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Thursday, April 18
The Indiana Daily Student


Re: Let's talk prisoner exchange

The Bowe Bergdahl exchange continues to fester amid a storm of controversy for the Administration on a number of points.

Two of the objections to the exchange were mentioned by my colleague Sydney Raftery in her column June 9.

The first was a violation of the United States’ longstanding policy to not negotiate with terrorists.

The second objection noted President Obama ignoring regulation stating that Congress must be notified 30 days prior to any transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.

The third objection was mysteriously ignored, which was the issue of who the Bergdahl Five are and what they would do once their one-year parole was up.

Raftery offers a dismissal of the first two objections on the grounds that the President is empowered to do what he wishes under the broad guise of Commander in Chief.

“What’s the point of electing someone to lead us if he can’t make decisions on his own when necessary?” Raftery asks.

This argument runs into a major problem: checks and balances designed by the Constitution.

The check on the President’s powers primarily comes from the two-thirds super majority of Congress needed to approve a declaration of war.

Though some of my Libertarian friends think that this should still be the case, the fast pace of modern war no longer allows for votes.

But the fact the Constitution delegated Congress the power of declaring war is a point that the President’s war powers are not unlimited. Congress has limited the President’s power numerous times, as with the Neutrality Acts before World War II.

“These ‘rules,’” Raftery writes, “basically fly out the window when it comes to war.” 

The logic falls apart when it comes to uncomfortable extensions of Executive power such as the Japanese internment or the USA PATRIOT Act, which were asked by the Executive from Congress. The Supreme Court even ruled the Japanese internment constitutional under Korematsu v. U.S.

The argument that Raftery forgets is perhaps the most dangerous one.

The Bergdahl Five include some of the most dangerous men in Guantanamo Bay from when the Taliban ran Afghanistan.

It is a safe bet we will see them at the other end of a Predator camera soon enough.

If what Raftery says is indeed true, then why did President Obama dive for political cover by punting the question of whether to strike Syria to Congress even after his Secretary of State made the rounds on the morning talk shows saying that it was necessary?

If this is the case, then Raftery’s reasoning is more representative of the Reagan view of unilateral foreign policy, rather than the supposedly more inclusive Obama Doctrine.

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