Time magazine is rushing to President Obama’s side to defend him against the charge that he negotiated with terrorists to secure the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
The magazine tells readers that the maxim that America doesn’t negotiate with terrorists is more of a general ideal than a hard-bound policy and cites several other presidents who, the magazine claims, did negotiate with terrorists.
Time notes that during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis Jimmy Carter negotiated with the Iranian Mullahs who took over Iran after deposing the Shah. Reagan also negotiated with the Mullahs, Time notes.
Of course, in both cases the Mullahs were then the official government in Iran, whereas today the Taliban are not an officially recognized government in Afghanistan.
The magazine also reminds readers that Bill Clinton met with Irish Republican Army leader Gerry Adams in the mid-1990s. Still, in that case Clinton was not “negotiating” for the release of American soldiers. Clinton’s was a political move, not a traditional “negotiation.”
Oddly, Time treats the Taliban as a single organization, calling it a “savage and deplorable organization” that the magazine yet notes “is not on the State Department’s official list of terrorist organizations.”
In truth, though, the Taliban is not really a “the,” but a “they.” The Taliban is a catch-all phrase used to describe a loosely knit movement of many different groups, some of which don’t work well with the others. Often these groups are based on local tribes as opposed to members of a centrally controlled group.
There are essentially two separate “Talibans,” one in Pakistan and one in Afghanistan.
Regardless, Time magazine insists that whatever was going on, “the real debate isn’t whether Obama negotiated with terrorists – he didn’t.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.