[July 27, 2014] It is incumbent upon military senior leaders to help set the right tone for their organizations. All leaders should be doing it and is absolutely the right thing to do. That was the bottom line of an article in the most recent U.S. Army’s magazine entitled “Military Leaders Defend Prisoner Exchange.” The magazine’s editor in chief pointed out that it is always the desire and policy of the United States to recover all their troops, especially those held in captivity. The U.S. does so regardless of the circumstances of their capture. This is exactly right but leaves out the article left out one important detail.
Senior military leaders defend the exchange, according to the editor.1 That is correct. From the Secretary of Defense, to the Chief of Staff of the Army, to other well-known senior U.S. Army leaders and from Congress, they were supportive of the exchange. While there were many that did not like the fact that senior terrorist leaders were part of the exchange, some grudgingly admitted that it was still important to get the prisoner Bowe Bergdahl back home.
What was left out in the article was one of the primary reasons for the controversy. The praise given to Bowe Bergdahl by staff in the White House and political appointees directly contradicted what many knew about the capture of Bergdahl. These political leaders called Bergdahl’s service honorable and brave. Soldiers knew that the circumstances of the capture strongly pointed to Bergdahl deserting in time of war, a grave offense. Even if untrue, there should have been knowledge of those circumstances and praise for Bergdahl thus more muted.
Leaders should be aware if they plan to explain an important controversy to people, then they should list all the pertinent facts, assumptions, and perceptions. Leaving out such an important point will hurt the credibility of the author and leader. The deficiency of the article in a major magazine of the military does not do justice to those attempting to quell a controversy.
Senior leader lesson learned?
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