I’ve spent the last few evenings getting into John West’s Fry the Brain: The Art of Urban Sniping and It’s Role in Modern Guerilla Warfare.
It’s an eye-opening look at one aspect of insurgent guerilla warfare, and it focuses upon an area I’d known nothing about before, which is the art of the covert sniper. Aren’t all snipers covert? Not at all, and that is just one aspect of what makes the book so fascinating.
Most of us have a mental picture of a sniper as someone with a long, heavy-barreled scoped rifle with a telescopic optic on top, often wearing a ghillie suit and/or a military and police uniform, engaging targets far beyond the limits of most riflemen. That iconic image is often true of police and military snipers, but these are overt snipers, working as part of recognized units with specialized training, resources and support.
This book isn’t about those guys, at least not primarily. Fry the Brain is about urban sniping by guerillas, and the vast difference between a sniper working as an officially-sanctioned member as a police or military unit with the backing of the state, and the guerilla working to undermine the state. Examples of sniping teams noted in the book so far are snipers from the Irish Republican Army (IRA) the infamous “Beltway snipers,” and the mythical composite Iraqi insurgent sniper “Juba” (arguably the most successful sniper since Vassili Zaitsev).
It has opened my eyes to the concept of strategic sniping, and has given me a grudging appreciation to the strategic and tactical expertise of America’s most deadly enemies.
Make no mistake: in terms of marksmanship, lethality, and the ability to “bring the rain,” on enemy forces, few on earth can bring the pound-for-pound hurt of a traditional military sniper.
The guerilla sniper is an entirely different beast, and one worth studying as we continue to misunderstand how to fight our most effective adversaries overseas.