Another testosterone-laced account of another elite combat specialty.
Prolific military writer Halberstadt (Army: The U.S. Army Today, 2006, etc.) maintains that individual snipers rack up more kills than entire brigades. While sharpshooters figured prominently in conflicts from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam, they did not become trained, high-tech professionals until the 1980s, when military thinkers began focusing on antiterrorism and small-unit actions. Snipers parachuted into Panama during the 1989 invasion and, according to one Halberstadt source, shot everyone in sight. They had few opportunities during the 1991 Gulf War, lots more during the ongoing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, which dominate the book. Snipers never work alone, notes the author. Typically, groups of two to six include “shooters” and security. They move into enemy territory, hide and observe, remaining in radio contact with their base and with patrols in the area to provide invaluable intelligence. This may be all they provide, because under strict rules of engagement months may pass before they shoot. While “one shot, one kill” remains the ideal, it does not represent reality, especially at long distances, and today’s snipers hit targets beyond a mile. The author illustrates his subjects’ activities with a dozen oral histories, the book’s best portions. Military buffs will enjoy colorful accounts of the brutal training regimen plus nuts-and-bolts descriptions of weapons and high-tech observation gear. Ordinary infantry M4 carbines make many kills, Halberstadt notes, but the heavy, wildly expensive, precision-designed, slow-firing, bolt-action M24 is accurate over 2,000 meters. Many chapters describe unruly Iraqi neighborhoods suddenly peaceful because insurgents struck down by hidden snipers now fear showing themselves. Readers who wonder why this hasn’t won the war have picked the wrong book. Those who can turn off their critical faculties will enjoy the author’s admiring portrait of brave, superbly skilled Americans wreaking havoc among our enemies.
Not for everyone, but its target audience, however narrow, will love it.