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November 28, 2005


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Bernard Guerrero

Slight correction: I think you mean .50 caliber rather than 50 mm? That would be equivalent to approximately 12.7mm, with "caliber" indicating barrel diameter as a % of an inch (so .50 caliber = .5/0.0394 = 12.69 mm). A 50mm barrel isn't _like_ a cannon, it _is_ a cannon. :^)

And yes, they're scary. A Vietnam vet in my old Guard unit used to talk about sniping at 3/4 mile with an M2 (.50 caliber) machine gun with one round and a night-scope. The newer stuff, like the Barrett (which, if I am not mistaken, is what you were looking at) adds easy man portability. Scary indeed.

Doug M.

Hi Bernard,

You're right, of course -- .50 cal, not 50 mm. I have no idea what I was thinking. Just went back and fixed that.

And yes, they were Barretts. The M82 and M82A1, developed for the US Army in the 1980s. Effective range of "over 1500 meters". The specs say they can shoot through a brick wall, or take down a helicopter.

Doug M.

Oskar L.

The museum doesn't seem like it's part of the EU/UN/US plan to create greater inter ethnic tolerance in the province...


Timberlands are nice boots. If I were back in the land of ice and snow, I'd have a pair myself. But the Timberland Company is a little too hippy-dippy Ben-and-Jerry's socially conscious to really use a KLA endorsement.

On the other hand, it wouldn't surprise me if some KLA people haven't consulted with the Timberland people for the next design generation.

What the Kosovars really should do, of course, is make their own Timberland knock-offs. Why not? A good boot, that's how Nokia started. And then sell them at US gun shows. (I am only being slightly facetious with this part.)

Oskar L.

"Timberlands are nice boots," hmmm... nice but not really ideal for soldiers. They might be fine for campus life but when it comes to serious outdoor activities - hiking, hunting and, I presume, soldiering - there's many more serious boots to get.

As for sniper rifles, they're great for guerilla warfare but hardly the kind of weaponry that wins wars. Whatever message the museum exhibition might convey, it was the US bombers over Belgrade which forced the Serbian army to retreat from Kosovo, not guys from Brooklyn with sniper rifles and Timberlands.


Oskar, good point. If I were hunting -- Wisconsin is mainly deer, duck, and goose, though there's a bear season as well -- I'd want something more specialized. On the other hand, 'campus life' means something a little different in Wisconsin.

Doug M.

Oskar, Timberland makes about three hundred different kinds of boots. Hiking boots, work boots, safety boots, you name it. Don't be fooled by the hippy-dippy ad campaigns. Timberland got their start selling waterproof boots to New England lobstermen -- deeply conservative and extremely picky customers working under incredibly demanding conditions.

The boots I saw were serious, no-kidding rough terrain footwear.

The sniper rifles: keep in mind what the KLA's goal was. They wanted to provoke a conflict that would draw in NATO.

So being able to strike from a distance, and take out JNA personnel carriers and trucks, was a huge step forward. In the context of 1998-99, it meant that the Serbs had to shift away from using light infantry (who could go into a village, search for men and guns, and leave the place ore or less intact) and helicopters (which could hover and force guerrillas into cover). Instead, they had to rely more and more on tanks, bombers, and long-range shelling... weapons systems that tended to smash villages and kill lots of civilians.

Also, during the "hot" phase of the war from March to June '99, the sniper rifles were hugely useful. They helped prevent the KLA -- now fighting in the open -- from being simply overwhelmed by JNA's superior numbers. (Though they did take heavy casualties anyway.) NATO had taken Serb air power off the board, and armor had limited effectiveness in Kosovo. So the Serbs had to shift back towards conventional infantry assaults. For this sort of combat, sniper rifles were extremely handy.

Finally, very few of the KLA were "guys from Brooklyn". There were a few diasporids in combat, but the vast majority were native Kosovars.

Doug M.

Oskar L.


Here in Sweden Timberland is an overpriced lifestyle brand complete with flagship stores and a kids line. Nice boots, but I don't know anyone who actually uses Timberland boots for hiking or hunting. Maybe for sailing. I didn't know they have a 'serious' line as well.

No doubt sniper rifles are effective att killing people at long range and were one factor which forced the JNA to adopt more gruesome tactics. My point was more that sniper rifles don't win wars.

My point was that its fine for museums to glorify bearded guerilla fighters but it's not what did the job in 1999 and not what's going to do it if there is a next time. The parallel would probably the Chetniks in the Bosnian war - more huff and puff (and terror) than a real military force.


They have "serious" boots, and they're pretty good. That was their original business, before they got into the lifestyle thing. I think it's only a small percentage today, and it may not be easy to find outside the US.

Sniper rifles don't win wars: well, it's pretty hard to pick a single weapons system that, in isolation, "wins wars".

Guerrillas: this is an interesting and important issue. No, guerrillas by themselves don't win wars. On the other hand, the KLA "did the job" in terms of getting NATO to bomb... provoking the Serbs to provoke the world. Had there been no KLA, Kosovo would still be part of Serbia today.

I see what you're saying about glorifying bearded guerrilla fighters: this is nationalist myth-making. But as in all the best myths, there's some truth in it.

Also, it would be hard to come right out and say "we won our liberty by pissing off the Serbs to the point where they forgot themselves and committed abominable atrocities on our people." The heroic KLA fighter -- in his American boots -- is much more palatable.

Doug M.

Oskar L.


You're righ, I guess it's only to be expected that a people who fough and won their freedom with guns (with or without the help of others) will want to commemorate that.

It's just that this kind of national myth making isn't very helpful if you want a multiethnic country to work.

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