Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Slandering Soldiers

UPDATE: below

Last week's NY Times smear of Iraq war vets has been proven false and misleading by multiple critics. That didn't stop Slate's Fred Kaplan from fabricating another military crisis, claiming Wednesday increased retirement rates of allegedly dissatisfied junior Army officers; last August, Kaplan claimed in a NY Times article that "junior officers are quitting at alarming rates." Kaplan's claim is reminiscent of an April 2007 Boston Globe article asserting that "Recent graduates of the US Military Academy at West Point are choosing to leave active duty at the highest rate in more than three decades, a sign to many military specialists that repeated tours in Iraq are prematurely driving out some of the Army's top young officers." According to the Globe, about 35 percent of West Point alum now leave the service when they first become eligible to withdraw, five years after graduation.

Is any of this true? Not really. Start with Kaplan, whose poster child is Lt. Col. John Nagl, who recently announced his retirement. But as Neptunus Lex notes, Nagl is quitting after serving 20 years, which doesn't support Kaplan's thesis. And Nagl's not abandoning the defense sector--he's going to the Center for a New American Security, a D.C. think-tank devoted to developing "strong, pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies that promote and protect American interests and values." According to Nagl,
I hope to focus on national security for the remainder of my days. Obviously you don't have to do that in uniform.
Well, apart from Nagl, is Army officer retention down since the Iraq invasion? Actually, no:
The 10-year historical loss rate for company grade officers is 8.5%. In FY06, the loss rates for company grade officers were 7.9%, which was below the historical norm.
In a first-rate post, Cassandra at Villainous Company charts the data:

source: Villainous Company

Cassandra muses:
Odd, isn't it, that this piece of information is never mentioned by the media? Perhaps it undercuts the narrative.
Cassandra also exposes the Globe's slight-of-hand:

Let's take a look at the graphic the Boston Globe uses to illustrate this point. I took the liberty of annotating it slightly to make a few things more apparent. The first fact to fairly leap off the handy chart supplied by the Globe (though they barely mention it) is that for most of the time period covered by the chart, 30% or more of West Point grads have left at the 5 year mark.
And multiple tours in Iraq isn't the reason for the retirements. Rather, as Bill Lennox showed two years ago, West Point graduates leave the Army because "only 19 to 38 percent of incoming cadets give 'desire to be a career Army officer' as their main reason for attending the Academy." That suggests West Point needs to re-focus its recruiting, but -- contrary to the Globe -- it's not evidence Army officers are weary of the war.

There's no doubting Cassandra's conclusion:
When it comes to the war in Iraq, it seems to rain every day. For the mainstream media any happenstance related to the war is immediately seized upon as a harbinger of doom; a sign, a portent, an ill omen. . . [Reporters,] laboring arduously in the field of preconceived notions, uncovered exactly what they expected to find.
Obviously, the MSM hates America's military. What I can't explain is why anyone believes their repeated libels.


Strategy Page:
Reenlistments have been higher than before the war on terror began in 2001. The invasion of Iraq resulted in even higher reenlistment rates.

The army sets goals each year, for the percentage of troops who will re-enlist when their current enlistment (usually for four years) is up. This past year, about 14 percent of troops in each combat brigade were expected to re-enlist. Nearly all brigades exceeded this figure, with the most spectacular being the 4th brigade of the 25th Infantry division, which had 37 percent of its troops reenlist.
(via Conservative Grapevine)

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