New York Times's David Brooks breaks conservative ranks on Bergdahl

David Brooks on the set of Meet the Press in 2007 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption David Brooks says President Obama "made the right call" on the Bowe Bergdahl deal

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Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks says US President Barack Obama "made the right call" in agreeing to a prisoner exchange to free Bowe Bergdahl.

He contends that because Americans don't have a "common ancestry" they need to foster a sense of "national solidarity" through patriotism and faith in country.

President Barack Obama, because of his "special responsibility to nurture this national solidarity", had to do everything he could to free Mr Bergdahl, he writes:

It doesn't matter if Bergdahl had deserted his post or not. It doesn't matter if he is a confused young man who said insulting and shameful things about his country and his Army. The debt we owe to fellow Americans is not based on individual merit. It is based on citizenship, and loyalty to the national community we all share.

Soldiers don't risk their lives only for those Americans who deserve it; they do it for the nation as a whole.

It also doesn't matter that the US had to release five Taliban officials held in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, he writes, as they may have been released soon anyway.

"The loss of national fraternity that would result if we start abandoning Americans in the field would be a greater and more long lasting harm," he contends.

If Mr Obama made a mistake, he says, it was in treating the Rose Garden announcement of Mr Bergdhal's release as a photo-op and the administration's "tone-deafness" for how the prisoner exchange would be perceived.

"Still, the president's instincts were right," he concludes. "His sense of responsibility for a fellow countryman was correct. It's not about one person; it's about the principle of all-for-one-and-one-for-all, which is the basis of citizenship."

Brooks has been characterised as a voice of the rapidly vanishing "moderate", North-eastern wing of the Republican Party. His mere employment by what conservatives view to be a left-leaning New York Times further diminishes his standing with those on the right, which has led many to dismiss his views on Mr Bergdhal.

The Week's Matt K Lewis says Brooks's decision to break ranks on Mr Bergdahl's release was mere political and professional expediency. Although he isn't the only right-leaning pundit to take a contrarian stand (the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer has also expressed similar sentiment), he has made the most full-throated support of Mr Obama so far.

"In fairness to Brooks, though, this is somewhat consistent with his brand of communitarian conservatism," Lewis writes. "It's also an example of opportunistic column trolling. It's always terrific when one's political philosophy and business interests can merge."

The Bergdahl story didn't initially seem like one that would lend itself to entrenched partisan warfare, but that appears to be where the debate has settled. That's why it's particularly noteworthy when prominent voices on one side or the other go against the grain (former Obama administration Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta, for instance, has said he's against the deal).

Have you found other examples of prominent commentators taking party-defying positions on Mr Bergdahl's release? Email them to echochambers (at)


Battling the mafia state within - As Eastern Ukrainian separatists continue to challenge Kiev's ability to maintain a unified state under a fog of pro-Russian fervour, the growing conflict has revealed a resilient "mafia state", write Piotr Kosicki and Oksana Nesterenko for the New Republic.

"In recent months, commentators have increasingly - and rightly - pointed out the need to think about Ukraine not just as a state, but also as the sum of its regions," they say. "Here the 'mafia state' idea can help us to understand the events of recent months, especially the perverse phenomenon of the separatist militia-driven 'people's republics' of the Donbas."

Historically Donbas, the most Eastern region of Ukraine, has been considered a case study of failed governance, barely under the control of either Kiev or Moscow. "Firearms, strongmen, and public displays of power through violent conflict made crime not only an accepted norm, but the surest means of survival, and even status-building."

Russian involvement aside, Donbas has been "a powder keg just waiting to explode in the face of the Ukrainian state", they write.

Ukrainian partition need not become the fate of Donbas and the rest of the state, however. Kiev can bring the region closer to the capital by increasing its investment in local and regional infrastructure, they say, "as long as it bypasses the well-worn channels of mafia-controlled contractors and middlemen".


India must wake up to Chinese actions - With the upcoming visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Ti to India, pressure mounts on the newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi to respond to recent Chinese regional actions, writes India's former Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh for Project Syndicate.

Not only has China adopted "an increasingly assertive stance" along the Himalayan frontier, Mr Singh writes, Chinese "reflexive support for Pakistan's efforts to destabilise Ladakh and Kashmir" has also become a major point of contention.

"All of this highlights a fundamental flaw in China's external strategy," he says. "Its efforts to use its increasingly powerful military to intimidate its neighbours come at the expense of its own long-term security. Indeed, instead of trying to build a mutually beneficial relationship with its largest neighbour, China has sought to encircle India by asserting military control of surrounding territories."

Although China maintains that its intentions are peaceful, Mr Singh says, its actions clearly are not.

"While Modi has not yet commented on the security challenge that China's actions are creating, he will have to do so soon," he asserts. "Because India has just endured a decade of neglect by the previous Congress government, the new administration will have to act quickly and decisively to safeguard the country's national-security."


A proper burial and investigation for the Tuam babies - With the revelations of a mass grave of nearly 800 babies at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Ireland, the Irish government needs to ensure that a full investigation into their deaths occurs, writes Chief Executive of the Irish Hospice Foundation Sharon Foley for the Irish Times.

Although many commentators have looked upon these deaths as a token from Ireland's "darker past", Foley says, "what makes this most disturbing is that these events are still in living memory of almost half the population. Everyone - no matter what their age, background or religion - deserves to die with dignity".

Ireland's government must "do all it can now to make amends in the Tuam babies case," she writes. "We cannot ignore the past, but we can reclaim it."

Not only should the government investigate the deaths of the children, she concludes, authorities should also try to identify who these children were and inform living relatives if possible.


Ignoring climate change could endanger the economy - Although Canada's heightened political emphasis on oil production and exports should boost the economy in years to come, writes Joseph Arvai for the Globe and Mail, it also distances Canada from its "once-willing trading partners".

Canada's international reputation related to carbon pollution and climate change is starting to challenge the country's "ability to responsibly develop [its] natural resources and, importantly, [its] economy", says Arvai.

Even with increased global attention to Canada's stance on climate change, the government continues to ignore global criticism of its policies, he says.

"Those who come down on the side of expanded oil sands development and pipelines also end up losing", Arvai writes. "They lose because failing to get serious about climate change makes it increasingly difficult to do business on a global stage where psychology counts for much more than misguided political rhetoric."

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Regional commentators weigh on Israel's recent announcement that new homes will be constructed in the occupied territories of the West Bank.

"Here is … a change in the definition of building in East Jerusalem - no longer an 'occupied territory' but Israeli territory, the only homeland of the Jewish people." - Dror Eydar in Israel's Yisrael Hayom.

"[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu must immediately reject the building plans, recognise the Palestinian unity government and try to quickly sit at the negotiations table with it." - Editorial in Israel's Ha'aretz.

"Israel's decision to build 3,300 new settlement units in Eastern Jerusalem and in the West Bank in response to the formation of a Palestinian national unity government is a flagrant attempt by the Hebrew state to fish in troubled waters and cannot be described other than as a new war crime." - Editorial in Qatar's Al-Rayah.‎

Have you found an interesting opinion piece about global issues that we missed? Share it with us via email at echochambers (at)

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