More troops lost to suicide than enemy fire
Overall, the services reported 434 suicides by personnel on active duty, significantly more than the 381 suicides by active-duty personnel reported in 2009. The 2010 total is below the 462 deaths in combat, excluding accidents and illness. In 2009, active-duty suicides exceeded deaths in battle.
The post goes on to methodological issues. To me, there are strange numbers indeed:
First, whatever kind of wars we're fighting these days, they aren't Homeric. Even accepting warfare as "natural," suicides equal to combat deaths means the kind of war that we're asking them to fight must be, in some sense, different and wrong in a new way. Are there other wars where this statistic is true? Surely not. And what does this mean for the small group interactions among the troops? A Congressman or a President helicopters in and has dinner at the base; does anybody think that the chances of a soldier at the table killing themselves, and not being killed, are even? This is Banquo's ghost with a difference....
And the numbers are so small. Not to trivialize, but the deaths in World War I totalled around 9 million. British deaths on the first day of the Battle of the Somme were 19,240. Now, perhaps I should be grateful that our fabulously expensive military doesn't kill soldiers in proportion to dollars spent (leaving civilians aside). I suppose I should also be grateful that the relatively small size of our armed forces makes their successful domestic deployment less likely (modulo drones). On the other hand, if we moved the death decimal point three or four digits to the right, resistance to the war wouldn't be marginal, even with a state that has as little democratic accountability as our own.
I don't know. There seems to be something both hypertrophied, cancerously large, and yet impotent and sad about these stories. The military cannot be said to have "won" either of the last two major wars in which it has engaged (three, counting Vietnam). Yet, it's more powerful, and respected, than ever.
But if you join the military, your chance of killing yourself are the same as your chances of getting killed. Why? How can we not already know the answer? It's very, very strange.
NOTE In case I'm not clear, "war is hell" is a constant. So it can't account for the strangeness. What has changed? Or are casualties on the field so light (for the military) that they're just noise, and the normal reasons for suicide have not changed?