Hey All -- it's about that time again!
The big issue in the news -- besides watching my team's biggest rival digging a hole in the Stanley Cup Finals -- the release of a soldier held hostage in exchange for five terrorists.
As my regular readers know, I'm a big advocate of individualism and independence. I value doing the right thing instead of conformity. That means being comfortable in your own skin.
Most of the time, the right thing means doing what serves you the best, over what serves others. However, once in a while it's right thing to do a little something to make someone else happy. For example, let's say a friend of yours is throwing a party for someone else, and wants everyone to dress a little nicer than they ordinarily would. So you bite the bullet, get some office dress-down clothes, and show up there. And you see EVERY OTHER GUY THERE wearing the same jeans and boots they do every day, despite the assurance that "everyone" was going the khakis route.
A little annoying, of course. Ironically, the intent was to conform, but the result was to stand out. Still, if your host asks everyone to dress a little nicer just because it's a special occasion for a guest of honor, and you actually oblige, given the small effort it takes, it doesn't go unnoticed. In that circumstance, standing alone and doing what you know is right is a good thing -- a very good thing.
But recently, we've heard about someone who followed his convictions to the detriment of those who needed him not to as a matter of life and death. This man put on a uniform and took an oath to defend his country against "all enemies, foreign and domestic," and reconsidered that oath at the worst time possible. Emails back home revealed his dissatisfaction and disillusionment with the army's presence in Afghanistan, and gives credence to the story that he voluntarily deserted his unit and was captured by the Taliban. Reports indicate that while in captivity, he willingly adopted the language, religion, and worldview of his captors, and they eventually treated him less like a prisoner and more like a comrade.
Unaware of this soldier's all-too-willing conversion to the enemy's way of life, the Army made at least one attempt to rescue this soldier, resulting in the deaths of those who were loyal enough to seek out their captured brother. While clearly aware of what happened to this soldier behind enemy lines, our executive leadership chose to negotiate for his freedom, in exchange for the release of five known terrorists from Guantanamo Bay.
We've all heard the story and the reactions. But I want to concentrate less on the reasons why the White House made this choice, and on its likely ramifications, and to concentrate more on what this soldier thought and did.
The United States of America has the mightiest army in the world. Sometimes it has been sent to engage in popular and justified actions in other areas of the world, and sometimes it has participated in less popular ventures. However, it is not up to the soldiers to decide if they like it.
Our military is there to protect our freedom, and in doing so, they must give up their own freedom for a time. This is why they are sent to boot camp, where they are trained to keep their heads under life-or-death situations and to follow orders without question. This is why they are also trained in combat and firearms. And this is why they take that oath to give the Army their utmost loyalty. Every soldier is trained to back up his brothers and to act as teammates. In this circumstances, the group is fundamentally more important than the individual.
If this soldier was unhappy with this Army's presence in Afghanistan, he could have done his job anyway, regardless of his opinion, and then waited until he rotated back to the world to tell us all how horrible he felt about that war. Given recent history, that kind of timing might have gotten him appointed him as Secretary of State one day.
It is often said that before one can truly be an individual, one must first conform. Stated another way, to be a leader, one must first be a follower. Unlike the party and its guests I referenced above, Bowe Bergdahl had a duty to his unit, his superiors, and his country, and he violated this duty. Voicing his opinion and following his conscience in the middle of a war zone was a horribly selfish and unbelievably dangerous thing to do. Party guests have a simple duty to not kill one another. Soldiers have a duty to remain loyal to each other, and not the enemy that they are fighting. They have a duty to follow orders and to further their superior's objectives, and not expose their comrades to attack or ambush by seeking out the enemy.
Beta males are not subject to the rules of the alphaganda. We have not been impressed into the Alpha Army, and we are not subject to their orders, and cannot be taken prisoner. However, those who join the military actually are subject to something bigger than themselves, and put their own dissenting opinions on the back-burner.
Does this mean beta males should not enlist? Not at all. The party dress code might not be the best analogy, but it demonstrates that beta males are loyal. We commit ourselves to principles that satisfy the highest good. Sorry to disappoint the opposition, but the alphaganda ain't it.
So, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, here's the deal. Despite your initials, you are not Bold, you are not Bulletproof, and you are certainly no Beta! If anything, you may be a deserter or a traitor. I hope you considered that as your good friends in Helman province indoctrinated you in their interpretation of the Koran. I hope you consider it further as the Army decides what's to be done with you in the face of such disloyalty to the nation you swore to defend. I hope you wake up and realize that you have made a most devious bargain with the most notorious alpholes the world has ever seen.
Then again, so did . . . no, I won't go there.