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« Shots Fired in Anger | Main | Wasting Military Excellence »

November 16, 2007

Large Unprofessional Military a Bloody Mess: Congressional Report

-Patrick S Lasswell

Convoy Near Mosul 3.jpg
Convoy near Mosul, Spring 2007. These clean, sober, and professional troops are much better off than the underpaid hollow force was in 1980.

According to a recent paper by the Congressional Research Service, the US military lost more troops each year through accidents in the early 1980s than were lost each year in Operation Iraq Freedom, indicating that underpaid and under qualified troops are a greater menace to themselves than terrorist action. The drop in fatal accidents is most notable after the Reagan era budget increases and the attendant increase in professionalism.

Increasing accuracy in the military anti-drug initiatives were not specifically cited, but have to be considered as part of making military service safer. As recently as the 1990 I knew people who claimed to be able to beat the drug test, and people are still getting caught getting stupid, but attitudes toward drug use in the service are much less tolerant than when I went to boot camp in 1984. Along with an increase in pay and recruiting bonuses for quality recruits, the improvement of professionalism since the hollow force years of the 1970s shows gains where it matters most, keeping the troops alive.

Sailor clearing empties.jpg
Long service sailor doing his job safely on the range. Clearing casings after firing the Mk.19 Grenade Launcher, this sailor and his assistant gunner fired faster and more accurately because they were professionals.

Less cheering is the persistent number of suicides in the service. Military service in the US is not easy and it is not fair; the drop in accidents is not reflected by similar drops in self-inflicted deaths. During a recent training period on my reserve base, I talked with Marines who were arranging services for a Marine who had taken his own life. In the end, it was decided to provide full honors for the fallen comrade because they took responsibility for not seeing the signs. If anything decent can be taken away from this tragedy, the integrity of the US Marine Corps in this matter shows profound commitment to stopping this kind of senseless loss. As somebody who has served with a number of people who attempted suicide, I genuinely appreciate that commitment to decency.

Another column in the report worth noting is the deaths by terrorist attack. Since 2001 when 55 fell at the Pentagon attack, we have not lost troops at home or away from combat areas due to terrorist action. There are any number of ways this can be spun, but the enemy has not mustered the strength to effectively attack the US since the start of open conflict in 2001. Waiting to be attacked does not appear to be as effective a survival measure.

In the end, the hand wringing of the anti-war movement about the wasting of lives appears all the more fraudulent in light of these numbers. There were not protest rallies in 1980 pleading to bring home the troops from the quagmire of Fort Dix, when truck rollovers and out of control partying were taking more soldiers lives than are being lost in Anbar province today. If the protesters really supported the troops, they'd be calling for a pay raise and improved medical benefits, not retreat.

Sailor shooting 50.jpg
These sailors got the support they needed last year when the unit got enough ammunition to fire more than for minimal qualifications. The pile of brass resulted from the service member finally getting the opportunity to figure out the exact qualities of the M2HB Heavy Machine Gun. Fired on a safe range, these rounds will do a lot to help keep the troops alive in unsafe places.

This report also shows the consummate idiocy of calls for conscription. The number of accident deaths of a massive unprofessional military will be tremendous, as the report shows. In 1980 we were recruiting marginal troops, but at least they were all volunteers. The bloody mischief unwilling slackers can get themselves into is appalling. The quality of life impact of a horde of strangers descending on our military bases would be immense, as well.

We have a working military that is in most respects getting consistently better. The numbers show that decent pay, benefits, and commitment to professionalism saves lives. The best way to support the troops is to support the troops.

Hat Tip: Instapundit


The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 11/16/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...

Nice piece.
I have wondered how war casualties and losses to peace time attrition. This entry seems to confirm what I had suspected.
I actually heard a discussion on NPR on the subject of conscript quality last night. A loosening of standards and requirements for new recruits to overlook some criminal behavior and a lack of secondary education was the topic of concern. I am a wee bit biased about NPR these days, so I took it with a grain of salt.


NPR is perhaps unable to take the long view, which is necessary for discussions about military matters. On the other hand journalism is less than two hundred years old as a profession and the professional military is exactly as old as civilization.

I agree.

NPR/OPB relies on membership donations and needs to toe the party line at all costs. I try to listen between the softly spoken, 'Oh so very concerned' lines. I also was informed recently on NPR (via some kind of meet the candidates program)that the US military has murdered over 1,000,000 civilian non-combatants in Iraq.

BS Filter ON.

Here is a bit that may change your mind about the nature of drug use. Or not.

PTSD and the Endocannabinoid System.

"In the end, the hand wringing of the anti-war movement about the wasting of lives appears all the more fraudulent in light of these numbers."

Those of us in the anti-war movement are concerned about the loss of Iraqi lives. If those who supported this war really wanted to improve the lives of Iraqis, they'd care about Iraqi lives too. They'd at least have a credible estimate of the number killed.

I feel sorry for all the US and allied soldiers killed in Iraqi and for their families, but, as you said, in a statistical sense, they're safer than they were in the 80's. I feel great sympathy for the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis killed by the chaos unleashed by this war.

Before this war started, I saw nothing to convince me that it was about improving the lives of Iraqis or bringing them democracy, eliminating weapons of mass destruction, or catching Bin Laden. I've seen nothing to convince me that it was about these since then.

The above comment is one reason why it is very difficult to take pacifists seriously. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi's were being killed by the Hussein regime for decades and the anti-war movement did nothing to oppose it. The anti-war movement let themselves be used by Saddam as human shields and continue to deny victory over fascists.

Gain some perspective and do some math. Until you can show that you know how to perform basic accounting, rational people will not trust you to hold anyone accountable.

The vast majority of innocent deaths in Iraq are caused by fascist mass murderers. Blaming those deaths on the actions of the people hunting the mass murderers is inane in debate and insufferable in reality.

If you want to see something to convince you of my point, go to Iraq. The truth is there and a lot of us are trying to tell it to you. See for yourself. I've been and I've seen. I'm willing to be transparent, why are you unwilling to inquire honestly?

More indications of why the anti-war movement is just not worth taking seriously, they are not serious people. Here is what's happening across the border in Iran:

According to Yasser’s brother his family has been maltreated and been exposed to obscenities while at court. One month after the arrestment of Yasser, his father referred to the information section of the intelligence ministry in order to find out about Yasser’s condition, he was arrested at site and imprisoned for six days.

The US military has nothing to do with this fascist persecution of decent people. What is the anti-war movement doing to promote freedom in Iran? What are they doing to keep Iran from attacking us?

Pacifism is a lovely ideology that is utterly useless in the face of violent fascists.

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