March 7, 2006

Who Didn't Desert When Come To the Wall

Hatched by Dafydd

Here's one that hasn't gotten a lot of newsplay. From USA Today, linked by Drudge:

At least 8,000 members of the all-volunteer U.S. military have deserted since the Iraq war began, Pentagon records show, although the overall desertion rate has plunged since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

But wait -- I thought George Bush's cavalier disregard for the lives and health of the soldiers in his mad pursuit of absolute power as King George the 1th had degraded, demoralized, and destroyed our troops and their combat capability. After all, there was that Zogby Poll just a few days ago that supposedly found that 72% of the soldiers in Iraq were so sick of the terrible losses they'd suffered that they wanted to abandon everything and just leave. Or at least, that's how John Zogby and the newsies interpreted the ambiguous poll results.

Perhaps that wasn't the right explanation after all....

After all, if morale were so low, increased desertions would be inevitable. But in fact, looking at the yearly tables, we see no such pattern:

  • The Army desertion rate steadily rose through the late 1990s, reaching a peak in FY 2001 (October 1st, 2000 through September 30th, 2001) with 4,597 desertions, 0.95% of the Army.
  • In FY 2002, which began October 1st, 2001, just after 9/11, desertions dropped slightly, down to 4,483, for a rate of 0.926%.
  • Next fiscal year, the one that included both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, running from Oct. 1st, 2002 through Sep. 30th, 2003, the desertion rate dropped substantially to 3,678, or 0.76%.

But wait, maybe it's not the actual combat the saps morale and causes more desertions; maybe it's the long slog of occupation, the endless battles with a surging insurgency, Iraqis who all hate us, and the crushing, demoralizing knowledge that we're suffering nothing but defeat after defeat with no successes whatsoever, as the Antique Media keeps telling us. Perhaps that is when the full realization of futility and defeat will set in, leading to massive desertions.

  • In FY 2004 -- all of which occurred after the end of major combat operations in Iraq, entirely during the occupation -- the Army experienced 2,376 desertions for a rate of 0.491% -- more than a third down from 2003.
  • I cannot find the desertion rate for FY 2005, which ended on September 30th last year; but I'm pretty sure that if it were significantly greater than FY 2004, it would have been screaming headlines in every newspaper in America and the top story on all the networks.

This isn't dispositive; shortly after 9/11, we changed how we treated desertions. We used to prosecute immediately, but now we return deserters to their units and let the CO decide what to do; some end up reassimilated. But certainly there isn't a shred of evidence that Iraq service increases desertion, despite repeated and typically unsourced claims made by lefty blogsites and the mainstream media (apologies for any redundancy).

Bear this in mind when you read the next anti-war rant or Zogby-style poll arguing that the troops are crushed and demoralized and ready to give up.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 7, 2006, at the time of 3:58 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 7, 2006 4:26 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Bill Faith:

By the way, Bill, I don't mention this often enough, but I do appreciate all the linkage from you; it's nice to know someone out there reads Big Lizards.

Besides, I think you're single-handedly keeping this lizard a "Large Mammal!" Now if only we could find, oh, a dozen more like you, we could finally hit the nirvana of Playful Primatehood.

Thanks for each and every one of them,


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 7, 2006 4:43 PM

The following hissed in response by: RBMN

I'm sure quite a few of the "desertions" over the years are actually just undiscovered victims--now deceased remains of some accident or undiscovered crime. Young men in unfamiliar places, who drink, have a way of getting into trouble with jealous husbands, muggers, and sometimes just gravity mixed with generous amounts of Jack Daniels.

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 7, 2006 7:53 PM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

Dafydd, don't give me too much credit. I don't get enough traffic myself to do that much for your stats. You keep writing the sort of stuff you have been and I'll keep linking, as a service to any of my readers who aren't in the habit of following your blog closely.

btw, I'm going to send you an email in little bit hoping to persuade you to check out my Of Arabs and Kit Carson Scouts post and maybe let me know what you think of it. It's my attempt, with able help from a friend, to try to swing some people around to our way of thinking on a subject you changed my thinking on several days ago. (I give you proper credit)

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 7, 2006 11:16 PM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

OK, so maybe I won't email you; I just realized that if there's an email address on your site I can't find it. Anyway, I hope you'll take a look at the post I linked to. Just a couple of tired old Viet Nam vets looking at the Dubai ports thing from a little different perspective than some other people might. I thought I'd done a pretty decent job on the original post till my friend Rurik left a comment showing me what a pro could do. Maybe you'll find part of what one of us wrote useful.

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 7, 2006 11:30 PM

The following hissed in response by: messdale

This is good analysis. Although I would point out two factors that surely contribute to the decline in desertions. First, a sense of mission (ie. deployment) builds camraderie and makes emphasizes individual contributions to a team. Second, it's difficult to desert when deployed in a foriegn country.

The above hissed in response by: messdale [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 8, 2006 8:30 AM

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