In the New York Times, Eric Schmitt and Charlie Savage report on the exchange of five Taliban who had been imprisoned at Guantánamo for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a prisoner of the Afghan Taliban since 2008.

The five Taliban detainees at Guantánamo, including two senior militant commanders said to be linked to operations that killed American and allied troops as well as implicated in murdering thousands of Shiites in Afghanistan, were flown from Cuba in the custody of officials from Qatar, who will accompany them back to that Persian Gulf state.

Less than enthusiastic about the deal, Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, made the traditional case.

“I have little confidence in the security assurances regarding the movement and activities of the now-released Taliban leaders, and I have even less confidence in this administration’s willingness to ensure they are enforced,” he said. “I believe this decision will threaten the lives of American soldiers for years to come.”

Others draw different lessons, as indicated by nother New York Times article titled Lesson for P.O.W.’s Father: Men Sometimes Do Come Back.

For five years Robert Bergdahl waged a father’s war for the return of his soldier son.

He accused the Obama administration of stalling talks for his release. He made his own contact with the Taliban to try to find out more. He pressured the State Department and Pentagon during frequent trips to Washington, where in 2012 he spoke in anguish to a crowd of 100,000 on Memorial Day.

“Men don’t come back from this, you know,” Mr. Bergdahl bleakly warned his son at Christmas 2008, just before he was deployed.

All crises need not be responded to with a lesson or by upholding a principle. In fact, they seldom are. Much of life is comprised of a series of ad hoc, often stop-gap measures, that we patch together to overcome obstacles and solve problems. We often ― usually? ― lurch from one crisis to the next. Insistence on conforming to a principle on the chance of ensuring better behavior in the future at the expense of short-term mercy is, like many dogmatic proscriptions, hard-hearted and impractical.