June 7, 2014 at 1:00 am

Free Bergdahl, then try him

Now that Bowe Bergdahl is back stateside, questions about how he disappeared in Afghanistan must be answered. (Uncredited / AP)

There is strong eyewitness evidence that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl deserted his unit and that the search for him endangered his fellow soldiers. Otherwise, there would be no national uproar over his ransom and widely aired objections to the deal would be as muted as they are flimsy. For example:

1. America doesnít negotiate with terrorists.

Nonsense. Of course we do. Everyone does, while pretending not to. The Israelis, by necessity the toughest of all anti-terror fighters, in 2011 gave up 1,027 prisoners, some with blood on their hands, for one captured staff sergeant.

2. The administration did not give Congress 30-day notice as required by law.

Of all the jurisdictional disputes between president and Congress, the president stands on the firmest ground as commander-in-chief. And commanders have the power to negotiate prisoner exchanges.

Moreover, from where did this sudden assertion of congressional prerogative spring? After five years of supine acquiescence to President Barack Obamaís multiple usurpations, Congress suddenly becomes exercised over a war power ó where its claim is weakest.

Congress does nothing in the face of 23 separate violations of the presidentís own Affordable Care Act. It does nothing when Obama essentially enacts by executive order the DREAM Act. It does nothing when the Justice Department unilaterally rewrites drug laws. And now it rises indignantly on its hind legs because it didnít get 30 daysí notice of a prisoner swap?

3. The Taliban release endangers national security.

Indeed it does. The five released detainees are unrepentant, militant and dangerous. The administrationís pretense, that we and the Qataris will monitor them, is a joke. If they decide to leave Qatar tomorrow, whoís going to stop them?

The administration might have tried honesty here and said: Yes, we gave away five important combatants. But thatís what you do to redeem hostages. In such exchanges, the West always gives more than it gets, for the simple reason that we value individual human life more than do the barbarians with whom we deal.

No shame here, merely a lamentable reality. So why does the Bergdahl deal so rankle? Because of how he became captive in the first place. Thatís the real issue. He appears to have deserted, perhaps even defected.

The Rose Garden stunt wasnít a messaging failure. Itís a category error.

The president seems oblivious.

Which is why a stunned and troubled people are asking themselves what kind of man they have twice chosen to lead them.

Charles Krauthammer writes for The Washington Post.