Neoconservative David Brooks’s column approving Obama’s deal with the Taliban to release Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is getting a lot of attention because of its ideological independence. The NYT columnist says Obama was right to free five Taliban leaders in order to gain the freedom of the young army sergeant from Idaho who is said to have walked away from his base in Afghanistan five years ago at a time when he questioned the US purpose there.
Brooks endorsed the deal by citing Israeli nationalist esprit-de-corps.
Israel once traded 1,027 Palestinian prisoners to get back one of their own. Another time they traded 1,150 prisoners to get back three of their own. They did it because of a deep awareness that national cohesion is essential to national survival. They did it because Israeli parents share a common emotional bond; the imprisonment of one of their children touches them all. In polarized countries, especially, you have to take care of your own.
That’s not surprising, considering that Brooks was taught to be “gooey-eyed” about Israel, as he confessed on his 12th pilgrimage there.
But I noticed his acceptance of the Taliban:
It doesn’t matter either that the U.S. government ended up dealing with terrorists. In the first place, the Taliban are not terrorists the way al-Qaida is. America has always tried to reach a negotiated arrangement with the Taliban, and this agreement may be a piece of that. In the second place, this is the dirty world we live in. Sometimes national leaders are called upon to take the sins of the situation upon themselves for the good of the country, to deal with the hateful and compromise with the loathsome. That’s their form of sacrifice and service.
Would Brooks ever say that Israel must reach a negotiated settlement with Hamas? Let alone qualify Hamas’s official status as a terrorist organization? I sincerely doubt it. If he hasn’t, he should do so now, in endorsing Palestinian reunification as a step toward resolution of the conflict.
The Taliban is a whole lot worse than Hamas, in social attitudes, intolerance, orthodoxy and commitment to violent struggle.
And note Brooks’s statement about Israel: “In polarized countries, especially, you have to take care of your own.” But that’s the problem: Israel only looks out for its own, Jews. Which is why the country (by which Brooks seems to mean Israel and Palestine) is polarized.
(P.S. I don’t spout opinions about Bergdahl because, like David Brooks, I’ve never donned a uniform.)