On the Strategy Page, I read another of their excellent pieces recently, oddly enough called Snipers Rule:
Currently, about ten percent of American infantry are trained and equipped as snipers. Commanders have found that filling the battlefield with two man (spotter and shooter) sniper teams not only provides more intelligence, but also a lot of precision firepower. Snipers are better at finding the enemy, and killing them with a minimum of noise and fuss. New rifle sights (both day and night types) have made all infantry capable of accurate, single shot, fire. With the emphasis on keeping civilian casualties down, and the tendency of the enemy to use civilians as human shields, lots of snipers, or infantrymen who can take an accurate shot at typical battle ranges (under 100 meters), are the best way to win without killing a lot of civilians.
New sniper equipment has made a big difference. During the last decade the U.S. Army has issued several new sniper rifles. The M110 SASS (Semi-Automatic Sniper System) was delivered to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan four years ago. This weapon is not a big technological breakthrough. It is based on the older AR-10 rifle. The U.S. Navy had already been buying a similar weapon, the SR25 since the early 1990s. The SR25 was also known as the Mk11 Sniper Rifle System (SRS). These new semi-automatic sniper rifles are 7.62mm weapons based on the M-16 design elements. The basis for the M-16 was the AR-15, and a 7.62mm version of that weapon was called the AR-10. About half the parts in the SR25 are interchangeable with those in the M-16.
Read the whole thing if you are interested in modern warfare and the American way of war. One should put this in context of smart bombs and drone assassins, the fact is that it takes very few modern US warriors to take down a lot of bad guys, without the massive ‘collateral damage’ that our fires centric way of war used to mean (not that any of the others were better, we were just more worried about it.)
Realizing that this going to put me in the ‘gun nut’ category I always get a grin out of the fact tha the iconic US rifle of the Vietnam war and ever since, the M16, was designed in the stoner decade by a guy called Stoner. It’s also so interesting that the M16 had a horrid reputation and yet has remained the basis of our main fire arm ever since. In the early days they were prone to jam and some of the early units (If I remember correctly built by Mattel…yes THAT Mattel) were for crap, but with time, training it has shown itself to be the best compromise available for a long time.
And it’s that word compromise, that used to be an US an American strength. We and our tools were rarely the very best, at least for argument’s sake, but they almost always had good combinations of attributes available at the right price in the right amounts at the right time, they were compromises, we were good at making very good compromises. In some ways I fear for a country that has lost its ability to understand that perfection or pure solutions are impossible and that a good compromise is always a better solution anyway because it trades off many factors and allows many to say they had a part in it, even if they also say: “…jeeze why the XXXX team make THAT decision???”