Americans Hate Deserters

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A YouGov poll finds the public split on whether trading five Taliban for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was a good idea. The opposition stems entirely from Bergdahl’s alleged desertion:

If the allegations about how Bergdahl was captured turn out to be true, support for the deal could fall even further, particularly among Republicans. Only 24% of Americans think that the government even has a responsibility to try and rescue a deserter who is captured by enemy combatants. This compares to 82% for soldiers that get lost and captured, 87% for soldiers who are wounded and captured. Even for soldiers that surrender to the enemy, most Americans (57%) think that the government has a responsibility to rescue them.

But how can you know if someone deserted if you cannot even question him? That question wasn’t asked. Meanwhile, Jonathan Bernstein doubts the controversy will affect the midterm elections:

My guess is that the flap here already had its desired effect. Getting a captured soldier home was a potential rally-around-the-flag moment that might have lifted the president’s approval rating. However, political scientist Richard Brody found long ago that the rally effect depends on one variable: whether the out-party praises or criticizes the president. So the immediate Republican attacks surely had the effect of preventing an approval boost. Not that it matters much anyway; the whole idea of the rally effect is that it’s a temporary boost. So that didn’t and won’t happen. After a few weeks, approval will be back to where it would have been anyway.

I remain of the view that the administration’s attempt to milk this for approval ratings is the one abiding, dumb-as-a-post misjudgment of the whole thing.