March 25, 2006


When it came time for Jake Dove, a senior at the U.S. Naval Academy, to decide how he would fulfill his required military duty after graduation, there was no question about it: Marine Corps all the way.

"In my eyes it's a perfect community," said Dove, an Annapolis High School graduate. "The idea of being a platoon leader in charge of guys that have done two, three tours in Iraq already, when I haven't been over there - that's an awesome responsibility. I'm eager to take it on."

Despite a war that has entered its fourth year with mounting casualties and waning public support, more and more midshipmen at the Annapolis military college are volunteering for the Marines when asked to choose how they will fulfill the five-year commitment required of all academy graduates.

When the assignments were made official last month for the 992 members of the class of 2006, 209 were placed as officers with the Corps - the most in the school's 161-year history. . . . Having a surplus of mids who want to be Marines has been a change from the Vietnam era. In 1968, the Marine Corps failed to meet its quota for the first time in academy history.

That's very interesting.

UPDATE: The "mounting" casualties language irritated a lot of readers, who sent emails like this one from Matthias Shapiro:

I know this is a small and stupid observation, but what the is point of articles like this refering to "mounting casualites"? Casualites are, in fact, decreasing steadily. And if they're talking about the total casualty list... do they think that we are going to see "receding casualties" anytime soon? Just a thought.

Well, there's the whole zombie soldier angle. But yes, although "casualties," being additive, are always going to "mount" over time barring new improvements in resurrection technology, the casualty rates are falling, something the "mounting casualties" language obscures.

Of course, we see the same error in reverse elsewhere. When we reduce spending growth rates, it's treated as a "spending cut," so it seems only fair that when casualty rates go down it should be treated as "receding casualties," just for consistency's sake, but I'm not holding my breath for that . . . .

Meanwhile, John Barton emails: "It is interesting. So too is the lack of broad coverage. There was a month or two about a year after the war started when the military missed recruiting goals. It was front page news at the Times. Since then, months in which the military has exceeded quotas go unreported, as does your item."

Yeah, go figure.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Er, maybe I wasn't clear above, as Hiawatha Bray emails a "correction" that seems to restate my point:

Of course, casualties in Iraq are "mounting." They mount every time one of our guys is killed or wounded. Those who died there last year are still dead, just like Francisco Franco. So with each new casualty, the number mounts. The speed with which they're mounting is a different issue altogether.

Isn't that what I said above, about "casualties" being additive, and casualty rates being different? I sure thought it was, and it was certainly what I was trying to say. I guess I wasn't clear enough.

MORE: Reader Dana Honeycutt says it was an analogy too far:

Re: Hiawatha Bray's "correction": His correction may have been motivated by your confusing analogy with government spending,. While it is true that the MSM refers to a reduction in the growth of spending as a "cut", it is also true that it is possible (in principle at least!) for government spending to actually decrease. This is completely different from the additive nature of casualties, so it's really not "the same error in reverse".

So, while I think your main point as stated was perfectly clear, the comparison to government spending muddled it.

(Yes, I know I'm nitpicking, beating a dead horse, and being pedantic here.)

Hey, if it weren't for those three activities, would we even have a blogosphere? But I probably should have left that last analogy off. Less is usually more with blogging, in my experience.

FINALLY: Major Richard Cleveland has the last word on this:

It would also be correct, but not politically correct, for the MSM to say that Annapolis grads are choosing to become Marines because the number of Iraqi Veterans continues to mount, and their stories of what is really happening on the front lines in Iraq are spread among those just now entering the service.

Good point, especially as the services are making use of veterans in recruiting.