Tens of thousands desert the Army, but DoD prosecutes very few


In the wake of overwhelming evidence that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl deserted his post and surrendered to the Taliban, there has been new scrutiny aimed at deserters in the Army and what the Pentagon has done about it.  Analysis shows that tens of thousands of soldiers have deserted in the last decade, but the Department of Defense has declined to prosecute the vast majority of them.

from Military Times:

The U.S. Army has prosecuted about 1,900 cases of desertion since 2001, despite tens of thousands of soldiers fleeing the service in the face of deadly combat, long and multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and strains on military families.

The data reflects how rarely the military takes desertion cases to court. And it underscores the complexities of such cases as a top military commander reviews the investigation of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who left his Afghanistan post in 2009 and was captured and held by the Taliban for five years.
More than 20,000 soldiers have been dropped from the rolls as deserters since 2006, Army data show. Totals for earlier years weren’t available, but likely include thousands more.
In trial cases over the last 13 years, about half the soldiers pleaded guilty to deserting their post. Another 78 were tried and convicted of desertion.

Desertion is relatively easy to prove, former Army lawyer Greg Rinckey said, but circumstances such as post-traumatic stress or family problems are also taken into account.

"A lot of deserters suffered from PTSD or other mental health issues, or they were on their second or third deployment," said Rinckey. Numbers spiked as soldiers began returning to the battlefront, sometimes for up to 15 month deployments.
Some disappearances involved divorce issues or sick children, he said. In other cases, soldiers deserted bases in the United States. Many are of these are handled without going to court martial, with soldiers administratively punished or sometimes medically discharged.

Soldiers who avoid deployment or leave posts in combat zones are more serious cases, particularly if the deserter is responsible for standing guard or protecting others in dangerous places.

"Those are looked at very harshly," said Rinckey, now a partner with the Washington law firm Tully Rinckey, "because commanders have a unit of other people who are looking at that soldier and saying, ‘I don’t want to go either,’ so obviously there has to be an example made."

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This administration has done more to change the culture of the military more than any previous administration since the Vietnam War, and it appears that included in these changes are a lack of consequences for one’s actions.

Hollow Crowns and Deadly Thrones:

Renly’s appeal to military supremacy has a certain pragmatic sense given that he has an army of 100,000, which is a staggering size for a medieval army.

In the Middle Ages, logistical shortcomings meant that armies of this size were not practical, with an average size for medieval armies of 10-20,000 men. As late as the 16th century, armies tended to top out at the 40,000 mark. The “military revolution” of the early 17th century was where things really started to change, with armies in the 100,000 and above range becoming common for major military powers. (see “The Military Revolution in Early Europe” by David Parrott, in in History Today Volume: 42 Issue: 12)

When you have an army bigger than all your other rivals combined. arguments that military strength should trump everything definitely favors his argument in the short-term. When Renly offers to Catelyn to count his camp fires, as:

"You will still be counting when dawn breaks in the east … I’m told your son crossed the neck with twenty thousand swords at his back … Now that the lords of the Trident are with him, perhaps he commands forty thousand … I have twice that number here … and this is only a part of my strength."

Catelyn II, A Clash of Kings

there is no denying the crude strength of his argument that his opponents should bend the knee because he possesses a predominance (if not a hegemony) of military force, lest they be destroyed outright. In many ways, it’s the same argument Aegon made to his peers before the Conquest.

In the long-term, however, it’s an extremely dangerous political theory for the stability of the Westerosi monarchy. Renly has the most troops at that moment, but there’s no way to be sure that Renly or his descendant, or his descendant’s descendant will have the same numerical advantage in the future. If his argument is accepted as binding precedent, Renly will forever have to remain on his guard lest someone out there strike while he is unaware since it’s now accepted that a strongman can legitimately overthrow a sitting king. Even if he succeeded in holding the Iron Throne for the duration of his natural life, the odds are good that his death will set off a new civil war as each of the Great Houses assesses the new balance of power.