History's End

History will end only when Man does

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  • Monday, April 26, 2004

    Sniper Tactics

    Strategypage has an article describing how sniper tactics are starting to dominate the Iraqi Battlefied. Recent innovations in optics, new weapons, and superior training are allowing for more accurate soldiers and marines, and a much deadlier force. This is an interesting development, in so far that before the First World War marksmanship was considered one of the most important skills, if not the most important skill any soldier could have. It was practiced ceasingly. Rifles were built for accuracy, bolt action rifles were the standard infantry weapon at the time, and troops were trained to fire them accurately for hundreds of yards. However, the First World War changed that. The advent and mass introduction of machine guns and heavy artillery quickly surpassed the bolt action rifle in firepower. The vast majority of deaths caused in the First World War were from machine gun and artillery fire, not rifle bullets. In fact, the trench warfare that pervaded the conflict helped speed the development of another weapon, the hand grenade. It soon became the weapon of choice by many troops, for several reasons. Not only was it relatively easy to use, it also allowed troops to attack without exposing themselves. It also helped them avoid humanizing their enemy, something that makes it difficult to shoot someone, especially when you can see their face. Snipers also emerged from that war, but there is a problem with being a sniper. You can often see the face of the enemy when you use a scope, and it is extremely difficult for a human being to shoot another without some severe psychological motivation. See the killology website for details on the pschyological cost of killing. World War two showed the introduction of automatic weapons that could be used by individual soldiers and carried easily, intiatially thorugh sub-machine guns, and then through the introduction of assault rifles at the end of the war (German Sturmgewehr ). Rate of fire, and not pinpoint accuracy, was what counted. However, new training techniques and superior troops quality has enabled snipers to become much more common place, and their role on the battlefield looks to expand greatly. Sniping, a word whose origin can be found here, present many advantages as a tactical tool for the battlfield of the future. The pinpoint accuracy lowers the chance of collateral damage, and therefore reduces civilian casualties. It also requires less ammo, and therefore reduces the burden on soldiers. Lastly, there is the significant terror element involved. An Article in the Boston Globe gives a picture of experiences of Marine snipers in Fallujah. Sniping is very much in keeping with 4th Generational Warfare, described here by Joe Katzman of Winds of Change. Psychology can be a very powerful tool in the right hands, and the US military, and the Marines in paricular, are masters of using whatever tools are available to finish the job.

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