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Friday, December 17, 2004

Desertion Rate Math

Greyhawk over at Mudville Gazette has superb dissection of an article appearing in the Christian Science Monitor concerning "The pattern of discontent in US ranks." Greyhawk's piece is sufficient to blow away any credibility the author of the CSM, one Brad Knickerbocker, may have had and I suggest you read it.

This post deals with the more limited issue of the number of desertions that have occurred since the Iraq began. As Greyhawk notes, "60 Minutes says there have been over 5,500 desertions since the Iraq war began." To which my response is "What does that number mean? What's the 'normal' number of desertions in a year?" Here's partial answer: "Officials say today's Army takes a passive, good-riddance approach to its runaways, who account for fewer than 1 percent of enlistees. Prosecutions and prison sentences have become rare. Most of the several thousand deserters who bolt each year aren't actively pursued. Of those who do wind up in custody, more than 90 percent are discharged as quickly as the paperwork can be processed", according to a 2003 LA Times article found here. "Refusing to Kill.net" appears to be a pro deserter website.

Be that as it may, a 1% desertion rate for an army of 500,000 active troops is 5000 deserters, which means the "5500" CBS figure is roughly within the margin of error of the "normal" rate.

Now, if you take the entire active force (you know, add the Navy and the Air Force and the Marines), you have about 1.2 million "troops." Given that number, you might expect there to be 12,000 deserters, if the 1% figure is the norm. Instead, we get 5,500 "since the Iraq War began."

Perhaps desertions aren't up, but, instead are down since the war began...

Update: Well, call me late to the party. Will Collier over at Vodka Pundit was all over this yesterday and even has Pentagon figures (that I couldn't find) from
Pamela Hess, UPI's Pentagon correspondent, did some actual (and serendipitous) reporting on the subject today:

"The number of annual military desertions is down to the lowest level since before 2001, according to the Pentagon.

The Army said the number of new deserters in 2004 -- 2,376 -- was just half the number of those who deserted prior to Sept. 11, 2001. That number was 4,597.

The numbers of deserters has dropped annually since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The fiscal year 2004 total number of Army deserters is the lowest since before 1998, according to Army data."
I don't mind being late, since my independent logic is supported...Okay, I do mind.

Hat tip to "mdmhvonpa", the commentor at Mudville Gazette that finally got me pointed in the right direction.

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