Once again, an MSNBC host is playing up the idea that “there must be something larger” to justify what, on its face, seems to be a disastrous prisoner swap in the Bowe Bergdahl-Taliban exchange.
On the June 4 edition of her Now program, host Alex Wagner, ever the apologist for the president, hoped that the trade for POW Bowe Bergdahl would open up broader war-ending negotiations with the Taliban [MP3 audio here; video below]:
Uh, to that point in terms of representing the wishes of the American people some people say, this was the opening salvo–not salvo–but overture to broader negotiations with the Taliban. Something you know well about. This is something that the Taliban has had on the table from the beginning if there were to be broader peace negotiations. Did the–I think a lot of us want to see this prisoner swap as something larger. Because the administration–
Just the other day on All In with Chris Hayes, we saw Hayes and his guest–a Washington Post editor–make a virtually identical case: that the swap opens the door to more negotiations with the Taliban. An irrational defense of the president is expected, but propping up the idea that it might push the United States into further negotiation with terrorists is absurd.
Of course, it is entirely plausible that further negotiations with the Taliban could be the end result of this trade, but to suggest that this would be a positive step is pure left-wing lunacy.
Wagner’s guest, former Bill Clinton State Department official Jamie Rubin, stated that the swap for Bergdahl was “a precursor, a prerequisite to any real negotiations over the role of the Taliban will play in the future in Afghanistan.” Now, not all of the American people –and by no means all, or even most, of the Afghan people–are willing to simply accept that the Taliban will be restored to power in Afghanistan. It is not a forgone conclusion that they will gain political power–although U.S. negotiations with such a regime would no doubt give the oppressive regime an air of legitimacy while undercutting pro-Western forces in Kabul.
A relevant portion of the transcript is below.
Now with Alex Wagner
June 4, 2014
4:04 p.m. Eastern
ALEX WAGNER, host: When you looked at the video, as someone that has covered Iraq and Afghanistan, knows well what happens to men in the field of battle–men and women–what was your reaction to Bergdahl and the transfer and also his physicality? He seems incredibly present in this video.
ALEX BERENSON, former New York Times reporter: Yes, this notion that he needed to be released imminently, that the White House couldn't go to Congress because his mental health was in such jeopardy. There's not a lot of evidence in that. Now, it's always dangerous to try to make a psychiatric diagnosis from a distance on a 30-second video but he doesn't look like a guy who is about to collapse. So I think that is what hurts the administration's case. I would disagree with Jamie a little bit in that certainly in southern Afghanistan the Taliban represent– I don't know if they represent a majority but they represent the wishes of a lot of people in what we–I guess you could call Pashtunistan.
WAGNER: Uh, to that point in terms of representing the wishes of the American people some people say, this was the opening salvo–not salvo–but overture to broader negotiations with the Taliban. Something you know well about. This is something that the Taliban has had on the table from the beginning if there were to be broader peace negotiations. Did the–I think a lot of us want to see this prisoner swap as something larger. Because the administration–
JAMIE RUBIN, visiting scholar, Oxford University: It looks so awful and it seems so awful in its own terms that there has to be some larger purpose that it must serve.
WAGNER: Yes, yes, quite frankly, yes.
RUBIN: I think there probably is a larger purpose that has not been communicated very well to the public, to the Congress, to the American people. My sense of this is that this prisoner exchange, regardless of who would be on their side and who would be on the American side, was a precursor, a prerequisite to any real negotiations over the role of the Taliban will play in the future in Afghanistan. Those negotiations are critical. Because we have an Afghan-trained army. We have America leaving. If the civil war starts up all over again, we're going to feel even worse than we feel today. Negotiations are inevitable. This will have a political solution. So if this trade, which wasn't fair on its own terms by very, very senior Taliban figures in exchange for one probable deserter on the American side, seems unfair, hopefully it will serve a larger purpose, which is American policy and the world's objectives in Afghanistan.