As more and more of the backstory of the US trade of Guantanamo detainees for its soldier, Bowe Bergdhal, emerge, and as the story becomes increasingly politicized, I would say that there are some clear ethical and legal threads that need to be followed.
First, while numerous stories from his military peers are now out there as to how Bergdhal intentionally deserted and thus jeopardized the lives of comrades sent to look for him, I don’t think these stories trump his right to come home. When other US soldiers were accused of crimes against Iraqi and Afghan civilians, they were brought back to the US to face justice. The same principle should apply to alleged deserters. If the phrase “Leave No One Behind” counts, it shouldn’t have moral exemptions. As the only US soldier to be help captive by the Taliban, his health, which was apparently declining, and the declared intent of the US to withdraw from Afghanistan, made this the right time to bring him home. If I was Bowe Bergdhal’s father, I would want my son to face military justice in the US rather than to be punished by allowing him to linger in Taliban hands. There will surely be a Board of Inquiry into his capture, and if the BOI leads to charges and even a conviction for him, better and more just for Bergdahl to be confined in a military prison such as Leavenworth. It also seems to me to be common sense that when soldiers deploy to future conflicts, they need to know that their country will do all that it can to bring them home, whatever the political costs may be.
Second, the controversy over the trade of five supposedly high-value captives for Bergdhal, as Amy Davidson writes in The New Yorker, merely remind us of the morally compromised position that the US placed itself in by refusing to treat them as Prisoners of War according to internationally-agreed on Laws of Armed Conflict.