “but it was okay for him to walk away and not tell anyone and make people risk their lives to try and find him” bullshit. This is why people call Reason cosmotarians and leftists posing for a paycheck. This is why people sometimes laugh at reason and don’t take it seriously. Please stop confirming their stereotypes.

    1. If you would step back from your knee jerk authoritarian military worship and actually read the article you might see that the author calls just walking off foolish

      1. If you would just step back and bother to think rather than engaging in knee jerk idiocy, you would see there was nothing positive or negative about the military in my post. All I am saying is that people know the rules and ought to be held to them. That says nothing about whether joining is a good idea or if the military is good or bad. It is about personal autonomy and responsibility.

        If you hate the military, don’t join. But even if you do, don’t pretend that those who do join are somehow victims or not responsible for their decision to do so.

        1. As has been pointed out by many here, forced specific performance of a contract of years just might not be as obviously part of personal autonomy as you keep declaring

          1. It is if I agree to allow you to use force to enforce that contract when I sign it. They tell you upfront once you sign you can’t get out of the contract without going to jail. If you agree to that, you can’t them complain when those terms are enforced on you.

            Again, if you don’t like that, don’t sign the contract.

            1. In other words, consent cannot be revoked once freely given?

              1. You’re free to quit anytime you want. The consequences are just harsh. I’d be willing to bet this fuckup probably wishes he’d gone home to a court martial and a stint in an American facility rather than spend 5 years as a Taliban hostage.

    2. He should have just shit his pants for a week to prove he was crazy like your Team Red pal Ted Nugent did.

      1. Apparently the bot is broken today. It can’t even figure out what the topic is.

        1. And he confuses Nugent avoiding the draft (which I don’t think either of us are upset about) with Bergdahl blowing off his freely-obligated to duty.

      2. You’re the same fuckhead that equated the five Taliban commanders that were traded for him to the 400 people we have released so far that weren’t even deemed dangerous, let alone high risk. You also said you were fine with Obama murdering Americans without criminally charging them yet you said we had to let these assholes go for,the same reason.

        You need to go off and die in a cave.

        1. Your silence is noted, asshole.

    3. “There is nothing to be sympathetic about this guy. There are literally tens of thousands of people who have made unimaginable sacrifices and endured all kinds of personal misery and didn’t just walk away. There are people who are over there right now whose kids’ are sick or who are on their fifth or sixth tour. There are people that have a hundred times more reason to walk away than this loser did and don’t.”

      So anyone who can’t “hack” the “unimaginable” or endure “personal misery” is a loser. Got it.

      1. Someone who signs a contract and then breaks it because they don’t like the terms and walks off, is a loser, yes. Again, he knew the rules, why should he be able to duck the consequences of his decision?

        1. You keep saying this, and we keep telling you that specific personal performance is not required in other contractual situations, for reasons that apply to the military context as well, if not more

          1. It is not required in those other contracts because it is not part of the agreement. Beyond that, even if it were, a private business doesn’t have the authority to jail someone like the government does. Could we make breaking a contract a crime? Yes. There used to be debtor’s prisons and there could be again. We throw people in jail for failure to pay child support all of the time. And that is just failing to meet your agreement with your spouse.

            Yes, you can say that people are unable to contract away their freedom. That position, however, is not very libertarian. One of the main gripes about Libertarians is that many Libertarian thinkers endorse the freedom of contract to such an extent they endorse indentured servitude where it is entered into voluntarily.

            Reason forgets all of that when it comes to the military.

            1. It is not required in those other contracts because it is not part of the agreement.

              It’s not required in those other contracts because such a contract would not be enforcable for anybody else.

            2. Its not in those other contracts because no judge in the country would enforce those provision.

              We made voluntary servitude and selling yourself into slavery illegal in this country.

              1. It’s not required in those other contracts because such a contract would not be enforcable for anybody else.

                Its not in those other contracts because no judge in the country would enforce those provision.

                And you both see that as a good thing? That people have been stripped of the ability to freely contract on any terms found mutually agreeable by the parties? Sounds pretty fucked up to me. Freedom means the state limiting the consequences of welching on an agreement?

          2. “and we keep telling you”

            You got a turd in your pocket?

        2. “Someone who signs a contract and then breaks it because they don’t like the terms and walks off, is a loser, yes.”

          Really? So you’ve never failed to meet an obligation? Not even once?

          “Again, he knew the rules, why should he be able to duck the consequences of his decision?”

          Where did I say he should?

          1. Not all obligations are equal. Failing in really big and important obligations is pretty much the definition of “loser”.

            1. Exactly. As you said yourself, the person who sign this particular contract risks having to make unimaginable sacrifices and may edure all kinds of personal mistery, yet if you back out, your a loser.

              Nice logic.

        3. I interpreted DJ’s article only to say that it *should* be easier to quit. Not to say that Bergdahl shouldn’t be held responsible, or that walking off was a good idea or even permissible.

          1. Entirely this.

            “X could have been avoided given Z.”

            “I can’t believe you’d suggest X was appropriate or acceptable!”

        4. He volunteered for the Army, THEN he volunteered for Airborne.

          If at some point in training he said he didn’t want to be in the Airborne, he wouldn’t have been a Paratrooper. That simple.

          He might have ended up in a regular Infantry unit, or they might have made him a cook.

  5. I think we should send the really motivated off to wars.

    So anyone who has written an editorial or been on a talk show or stood up on the floor of congress in favor of the war should be first in line to go fight it. Lets send our truly dedicated to fight our wars.

    1. Asinine. What a great example of UNreason.

      With your amazing intellectual firepower, you should run off right now and join Code Pink.

      1. Why not send our most dedicated to the war? If its important enough to have a war should we send our most dedicated?

        1. If you knowingly sign on the dotted line during a time of war, you’re already dedicated…to something.

    2. I’m good with that. Let’s hand Thomas Friedman and John McCain a rifle and send them off to Iraq.

  6. The military should be like any other employer (including all other government agencies): If you can’t hack it or don’t like it, you turn in your gear and walk out. It is unconscionable that the government is able to imprison people for the crime of quitting a job.

    1. Except that, in instances where a breakdown in unit cohesion can cost the life of everyone in the unit, the ability to “just quit” on a whim would end up costing more lives.

      Why couldn’t they just move this guy to the rear with gear?

      1. How many guys are they going to move into the rear? If they start with that then you may as well let the fuckers out, since eventually *every* disgruntled grunt is going to want to go.

        1. This is a volunteer Army. Most people know what they are getting into. It should not be impossible to give this guy some duty in Supply or whatever, where he can’t do the damage he did. There are lots and lots of slots in the Army that don’t involve face-to-face contact with the enemy. I doubt if making that an option is going to cause multitudes of soldiers to want to avoid the front lines for a desk job.

          1. And that would destroy morale so quickly you may as well just send them home.

            Nobody manning a fighting position at 0200 after a full day of work is going to be happy that the platoon shitbag got easy duty.

          2. Most people know what they are getting into.

            While I somewhat agree, did anyone in 2001 think we’d STILL be in combat in Afghanistan in 2014?

            This is unprecedented US government fuckup we’re talking about.

            1. Unless he signed up in 2000 he should have had a pretty good idea since, despite what anyone might have predicted beforehand, it was, and remains, pretty common knowledge that we are still in a shooting war in Afghanistan.

        2. I don’t know. I suppose if these are isolated instances then it may not be much of a problem. But I don’t know that they are.

          1. They start out isolated – only the worst cases.

            But then the real shitbags see this as a way out (and still get paid) so they go.

            Then the slightly less shitbags start in.

            So on and so on.

      2. So the unit is more cohesive when it includes the guy who’s only there to avoid a stretch in Leavenworth?

        1. I don’t know. But a chain is only as strong as the weakest link. Some guys in a platoon will have more resolve than others – but if the weakest one can bolt from a fight without fear of consequence, won’t the one with the second weakest resolve be right behind him, and so on?

        2. I think the unit is most cohesive when the non-hackers are weeded out and sent to Leavenworth.

    2. I’m with this. ‘Desertion in the face of the enemy’ should be a serious crime, but if you don’t want to be there, don’t think the war you’re involved in is worth it – you should be free to walk away.

      To keep people from scamming education and crap, I’d say you get hit with a ‘can’t work in the same field’ order for a few years, and/or monetary compensation for the education you got (same as if a company pays for your training – they’ll often require you to work for them for a minimum period or have to pay part/all of the training costs back).

      1. Even without the publicity, he’s essentially got QUITTER on his record. That won’t stop him from finding work, but that employer that might need a few 60 hour weeks to get a serious problem solved isn’t going to want this guy. And those are usually the jobs that pay pretty decent.

    3. There is nothing unconscionable about it at all. If I want to agree to such terms, why can’t I? What is unconscionable is people like you robbing me of my agency and deciding what terms of contracts I can and cannot agree to and how much of MY personal sovereignty I can contract away.

      Go fuck yourself Hugh. I can sign any contract I like and I don’t need you or anyone else telling me I can’t. I will live with my decisions and you live with yours. Ok?

      1. I don’t think anyone here would argue that someone should be prohibited from signing a contract if they wish, but it is certainly within bounds for any of us to debate what the terms of that contract should be in regards to the US military.

        1. If you are saying “there should be certain bounds”, you are saying that I shouldn’t be able to sign any contract I like. If I want to sign a contract that says “serve four years in the military and face prison if you don’t”, why can’t I? Why would you say I can’t other than because you deny my agency to do so?

          1. The terms of the service contract are an area of legitimate debate. The right of someone to enter into that contract willingly is absolute.

            Does that clear it up for you?

            1. If I have an absolute right to enter into the contract, then they have the same right to offer me that contract. You can’t have one without the other.

              1. We have a civilian controlled military and a democratically elected government, so the question of what the terms of service contract SHOULD contain are absolutely up for debate.

            2. Sorry, DwT, but that sounds a lot like saying Stan has a right to have babies even if he can’t have babies,which is nobody’s fault, not even the Romans.

              1. As a polity with a military the members of that polity has a right to debate the terms that apply to that military service. Whatever the terms of that contract the right then for a member of the polity to enter freely into it is absolute. John and the Army are not to only parties to the discussion of the contract’s terms. That’s it. I haven’t even weighed in on one side or the other, just pointed out that “want to talk about the terms of service” =/= “wants to prohibit people from entering into the terms of service.”

                1. I was just making a joke because it sounded like you are saying john has a right to enter into any contract he negotiates with the government but we also have a right to determine what the parameters of that contract can be.

                  It just reminded me of that LoB bit.

          2. He is saying that the maybe the military should not offer such contracts. Not that you can’t sign them if they do.

            1. He is saying that the maybe the military should not offer such contracts.

              Why not? And saying they shouldn’t offer them is the same thing as saying I shouldn’t be able to sign them.

              1. Because if the military altered the contract to give people some sort of out other than prison, then people like Bergdahl could have taken it. And not put people’s lives at risk in the ensuing search effort. And not have even allowed for the possibility of a prisoner swap with the Taliban.

                And you are still able to sign the contract IF you can find a party to offer it. So it is not the same thing at all.

                And for the record, I’m not familiar enough with the military to say whether I agree with JD’s position. But I’m also not going to dismiss it out of hand.

                1. This

                2. Because if the military altered the contract to give people some sort of out other than prison, then people like Bergdahl could have taken it. And not put people’s lives at risk in the ensuing search effort. And not have even allowed for the possibility of a prisoner swap with the Taliban

                  The prospect of prison doesn’t remotely justify exposing others to risk and death. If you feel that morally strongly about your position, live the courage of your convictions, pull up your big boy pants, face your consequences, and throw yourself at the mercy of a jury or judge. Let’s not pretend like walking off in the middle of the night without telling anyone and getting people killed searching for you was the sole avenue available to a soldier with a crisis of conscience.

                3. There are already mechanisms in place in the military to accommodate someone who has decided that they can’t live up to their side of the contract and they don’t involve the abject cowardice of desertion. I had a buddy who decided that the Air Force in 1978 was just too tough to hack but instead of taking the legal way out he took off for Canada. He was picked up by the cops in Calgary and hauled back to the base where he got his wish. He was busted to AB and given a BCD. What a self-centered, thoughtless dick he was but at least no one died looking for his sorry ass.

                  I find it funny as fuck that a fair number posting on here about “should be able to get out of a contract if you don’t like it” are also posting shit in the student loan modification comments about how it’s just wrong to give someone an out of a legal contract when it’s their moral obligation to live up to the terms of that contract. Fucking hypocrites.

      2. What is unconscionable is people like you robbing me of my agency and deciding what terms of contracts I can and cannot agree to and how much of MY personal sovereignty I can contract away.

        This might be a good time to point out that you are on record here saying that a default one-size-fits-all marriage “contract” offer via license by the state is the optimal arrangement because people are too stupid to negotiate terms of a contract so complex. Just sayin.

    4. I assume you aren’t including the FBI in your list. Can’t leave them early without incurring some pretty steep financial penalties.

  7. Look, I’m a libertarian. I oppose compulsory service. It’s a violation of the 13th Amendment (don’t give a fuck that the courts have ruled otherwise) as well as any sense of individual freedom. What I’d be okay with is there being financial consequences for the breach of contract.

    If your wars aren’t justifiable enough to keep people from quitting during battles, maybe you shouldn’t have those wars?

    I know this is a little (and intentionally) naive, but that’s the way it should be.

    1. There’s nothing compulsory about VOLUNTARILY JOINING THE MILITARY. Everyone knew there were TWO WARS GOING ON.

      1. Please YELL LOUDER! Some of us in the back can’t here you

      2. Like I said, I know it’s not the way the world works, but why is the military magically different from everything else? I can quit my job.

        1. I suppose because, under certain circumstances, others could be harmed if you just quit.

          1. Ditto leaving an engineering job, or police/firefighter, doctor, etc.

        2. Because you can’t win a fight without unit cohesion. I’m not saying we should be fighting, but when you do fight it’s better to win than lose and you can’t win if the guys pulling triggers just decide they don’t like it and tender their resignation.

          1. I do, of course, understand all of this. But it doesn’t make the compulsion morally right. Just practical.

            1. It’s not even practical. One reason we don’t require personal performance in other areas is the compelled performer has incentive to do a barely adequate job. Do we really want that in a combat situation?

              1. There are other incentives in combat situations than the possibility of explaining to a bored civil court judge why you are slacking off.

                1. There is the not-getting-killed part.

              2. Not ideally, but there aren’t enough people of the proper quality to make all fighting units elite forces.

            2. What wins wars righteousness or practicality!? Huh?… Oh, I really don’t know.

              1. The same could be said about governments versus their own populations.

                1. I’m not necessarily against shutting down the military and the government if you’d accept that as a compromise.

                  1. Tempting. Can I have my own nuke in that scenario?

                    1. I imagine all of the Nukes will be up for homesteading, so sure… if you’re fast enough.

        3. I can quit my job.

          You can quit military service too. You guys really need to quit conflating the ability to quit with the ability to quit with no repercussions to yourself.

      3. THERE IS SOMETHING COMPULSORY ABOUT FORCING PEOPLE TO STAY IN WHEN THEY DON”T WANT TO.

        1. When you join the military, you sign an enlistment contract. Unless the contract says “quit when your mellow is harshed sufficiently,” following it is, yes, compulsory.

          1. how about a marriage? A mortgage?

            1. Those contracts are drawn up differently. Those both include options for exiting the contract. A state marriage license is not the same as a religious ceremony. It is a civil contract dealing with property and custody rights, along with certain end of life medical decisions. A mortgage is a loan agreement that spells out the consequences of early termination.

    2. Quitting during a battle is a serious offense and puts others at risk. Quitting at base probably not so much.

    3. But Pro, it is not compulsory if you voluntarily agree to the terms. You are making an argument against the draft. But that is not an argument against this. Why can’t I sign a contract that binds me at the cost of jail if I don’t perform? Who are you to tell me I can’t do that? Assuming I am not coerced, I should be free to do that. Saying otherwise doesn’t sound very libertarian to me.

      1. John now defends debtor prisons and indentured servitude in general. Wow

        1. Did he say that somewhere else on the thread? I’m not seeing it in this comment.

        2. John now defends debtor prisons and indentured servitude in general.

          If prison is spelled out in the contract as a penalty for breach, what libertarian objection is there?

          Indentured servitude, kind of the same question. I’d need to more about how it actually worked back in the day and why it was done away with, but at a high level, seems like you should be able to agree to it.

        3. John is correct, at least among some libertarians. “Mr. Libertarian” Walter Block has been defending “slave contracts” for some 40 years now.

        4. Nonsense. The point of enlistment is to ensure that the unit has a known number of troops for a given time. Part of what they are paying and training you for is the assurance that you will be there. An option to (easily) quit in the middle screws up the whole thing.

          If I hire a babysitter for four hours one evening, part of the implied contract is that she won’t get bored and bug out after an hour.

          1. Okay, so let’s say no quitting during combat. What about back at the base?

          2. Do you jail your babysitter if she calls you early in her shift saying she quits?

            1. Did she agree to the possibility prior?

              1. Not only that, but a babysitter who abandons a baby is liable for criminal prosecution.

            2. No. I let her make it up to me in a mutually satisfactory manner.

      2. If you do what Bergdahl is supposed to have done–just walked off–you can be imprisoned and, in some circumstances, executed. That’s compulsion.

        There’s the reality of the way things are, and I accept that, but it is compulsion of the highest order. For most other jobs, I can quit. There may be financial consequences for breaching a contract, but I can’t be legally killed or imprisoned.

        1. It is not compulsion. Bergdahl agreed to the rules. If you voluntarily agree to let them throw you in prison if you walk off, them throwing you in prison for doing so is not compulsion because you agreed to give them that power.

          1. Look, let’s not quibble. Of course it’s compulsion. Whether it was voluntarily entered into or not, the compulsion exists throughout your time served.

            As I’ve said a couple of times in this thread, I get why this happens and the reasoning about how it’s not practical the way the world is to drop this practice, but there’s no real argument that military service, once entered, is compulsory.

            1. How is this different from the “compulsion” inherent in any contract? You could just as well say that if someone hires me to produce a website, I am then “compelled” to hold up my part of the bargain.

              When you enlist, part of the deal is that the military tells you what to do for X years. It’s not even “involuntary servitude” because it’s voluntary.

              The only sensible way to deal with this issue, it seems to me, is to transfer people to jobs where they can’t do the damage this guy did.

              1. You know, I’m not defending Bergdahl with all of this. Sounds like a fuck-up who caused many people serious grief. I’m just thinking about the libertarian view of military service–is it consistent or moral to allow for physical compulsion to ensure such service?

            2. In a sense sure. But since it is compulsion that is voluntary consented to, it is not the same as something like the draft where you never consent to anything.

              When the bank takes my car payment out of my account every month, that is compulsion. I sure as hell don’t ask them to do it. But you can hardly call a car note “compulsion” in any meaningful sense.

              1. Yes, and we could take the slippery slope down that path, absolutely. But there is a difference. Contracts in the U.S. in the vast majority of cases involve potential financial consequences in the event of breach. So, yes, I can be compelled out of some of my money.

                Military service, on the other hand, involves the use of physical force (at least potentially), where I can be imprisoned or killed.

                Again, I’m just trying to view this through a purely libertarian morality and not addressing the practical realities (or Bergdahl at all).

            3. Call it compulsion then, that’s besides the point. Is it LibertarianKosher to sell oneself into servitude without being able to opt-out?

              This all comes down to what constitutes a valid contract.

            4. I’m thinking you should look up the word “voluntary”.

              1. You can’t voluntarily sell yourself? (If that wasn’t directed towards me, my apologies)

  8. it’s actually not hard to quit the military. just be lousy.

    1. On the other hand that is also frequently a way to get promoted as well, so there is a risk.

    2. Yeah, sure – if you want to quit when your hitch is up.

    3. That’s what was going say. I spent good deal of time in the Army just have bad attitude and you’re out, probably with a general discharge

    4. Being lousy is not a way out, I saw plenty of lousy in the military and they were not only not out, they got promoted.

      Smoking dope will get you out pretty quick and I guess these days saying something un PC will get you out too though it might take longer

      1. There you go. Just goose a female soldier and your problems with fighting the Taliban will go away, and seem mild in comparison.

  9. You can tell Obama is a White Sox fan. Always trading multiple guys in return for just one.

    1. That’s one thing I didn’t get. If these Taliban guys were important at all, why not Bergdahl and a hostage-to-be-named-later in exchange for one of them?

      Truly, this administration emits rays of incompetence.

      1. If these Taliban guys were important at all

        In fairness Gitmo and its prisoners are a liability to Obama and Dems.

        1. Then shut the shit down. This president thinks he can do anything, so why not just close the facility and send the prisoners home, if that’s what he wants to do?

          I heard a weird rumor that the president was toying with the idea of giving Guantanamo back to the Cubans.

        2. Just letting those prisoners go free is an even bigger liability.

          I’m shocked they didn’t drone-bomb them immediately after the exchange.

          THAT would have been a PR coup.

      2. why not Bergdahl and a hostage-to-be-named-later in exchange for one of them?

        they called his bluff, even though he specifically asked them not to.

      3. Right, exactly.

        Is this guy really worth five senior Taliban commanders? At least two of these people have credible war crimes allegations against them.

        We let these guys go free in exchange for ONE low-ranking soldier?

        And then you don’t tell congress because you’re probably afraid they won’t agree, and THEN you claim it’s because you were afraid the Taliban would shoot him. So what does that make you? A colloassal fucking coward maybe?

        1. I see no way the administration isn’t incompetent, stupid, vile, or all three in this.

          1. Certainly incompetent if they couldn’t negotiate their way down to maybe ONE senior Taliban commander.

        2. I think Obama is very possibly naive enough to think that if he does the Taliban a big favor, they’ll be easier to negotiate with.

          1. Or perhaps stupid enough to think that nobody would care about what happens to the terrorist scumbags in Guantanamo compared to the feelz they get off of the POW-homecoming mush.

            They fumbled this thing way worse than Pat Tillman or Jessica Lynch.

          2. I know I should be used to it by now, but the sheer ineptitude of this administration–seemingly almost everyone appointed or elected to it–is truly stunning. I mean, sure, I get the corruption and the total lack of concern about anything but politics–abhor but get–but this incompetence is at a level of nearly biblical proportions. You know, real wrath of God stuff.

            1. The sheer ineptitude of this administration is enough to make intelligent people not volunteer for the national service.

              Come to think of it, it’s been that way for 40 years.

              Still it’s hard to forgive someone like Bergdahl just because he finally stopped taking stupid-pills. I condone it, but I don’t congratulate it.

          3. “We’ve been going about this all wrong. This Mr. Stay Puft’s okay! He’s a sailor, he’s in New York; we get this guy laid, we won’t have any trouble!”

    2. Maybe Obama could hire Hawk Harrelson as his next Press Secretary and spare me the torture of listening to him when the Red Sox play in Chicago.

      1. How do you think we feel having to listen to him every game?!

        1. I’d rather be a Cubs fan, LTC!

          1. You go too far!

            *shakes White Sox banner at Restoras*

      2. I find all sports announcers insufferable. Yes, even Vin Scully.

        I watch sports with the sound off.

        1. Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow are responsible for me getting back into watching MLB when I moved to SF. Those guys can really bring you into the game. Of course it probably didn’t hurt that I was really high when I was watching those games (early 2000’s) and Barry Bonds was shattering rules and records…

    3. Especially since the 5 guys he traded away are starters and the guy he got belongs in the Rookie League.

  10. Would the military even exist (at least when things got hairy) if you could just up and quit like any other job?

    1. That’s the part where I was saying I was being naive. No, it wouldn’t work so well except in situations where the soldiers were very compelled (internally, I mean) to fight.

      There’s an argument, of course, that that’s the only time we should be fighting, but everyone wants to blow shit up in the name of something these days, so we don’t have those kinds of self-motivating wars.

    2. Athens stopped the Persians at Marathon…

      So yes it would still exist if history is any indicator.

      1. I reckon I should have said “modern military” however, weren’t slaves freed on the condition that they’d fight for Athens?

        1. yeah that is true.

          But looking at the what Herodotus said were the casualties i have a funny feeling that the brunt of the fighting was done by free men.

          it was like about 200 dead Greeks (freed slaves included) and 6000+ Persians.

          The success of the Greeks is mostly credited on the fact that they had good bronze and wood shields bronze and iron scale armor and ash wood iron tipped spears going up against the Persians who depended mostly on slings and bows and were lightly armored…that kind of gear was only owned by fairly rich people not slaves and it was unlikely the freed slaves were given that kind of gear before the battle.

          1. that kind of gear was only owned by fairly rich people not slaves and it was unlikely the freed slaves were given that kind of gear before the battle.

            Yeah, a freed slave wouldn’t have that gear at all, for the reasons you stated–plus the need to maintain unit cohesion in the phalanx, which is harder to accomplish for someone that may not have been in a toe-to-toe battle before.

            Any freed Athenian slaves at Marathon were likely just skirmishers–slingers, javelins, maybe a few crude bows.

    3. The AVF structure as it stands would not be tenable.

      in peacetime many join because of things like ‘college subsidy’. If you suddenly gave them a backdoor, the force would evaporate in times of conflict. Or at least within 2-3 years.

      Some might argue that this is a good thing. (given that both OIF and OEF should have been wrapped up within 2-3 years of initiation)

      Maybe, but that’s all in theory.

      1. ‘Times of conflict” in which those people don’t really think the conflict is worth fighting over.

        Which is about as democratic as you can get.

        1. The Military is the totalitarian-fascism that sustains the possibility of democracy.

          There have been cultures that relied entirely on all-volunteer forces that only came when the fight seemed ‘worth it’ and/or in the existential interests of the community.

          They were not proper modern democracies however.

          I believe the The Peloponnesian War ‘ended’ (or was lost) by the Athenians on exactly this point.

          1. The plague and the silliness in Sicily is why they lost.

            1. And the Persian funding of Sparta

              1. Athens came close to winning the war outright a couple of times. That naval and economic power was a huge advantage, especially with the walls protecting not only Athens but the roads to Piraeus.

                1. I read Donald Kagans book 2 yrs ago = he made great amount of hay about the fact of the oligarch’s coup, then Alcibiades re-encouraging a democratic revolt, that ultimately lead to the downfall of Athens.

                  his point was that once “the Mob” started calling military shots, it was all downhill. (particularly midstream, as it was)

                  1. I read that–thought it was pretty good, though I smelled some analogies being made to deal with some contemporary issues.

              2. And the Persian funding of Sparta

                That didn’t turn out well for Sparta or Persia.

                “yay we beat Athens!! Oh hi Macedonia…err would be nice if we still had that independence loving ally we use to have”

          2. If your nation is not worth fighting for then its not worth existing.

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    4. Sure it would. It would just mean that you need to be really sure of the troops support before you get them into a conflict.

      Invade this country and tons of people would show up to fight. Repel an invasion of another country and you’d get a decent amount sticking around.

      Spend a decade patrolling a catbox with little to show for it – not too many soldiers sticking around.

      1. Very much this.

      2. Agammamon right on point.

    5. Would the military even exist (at least when things got hairy) if you could just up and quit like any other job?

      You ask like it’s a bad thing.

  11. Does the military have standards for when you can and cannot surrender to the enemy?

    It really seems surrender and desertion are only different by the degree of threat that is being put upon you.

    1. The history of formalized military has always been that you face pain of death from either your own side, or the enemy, And since the enemy is the one less completely-guaranteed to kill you, you fight them. It also looks better on your resume.

      1. US military.

    2. You an surrender only when all reasonable available means of resisting are gone.

      ie half your force is dead or incapacitated and you’re out of ammo and cut off from retreat or resupply.

      The US military doesn’t expect you to fight to the death, just fight as long as you can fight.

      1. Or as long as you feelz like it, apparently.

  12. 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.

    Isn’t that the truth. Even the Air Force and Navy, which typically have no problem filling their quotas and thus less incentive for flim-flam, have recruiters who are the most shameless double-talking liars you could imagine. The best thing I can say about mine is that he didn’t ask me to do much during post-tech school RAP other than come in for a couple hours a day and BS with random recruits if they happened to be there.

    1. Recruiters are usually familiar with only one skill area. If a potential recruit wants another area they can just make stuff up.

      Recruiting is a cushy job, don’t meet your quotas and go back to your unit.

      1. Recruiting is not a cushy job.

        Its a high pressure sales job where your boss makes Blake look like a pussy.

        Don’t perform and you get sent back to your unit after having your balls roasted on an open fire and with a horrible performance review that will prevent you from getting promoted for at least 3 cycles.

        At least that’s how Navy and MC recruiting is.

        1. Its a high pressure sales job where your boss makes Blake look like a pussy.

          What really mucks up the recruitment process is someone who goes through MEPS, is on delayed enlistment for a few months, and then decides at the last minute not to sign the contract (technically they don’t own you until you sign the actual enlistment contract). It costs a lot of dough to send people through MEPS, between the exams, medical tests, and the overnight hotel stays and evening meal vouchers, not to mention all the man-hours devoted to processing a recruit’s paperwork.

          People shouldn’t go through the process unless they are DAMN sure they want to take that step. Sometimes emergencies come up, but that’s rare; someone who just walks out right before signing on the dotted line has essentially wasted theirs and a lot of other people’s time and money.

  13. I’m generally sympathetic to those who are resistant to military discipline.

    In the era of the volunteer army, this makes no sense. You can be sympathetic (I guess) to people who don’t join because they don’t like military discipline. I don’t see how you can be very sympathetic to those who do join.

    Oh, the recruiter led you on? Good luck next time you try to return that case of Bud Light to the liquor store because it didn’t make supermodels drop their panties. Bowe was an adult, and adults are held responsible for doing their due diligence before they sign a contract.

    This particular statement by Bowe stinks of the projection and lack of self-awareness that tends to eliminate any vestige of sympathy in me:

    The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in.

    1. Bowe was an adult, and adults are held responsible for doing their due diligence before they sign a contract.

      Not that I disagree with you, but this administration has been trying to redefine “adult” and couldn’t give a flying fuck about contracts.

  14. As much as I love 2chilly, this article is bullshit.

    Signing a contract to join the military is signing a contract to go where ever the military says to go when ever the military says to go there and to kill or be killed and not ask questions.

    And you don’t get to quit in the middle of shit, because the consequences include the death of other people that depend upon you.

    This is not about being able to quit a job.

    1. Yeah, this really was a disappointment.

      “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.”

      What, 2chilli, we wait until they 26, then new “adult” age?

      1. Is 26 how old Pajama Boy is, or is he only 25?

    2. This is the key difference between being in the military and being in a civilian firm:

      the consequences include the death of other people that depend upon you.

  15. I’m more interested in debating whether it was necessary to trade five senior Taliban commanders for him, and whether it was necessary to break the law because (gasp) the Taliban threatened to shoot him if the swap leaked.

    I didn’t realize the Taliban had congressional offices bugged.

    1. Why not, everyone else does.

  16. I guess the new slogans of the “libertarian” Reason editorial staff are:

    “You’re not responsible for the consequences of your actions”

    and

    “If you don’t like the deal you made, you should just ignore it and do whatever you want”

    Awesome! These are wonderful bedrock principles when trying to convince your fellow citizens to rely less on state power and instead rely on personal civility.

  17. This is what happened to a deserter in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers:

    The crime didn’t take place at Camp
    Currie and the placement officer
    who accepted this boy for M.I..
    should turn in his suit. He
    deserted, only two days after we
    arrived at Currie. Ridiculous, of
    course, but nothing about the case
    made sense—why didn’t he resign?
    Desertion, naturally, is one of the
    “thirty-one crash landings” but the
    Army doesn’t invoke the death
    penalty for it unless there are
    special circumstances, such as “in
    the face of the enemy” or something
    else that turns it from a highly
    informal way of resigning into
    something that can’t be ignored.

    1. continued:

      The Army makes no effort to find
      deserters and bring them back.
      This makes the hardest kind of
      sense. We’re all volunteers; we’re
      M.I.. because we want to be, we’re
      proud to be M.I.. and the M.I.. is
      proud of us. If a man doesn’t feel
      that way about it, from his
      callused feet to his hairy ears, I
      don’t want him on my flank when
      trouble starts. If I buy a piece
      of it, I want men around me who
      will pick me up because they’re
      M.I.. and I’m M.I.. and my skin
      means as much to then as their own.

  18. But the whole controversy, including the exchange of potentially dangerous detainees for one guy who wanted to quit, might have been avoided if there was an easy way out of military service for people who develop moral objections, or simply burn out, during the life-and-death conflicts in which they find themselves.

    Jebus, 2chilli – First you impune the free will and agency of 18 year olds and now you want to do a total revamp of military service obligations because of this one narcissistic deserter?

    1. Please, ‘impugn’

      Silent ‘g’ = the most stylish of silent letters.

      1. My spelling, the least stylish of writings.

  19. Among the many fallacies in this article and the comments to are:

    — Bergdahl had entered into an agreement where he and his fellow soldiers were putting their lives in each others hands. Bergdahl knew that if he walked off in a war zone that his fellow soldiers would come looking for him. And they did just that. Bergdahl may have ignored his commitment, but his fellow soldiers didn’t ignore theirs. Bergdahl’s actions got people killed.

    — There were MANY other options for Bergdahl than deserting in war zone!! He chose the worse option. He could have simply gone to his superior and said he wants out. He may have been disciplined (though not severely) and would have ended up with a dishonorable discharge. That would have spared his fellow soldiers.

    — The posters citing law that a court/the state will not enforce specific performance of personal obligations because they are considered “involuntary servitude” are relying on the 13th Amendment. But the 13th Amendment doesn’t apply to military service. Historically, in the common law, courts could enforce specific performance of personal obligations.

    1. I said that flat out when addressing the 13th Amendment. And, actually, no, personal performance usually can’t be compelled (by private actors, of course–the government does whatever it wants). I deal with those kinds of contracts all of the time. We can get financial compensation for personal service not occurring, but we can’t compel that performance.

      Like I said above, I’m not even remotely defending Bergdahl.

      1. I was actually referring to another poster.

        1. Then I withdraw my objection. Let us abuse this other poster.

          1. Ah, the very essence of the Reason comment section. Indeed, most of why I read the comments at all.

    2. “There were MANY other options for Bergdahl than deserting in war zone!! He chose the worse option. He could have simply gone to his superior and said he wants out. He may have been disciplined (though not severely) and would have ended up with a dishonorable discharge. ”

      Instead, he walked out and got promoted – twice. Sounds like he made the smarter play.

      1. No he wouldn’t have. None of the services make a habit of discharging people simply because they ask nicely.

    3. Good points

  20. What you’ve just written is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever read.

    1. It certainly doesn’t seem to be ‘deeply resonating’ with the majority.

      The few minority supporters don’t seem to be doing the best case justifying it. (IMO)

      I think ‘amerigo’ above made clear that the guy had options. None of them are ‘easy’, but the case for ‘easier’ seems to need to ignore the extant options.

      1. I think the guy is likely a fruitcake. He likely did have options other than just walking off.

        1. So you’re saying he’s mentally ill?

        2. From all reports, it seemed he wanted to ‘walk off’ as part of his personal life-calling.

          meaning, he could probably have gotten shipped home (dishonorable disch etc); but preferred the idea of ditching and going all “7 Yrs in Tibet” (changed to “5yrs In Quetta”)

  21. I have no military experience, but as I was laying in bed last night, trying to go to sleep, I imagined what it must be like to be young, in a hostile foreign country, fighting a war you have grown to hate. It must be very tough. Then I thought of all the young people who, because of the stiff consequences for just quitting, managed to stick with it through the fear and loneliness and learned that there is a strength inside them they didn’t realize was there. If America has to pay a price of a certain number of people either deserting or committing suicide, is it worth the gain of a trained and hardened military force?

    Let’s not forget, people enter the military for their own reasons, but the military exists to meet a national need for defense, even if it is used for other purposes as well. That alone separates it from your average company, which exists to create profit for the owners.

    1. I’ve been in combat and “the consequences for just quitting” never crossed my mind once.

      Running or driving the fuck out of there crossed my mind because I like living. But, my greatest fear – even more than being killed – was failing the Marines and Sailors around me. I also wasn’t keen on the idea of living the rest of my life knowing I was a worthless coward.

      1. I’m sure. However, not everyone has the same motivations. Some people don’t cheat because they don’t want to disappoint themselves. Others don’t cheat because they don’t want to get caught. I guess it’s the difference between internal and external motivation.

        1. Good point.

          Yeah, I am the internal motivation one. Seems lots of folks in the Army were mostly internal, with a dash of external thrown in for good measure.

  22. Since 1995 the international definition of conscientious objector (UN Commission on Human Rights) has included people still serving in the military. Even though the term is generally meant in the context of conscription, it seems illogical that a member of a volunteer force wouldn’t be allowed to develop an objection. The US doesn’t let you object to specific wars, only war in general, though.

    1. What they don’t let you do is collect your pay, meals, housing, and training for years then decide you’re an objector on the eve of a deployment. I’ve seen assholes try it.

    2. The US doesn’t let you object to specific wars

      Huh?

      Is this a lame attempt by you to defend the sedition act?

    3. Tony’s future interpretation of this rather lively commenter debate: LIBERTARIANS FAVOR INDENTURED SERVITUDE.

  23. J.D., you’re essentially calling for a mercenary force. Looking back in classical and medieval history, mercenary armies didn’t exactly work when confronted with standing armies. They were just as likely to turn on their employers or abandon the field at the critical moment.

    In theory, a purely consensual military sounds great, but in practice it’s one of those situations when libertarianism probably doesn’t work.

    1. Militias aren’t mercenary. They don’t get paid and the members come and go as they please.

      Not sure how effective they are at defense. But they usually suck at offense. Which is a good thing.

      1. Not particularly sparkling on defense either. Sometimes they could rise to the occasion.

        The Prussian “Landwehr” version ended up being a feeder into the active forces. But that was not really a militia in the classic sense – more an evasion of Napoleonic peace treaty restrictions.

    2. Maybe a government funded and administered fighting force, voluntary or otherwise, is simply incompatible with libertarian principles. The effective kind, at least.

      The solution isn’t to give soldiers an easy out bc, lets face it, that’s not going to make for a good fighting force. The solution is to not hang around in a foreign shithole for long enough for it to be an issue.

      1. The Founders did try to restrict standing armies….didn’t work, as you can see.

      2. Well, it sort of isn’t.

        Its *tolerable* for monarchist libertarians but anathema to anarchists (libertarian type, not ‘hate globalization’ type).

        I can see a glorious anarchic future where you contract out for strategic defense just like you contract for police and judicial services.

        1. *Minarchist* libertarians, not monarchist.

          Amazing how one little letter changes things.

          1. I did give quite a start when I read “monarchist”, heh heh.

      3. . . . that’s not going to make for a good fighting force.

        I disagree – I think it could provide for an even better fighting force.

        The AVA of the US is (even disregarding out technological advantage) one the best trained and smartest fighting forces in existence – a huge part of achieving that was getting rid of the dead weight being drug around because of conscription.

        If we could more easily get rid of the people who volunteered but decide they don’t like it, we’re left with a core of people dedicated to the job, eager to surmount its challenges.

  24. Anyone here read Ann Coulter’s latest column? She’s a guilty pleasure of mine, but this column of her’s turned my stomach. She called a WWII deserter a “coward.” Easy for someone who doesn’t have a pair of testicles — and therefore has never and will never be subject to conscription — to say. It made me sick.

  25. Serious question, because I don’t actually know the answer here: what would have happened to Bergdahl if, instead of walking off, he had juse refused to do any work whatsoever? Just gone full Bartleby the Scrivener and said “I’d prefer not to” to every order directed at him?

    1. Leavenworth

      1. Possibly. After long painful period of attempted unit discipline, including art 15, restriction, hard labor, correctional custody units, brig time.

        If he was lucky, at some point short of the court martial they would have discharged him with an OTH – but its a fine line and a lot depends on how close he was to his EAOS. Within a year or so they’d most likely have written him off and simply not allowed him to re-enlist and given him a ‘don’t let this shitbag back in’ re-enlistment code.

    2. That depends on when and where he did it.

      Back in the states before a deployment order, probably not much. If he was smart about it, he could probably request out of the Airborne and maybe into a new MOS.

      Once a deployment order comes down, that wouldn’t go over well at all. In a combat zone – prison time.

  26. The wiki on Slovik made me less sympathetic.

  27. You guys didn’t serve in the military did you? Or play organized football? Baseball? Work on a major project team with a tight deadline? Mr. Bergdahl’s decision to bail wasn’t simply a contract issue with the Army, it was a betrayal of his squad mates who rely on each other to keep their promises to survive the deployment.

    No American soldier is required to be part of a combat unit such as the one Mr. Bergdahl was in. He didn’t need to go conscientious objector, he could have simply asked – before the deployment – to transfer to a rear echelon unit. Nobody wants someone who doesn’t have fight in him in the the next foxhole. But Mr. Bergdahl wanted to change the deal in the middle of the game so to speak thereby betraying his squad mates.

    That is despicable. Something you guys should try to understand – I mean if libertarianism is going to take over the world and all…

  28. Mr. Tucille’s thesis, regrettably, does not bear up to the facts on the ground. While the service contract and the UCMJ appear to state that a soldier has no recourse, this is not the case. In 2008, my company was in Afghanistan, and one of the Marines simply, in Tucille’s words, “had enough”. He informed his platoon commander, who in turn informed the company commander, that he did not want to go out on any more patrols… he was done. And that was all there was to it. The matter was briefly mentioned at our morning meeting, the First Sergeant simply stated that he would be leaving on the next helo or convoy, and that was it. He flew or was driven out a couple of days later. I do not recall if he faced any punishment in the rear, or if he was flown home, but his war ended quietly, and no one on the FOB made any further issue of it. There was certainly no cause for this Marine to walk off into the wilds of Helmand province.

    I tell this story to point out that Sgt Bergdahl had options besides applying for conscientious objector status or deserting. His command, out of pure common-sense, would not want a soldier on the post who refused to fight, and would have shipped him back towards the rear, and eventually home and a discharge. I have no doubt the young man was under sever psychlogical pressure, but even under those cirumstances, there are avenues of escape… his motives for walking away remain inscrutable to me.

  29. I’m a firm believer in selective conscientious objector status. The U.S. military doesn’t currently recognize it. If I had that option in 2005, I’d have used it. But I think it should be difficult to get. You should have to make a statement on why you think a particular action is morally reprehensible. Something other than, “I don’t like our president” or “This war sucks.” You should make an argument. It need not be agreed with, but it should show evidence of a thought process.

    In the case of “I’ve had enough,” that’s a bit too evasive. If you want out just because you want it, perhaps you should be willing to settle for a less-than-honorable discharge.

  30. It’s beyond ironic at a site where high school and college administrators as well as parents are routinely (and often rightly) accused of infantilizing young adults, and where statutory rape laws have been opposed on the same grounds, to see it suggested that 18 year olds are simply too stupid or immature to properly weigh the consequences of military service before they sign their contract. Maybe recruiting stations should have to black out their windows and keep the brochures in a locked cabinet behind a curtain like tobacco products.

  31. One of the big weaknesses of libertarianism is that they reflexively accept the leftist critique of the US Military.

    1. This article is absurd. Any member of the military at any time could declare themselves a conscientious objector if they “have a crisis of conscience.” How does Reason not know this?

    2. The libertarian love of treason and cowardice is the primary reason why they will never win anything or get elected to anything.

    Reason Magazine with another cartoon analysis of national security and military affairs. It’s embarrassing. The editors should be embarrasses that they published something as moronic as this article.

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