The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
5 Points

Resolved that the deal to free Bowe Bergdahl was unjustified.

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/14/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 310 times Debate No: 89659
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (4)
Votes (1)




The 1st round will just be acceptance.
Round 2: Pro constructive
Round 2: Neg CX (ask 10 questions or less)
round 3: Pro answer
round 3: Neg constructive
round 4: Pro CX
round 4: Neg answer
round 5: Rebuttals.

Any questions just put into the comments.


I accept and thank the instigator for the opportunity to evaluate this complicated subject. I believe that people of equal patriotism and compassion can reasonably devolve into opposing camps on the subject of Bergdahl, but I have no problem justifying the deal the US made to bring home a lost soldier. I look forward to your arguments to the contrary.
Debate Round No. 1


Today I strongly affirm,

This resolution demands analysis of justification. Justification, when talking about government policy or decisions, will be defined as morally justified. In other words, the government must choose what they can best justify on moral grounds. I will also be analyzing the concept of morality by what more positively effects the most people in our society.

For those reasons I will ultimately be defending that the deal to free Bowe Bergdahl was unjustified because we could have done the more morally correct things, and helped more people in our society, by not making the deal at that time.

Contention 1: The deal to save Bergdahl jeopardized the safety of all military personnel in that area for years to come.

A: This choice supports the group to kidnap in the future. It may seem that our choice to remove Bergdahl was a moral choice because we were able to bring him back to his family, but in this we have incentivized similar groups into more kidnapping. This is because we payed such a high price to have him back; we have taught them that stealing American's for random is profitable. It become much more hostile of an environment, and may mean that other people will face his same fate, and may not be as lucky.

B: The deal was too desperate. By this I mean that we traded 5 terrorist/ military personnel. That is a lot of terrorists to give back for one person. In this circumstance, again, trading Bergdahl endangered the larger society. On top of all that, he was already charged my the US military for abandoning post and "misbehavior before the enemy". All in all, there was no pressing reason to make such a drastic exchange. This is especially true when you consider all the people we have put at risk. This argument sounds extremely cold, but a government ought to protect the society over a single person.

Perhaps Bergdahl could have been helped later in a less desperate situation. But this particular deal was unjustified as it puts to much insecurity into the region for American's and even endangers us at home.

For those reasons I affirm. I now stand open for Cross Examination.


Pro"s premise assumes that terrorist responses are roughly predictable but I discern little if any pattern in history. Sometimes we negotiate with terrorists and conditions improve (PLO @ Camp David Accords, IRA @ Good Friday Agreement), sometimes we negotiate with terrorists and conditions deteriorate (Iran-Contra). Sometimes we refuse to negotiate and the threat fades away (Somali Pirates), sometimes we refuse to negotiate and the threat only increases (James Foley). Sometimes we pay the ransom and the hostages die anyway (Martin Burnham). Sometimes hostages are released for no apparent reason (Scott Darden).... What hard evidence can Pro provide to support the claim that negotiating with terrorists increases the likelihood of terrorism while refusing to negotiate decreases the likelihood of terrorism?
Pro characterizes the presumed incentivization of the Taliban to capture US soldiers as an increased jeopardy, but that presupposes that the Taliban are not already maximally incentivized to kill US soldiers at every opportunity. During the 14+ years of the War in Afghanistan, 2,039 US soldiers have been KIA"d but only one US soldier has ever been captured. [1]. Assuming that the risk of capture has been increased by Bergdahl"s release (which I don't) and assuming that it's better to be captured than be killed (which I do), wouldn't an increased incentivization to capture rather than kill represent a decreased jeopardy to US soldiers, not increased?
In the case of the Taliban, I find the line drawn between enemy combatants and terrorists indiscernible- a distinction without a difference. But the US would never say "we don't exchange POWs." How does Pro delineate the exchange of the Gitmo 5 from a POW exchange during any previous American war?
Does Pro believe that the US Military is less obligated to recover an AWOL soldier than a non-AWOL soldier?
Does Pro believe the US Military"s policy of "leave no soldier behind" should be amended to preclude increased risk to other soldiers? That is, "leave no soldier behind unless another soldier might get killed."?
Pro states that there was no pressing reason to make a deal at the time it was made. This contradicts the Department of Defense"s intelligence that Bergdahl's health was rapidly deteriorating in early 2014. [2]. Indeed, a year after his emancipation one of Bergdahl"s healthcare providers reported that permanent damage to his nerve and muscle tissue would likely prevent him from ever lifting heavy objects or walking more than a couple of miles. [3]. Does Pro have any evidence to counter the Secretary of Defense"s claim that a deal had to be made urgently in order to save Bergdahl's life?
Pro suggests that trading 5 officers for one PFC is necessarily a bad trade, but doesn't expound much on the matter. I wonder if Pro has considered factors other than rank. That is, has Pro considered Bergdahl's superior value as an intelligence asset? and
Has Pro considered Bergdahl"s trade in terms of propaganda value? It certainly says something of American Democracy to value the life of single US citizen of little importance above the collective value of multiple Afghani officers of rank.
Does Pro find that the Army"s re-enlistment of Bergdahl in 2008 with the knowledge that Bergdahl was discharged for mental health deficiencies from the Coast Guard in 2006 conveys an increased responsibility for Bergdahl"s bizarre behavior on the day of his capture, in part or in whole?
Does Pro acknowledge that criticism of the Bergdahl trade falls generally along partisan lines and that most pundits" opinions regarding the trade would reverse given a Democratic congress and a Republican president making the trade?

My compliments to Pro on choice of topic. I look forward to Pro's response.

[3]Bowe Bergdahl will require lifetime of care for injuries suffered in captivity -
Debate Round No. 2


1) My point was misunderstood here. I am not saying that negotiation would be bad, but that this particular trade was. My main argument is that it incentivizes these groups to take people for ransom for America. What we know for sure is that if we make kidnapping desirable and profitable than these groups will be more likely to do it. We can debate whether that's good or bad later.

2) 1st of all, on this source i don't see the number of people who have been captured in the region. Also, your argument that it would be better to be captured than be die, whether correct or not, does not apply here. It is unlikely to assume that the number of casualties would go down because they would be getting captured instead. It is more likely that casualties wouldn't have a major change at all, while abductions would increase. I don't see any evidence that you laid out that would suggest that one would divert to the other. Even if you don't buy all that, abductions are arguably not better than other options because they drain the economy, gives the group assets in return, and there is always harsh punishment for the one captured.

3) We are debating the deal that went down here. We may have been able to do a justified trade earlier down the line. Plus, this debate can ponder whether that law in and of itself is justified or if their are circumstances, like Bergdahl, that need to be treated differently. (I hope I understood that question correctly)

4) I am unsure about my personal preference here. I guess I would be very situational. I would like to know what would happen to them afterwards and who it is effecting.

5) We must think about who were are leaving behind in the future. This is where the debate gets interesting. Especially because Bergdahl left his own group behind. Also, military people searched for days afterwards to return him. He left his camp to allegedly flee dangerous or unpleasant duty, putting his whole group, our whole military, and our economy (for the ransom) at risk. In this situation though, this particular deal was not favorable. I am not saying we should never get him back, but perhaps it would be less dire, he wasn't on military orders when he got captured.

6) The main thing I want to point out here is that if he get convicted by the US military now that he's home, he still won't be getting health benefits. In fact, this is stated right on the same evidence you sighted. This in no way justifies his return home since we aren't rushing in to help anyway. On top of that, this is what the deal will make more likely for others to endure, and America may not be able to pay a ransom every single time.

7/8) I don't have any evidence either way stating that he has any intelligence. Although its unlikely that they were leaking information to him the whole time and happily sent him back home with it to tell. Sadly, we aren't going to persuade them to get on the Democracy band wagon, and we are equally showing them the perfect money generating option. Also, sometime one life shouldn't be valued above several others, especially when that one life was doing it in the act of betraying the others.

9) I was not aware of this information. I would be curious to hear what processes were used and what he is diagnosed with now that he is back. Could I get your evidence.

10) I'm not sure I understand but I don't care who made the trade.


Boiled down to essence, Bergdahl's emancipation musters into opposition two celebrated principles of US Foreign policy: No soldier left behind vs. No negotiating with terrorists. Seen this way, the Bergdahl exchange is easy to justify because the former axiom is fundamental to the morale and organization of America"s hard-pressed, underpaid, all-volunteer, democratic fighting forces while the latter principle is mostly propaganda.

I expected Pro"s argument to generally rely on the dangers of dealing with terrorists but Pro has wisely forsworn this popular platitude so we can focus on the case at hand.


Pro states in answer 5 that Bergdahl "left his camp to allegedly flee dangerous or unpleasant duty." However popular such characterizations may be in the media, all official accounts offer a very different perspective.

Bergdahl"s ambition was special forces, he was trying to be a super soldier. By all accounts, Bergdahl was the first to volunteer for extra duty, constantly training and studying to be a better soldier. He was the kind of guy who says, "good grief" instead of "god damn." When the other members of his platoon were drinking or playing video games, Bergdahl was reading the field manuals. He wasn't looking to get away from threat, rather he thought his platoon should be engaging the enemy directly rather than handing out candy to kids, pissing off the locals, and stepping on IEDs on the way home. Two days before he walked away, Bergdahl's closest friend in the platoon was killed and the next day his CO"s seemed more concerned with uniform violations than with preventing further deaths. His intention on the night of his capture was to walk 18 miles to the commanders at FOB Sharana to call attention to what he felt was dangerously inept leadership. He knew he'd be in trouble, but he thought of himself as taking one for team. [1]

Both DoD Chief investigator General Kenneth Dahl"s and the Pentagons" lead debriefer Terrence Russell"s confirmed that the Army accepts Bergdahl's statement of intent as honest, however stupid.

In short, he snapped. And not for the first time. In 2006, Bergdahl joined the Coast Guard, but was discharged during basic for "mental status significant for situational anxiety." The discharge required a psych evaluation before re-enlistment but Army recruiters claim to have missed this recommendation.[2] In May of 2015, Bergdahl was diagnosed with Schizotypal Personality Disorder. [3]

But if losing control after seeing a buddy die counts as "misbehavior before the enemy," I imagine half the soldiers in war have merited life sentences.

As for the charge of desertion, this seems unlikely to stick. Desertion is technically 31 days of AWOL but Bergdahl never had the opportunity to amend his AWOL status, as is confirmed by Bergdahl's two proforma promotions to Sergeant while in captivity.

Indeed, General Dahl"s recommendation was that Bergdahl receive no more than a special (misdemeanor) court martial and thought any jail time would be inappropriate for Bergdahl's infraction. So even if Bergdahl is convicted in August, his sentence seems likely to overturned on appeal.


Pro"s argument accepts on faith that Bergdahl"s captors will be necessarily incentivized to try to capture more Americans. Possibly, but the Haqqani have been hit hard in the two years since Bergdahl's release and the number of US citizens within the Taliban's reach is a small well-armed fraction compared to 2009. Holding captives and negotiating for their release is a dangerous business, particularly in the teeth of the US"s defensive and intelligence capabilities and at least as likely to accomplish the captor"s death as achieving a reward. History suggests that rogue insurgencies like the Taliban, like other types of terrorist or criminal organizations, are unpredictable at best. We can only say with certainty that the Taliban hasn't yet captured any additional Americans since Bergdahl's release and hope it stays that way.


Pro has characterized the Bergdahl exchange as unbalanced and suggested a better deal might have been achieved at an earlier or later point in time. The facts suggest otherwise.

The Taliban"s original offer made on Christmas Day 2009, six months after Bergdahl"s disappearance, was $1 million and 21 named detainees with a variety of political connections to Taliban groups.[4] This offer was never officially acknowledged.

A year later, during initial peace negotiations in Munich, Bergdahl"s release was on the table as a good faith gesture in exchange for 6 Gitmo and a number of diplomatic concessions. By February 2011, both the US"s chief negotiator, Richard Holbrooke, and the most senior of the Gitmo 6, Awal Gul were dead and the hopes for a deal faded until early 2014. [5]

By that time, the Haqqanis were under considerable pressure in North Waziristan, their leader and the leader of the Taliban were dead along with Mullah Sangeen, the commander in charge of Bergdahl"s captivity. Increasingly motivated to dispose of Bergdahl as a security burden they sent new videos to US officials who were alarmed at the obvious decline in Bergdahl's well-being and a new round of negotiations began.

So, there is little reason to suppose that a better offer could be made and the final settlement (5 for 1 with no other concessions) was the best offer of any put on the table.

Since the Haqqani Network"s presence in North Waziristan was overrun and shattered by Operation Zarb-e-Azb beginning two weeks after Bergdahl's release [6], there is little reason to suppose Bergdahl would have survived his captor"s defeat.

While on the subject of the Haqqani Network"s defeat, let"s consider the relative value of the Bergdahl exchange in terms of military intelligence. All of the Gitmo 5 surrendered or were captured during the early months of the War in Afghanistan and held incommunicado and interrogated for 12+ years at Gitmo. Although their intelligence value will never be known, we can assume that further detainment would not be likely to produce new, useful information or that they can offer any information of military value to their former comrades.

The same can't be said of Bergdahl.

During Bergdahl"s September 2015 preliminary hearing, the Pentagon"s lead debriefer Terrence Russell testified,""The intelligence debriefers, the SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape] psychologists, the FBI agents, the other debriefers, everybody remarked on the quality of information that Sergeant Bergdahl was providing," He added that Bergdahl rigorously catalogued his memories of captivity because "he knew that he would be an important source of information for the intelligence community and for special operations forces."[7]

Although he was unable to speak, Bergdahl requested pen and paper and began supplying intel to the Special Forces team that rescued him on the helicopter ride to Bagram AFB. [5]

Bergdahl"s complete report to chief investigator Major General Kenneth Dahl numbered 371 pages. [7]

Remember that Bergdahl had escaped twice, met scores of his captors in person and was careful to note small details like the names of local sports teams on children's baseball caps.

Nobody will confirm whether Bergdahl's intelligence was employed in the field but a remarkable coincidence of timing ought to be noted: on the same day that Bergdahl completed his intelligence debriefing in Landstuhl, Germany, the CIA opened a new and sustained campaign of drone attacks in the tiny region of North Waziristan by targeting a Haqqani commander and six Haqqani militants. Three days later, Pakistan launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb, wreaking havoc on the Haqqani Network and killing more than 3000 militants over the course of the campaign.

How much, if any, of Bergdahl"s report was employed in these attacks is classified, but close observers are quick to point out that the timing suggests that the US was inflicting an immediate and heavy vengeance. [4]

Although Taliban propaganda was able to claim short term advantage in the 5 for 1 trade, we should also consider the value of demonstrating US commitment to a single individual and how that speaks of democracy"s advantages to a soldier fighting for authoritarian warlords.

Lastly, let's remember that the Gitmo 5, indeed most of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners are more harmful to US interests in prison then they are free. The United Nations, European Union, OAS, Amnesty International, Human Rights have all condemned the detention camps at Gitmo as an illegal violation of human rights and demanded its closure. Around the world Guantanamo is characterized as a concentration camp, a war crime, and the number one recruiting tool for radical jihadists. Barack Obama was twice elected with a mandate to close Gitmo.

Even if the US had not released the Gitmo 5 in 2014 they would likely be released anyway in the the next few years. They were never charged with any crimes and no branch of government was willing to recognize jurisdiction over them. With the Bergdahl exchange, we got something in exchange for nothing, a political albatross.

By most responsible reports, Bergdahl was a good and faithful American soldier, worthy of the price who temporarily snapped, paid a terrible price, and is now unfairly and inaccurately slandered for political gain. The exchange was sufficient, necessary, urgently required, and more balanced than popularly appreciated

Debate Round No. 3


pianodude2468 forfeited this round.


Unfortunately, DDO technical failures prevented my opponent from posting a question round. By way of remedy, I have no objection to Pro breaking format: asking questions in final round or mixing question and rebuttal.

I"ll also refrain from any arguments this round.

I look forward to Pro"s reply.
Debate Round No. 4


pianodude2468 forfeited this round.


That's too bad.

Pro has defaulted twice, essentially making no reply to my main argument. Although there might be more to say in rebuttals, I think Pro's main point has been addressed.

Please vote CON.
Debate Round No. 5
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Ragnar 6 months ago
Formatting advice:
In short, con objectively conquered the cross examination, whatever could be said for the first 10, the second set was a no contest. Pro additionally dropped con's main case.

Conduct favors con by a wide margin, but as pro claimed technical difficulties with the website, this is being left out (I hope you both redo this, with the final two rounds happening).

I liked some of the idea of the setup with the cross examination, but in future please put your definitions in R1, as any time after it the other side is not obligated to agree.

Cross Examination: 1. Hard evidence request: Pro failed to answer (he restated his assertion, but that was not the request). 2. Better to be captured: Pro denied the validity that someone who is abducted instead of murdered is not a casualty, but did better on the analysis by questioning that it might be better to die than be captured. 3. Wording of prisoner exchanges: Pro did not see to understand the question. 4. Recovery of AWOL vs non-AWOL soldiers: Pro did not answer ("I guess I would be very situational"). 5. No Soldier Left Behind: Pro"s answer seems to be it should be turned into an if convenient clause. 6. Deteriorating health: Apparently he would die just as fast in the U.S.. 7. Comparative value of assets: Pro does not know. 8: Propaganda value: irreverent to them culturally (due to the number of points pro botched, I need to specify that he did well on this one). 9. Mental health issues: lack of evidence (again, well played). 10. favor/disfavor is based on political parties, not the trade itself: irrelevant.

Con's case which was entirely dropped, had heavy hitting points such as cited testimony about how valuably his memories of captivity would be to spec ops, and the minimal cost compared to the original demand on Christmas (this has particular weight, since pro was not opposed to the trade itself, but not holding out for a better deal).
Posted by pianodude2468 6 months ago
The website wouldn't let me access any debates yesterday! ):
Posted by pianodude2468 6 months ago
They would preferably be answered in the same round as rebuttals. I should have planned that better. Perhaps I will reformat it.
Posted by Oromagi 6 months ago
My compliments on the choice of topic. Bergdahl's is a complicated and nuanced story but after listening to the Serial season 2 podcast I definitely formulated a few opinions. I appreciate a round for questions but I'm not sure which round is used to answer those questions and what rules apply? I assume all questions must be addressed but it would be pretty easy to ask questions that could never be answered in a limited format.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 6 months ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.