Quote of the Day: Force


“Force, he believed, was the last resort of incompetence; he had said so frequently enough since this operation had begun. Of course, he was absolutely right, though not in the way he meant. Only the incompetent wait until the last extremity to use force, and by then, it is usually too late to use anything, even prayer.” – H. Beam Piper, A Slave Is a Slave

H. B. Piper* was a science-fiction writer of the 1940s through 1960s. He wrote these words in 1960, for a story first published in 1961. It was his response to Asimov’s more famous “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent,” explaining why this is so.

As usual, Piper proves prescient. As demonstrated over the last few months in Afghanistan the incompetent fail to use force when it can be applied in measured, small responses and be effective. Instead, they let the situation spiral out of control, waiting until it is too late to use anything, except (here I disagree slightly with Piper) prayer.

This summer has laid bare the incompetence of the current administration and the top leadership of the American military. God help us all, because no one in charge will.

* For those interested most of Piper’s work is available online free at Gutenberg and Librivox. You can find most of the rest of it at Fadedpage.

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  1. Percival Thatcher

    • #1
  2. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens

    And Hardin encouraged Mob Violence to win. As is typical of my favorite Asimov character, he didn’t really mean it. 

    I am on board with Piper’s point, and my guess is, so would Salvor Hardin. 

    • #2
  3. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    @arahant, you’re a Piper fan, and recommended some stuff I enjoyed. Don’t miss this.

    I need to read more Piper sometime.

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    Don’t miss this.

    Trust me, I have read it dozens of times.

    • #4
  5. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    Don’t miss this.

    Trust me, I have read it dozens of times.


    I meant the post.

    • #5
  6. She Reagan

    Great post and an introduction to a writer with whom I’m unfamiliar.  He was certainly on point with that remark.


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    • #6
  7. JoshuaFinch Coolidge

    Islamists, in the manner of terrorists and other barbaric types, understand force alone. The West has yet to understand this.

    • #7