The Value of a Life

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I’m currently listening to a podcast about the case of Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. Army private who walked off his base in Afghanistan, was captured by the Taliban, was returned home in a prisoner exchange, and currently faces court martial and other serious charges.

The issue of whether Bergdahl should be in prison for what he did is certainly an interesting and important one. But what struck me as I listened to the story of his capture and of the U.S. military’s search for him was how much Americans value a single human life.

Reporter Sarah Koenig of NPR’s show “Serial” interviewed a member of the Taliban, who said they realized that the capture of Bergdahl represented an important coup for their side. When Koenig questioned whether holding him was worth losing 15 of their own fighters in a single raid by the U.S., he answered that it was worth losing 5,000.

By contrast, the disappearance of Bergdahl set in motion a U.S. military DUSTWUN (duty status whereabouts unknown) that triggered a widespread manhunt to find him using massive amounts of military resources, special forces, and personnel put in harm’s way for 45 days. “Never leave a man behind” has become somewhat of a cliche in our culture, but it is a serious mandate for American military forces.

This case highlights how difficult it is to fight an enemy that is only too willing to sacrifice its own people in huge numbers to advance its cause. Whether we are talking about the Taliban, ISIS, al Qaeda, or other terrorist organizations, we are dealing with people who show a callous disregard for human life.

Whatever the result of the Bergdahl case, I admire the courage and tenacity of our soldiers who did everything in their power to find and save one human being. Let’s use that same ethic in our culture, teaching, laws, and policies to protect and preserve each life both here at home and in the wider world.

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