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Foundation (Foundation #1)
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2012 Reads > FOUND: The Last Refuge of the Incompetent

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Sean O'Hara (SeanOHara) | 2334 comments The most famous line from Foundation is Salvor Hardin's maxim, "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." Asimov really loved the line since he has Hardin repeat it numerous times, then has characters in subsequent stories quote Hardin repeatedly. But as pithy as the line is, is it true?

H. Beam Piper thought not -- in A Slave Is a Slave he takes the piss out of Asimov by having the main character comment:

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.


There are numerous historical examples to back up Piper's view -- Buchanan's decision not to send troops into South Carolina in 1860 gave the South time to arm and organize, thus ensuring that the Civil War would be the bloodiest war in American history; if the British and French hadn't capitulated to Hitler in 1938, the Germans would've been forced to back down or go to war before they were ready -- and there's a good chance Hitler would've been deposed peacefully.

I think it's more correct to say that the incompetent use violence as either their first or last resort, while to the competent it falls somewhere in the middle. But of course that's nowhere near as catchy as Hardin's aphorism.


Paul Harmon (TheSaint08D) | 639 comments I believe it to be true to a point. There are of course exceptions to the rule and using force at the right time in the right measure could be a deterrent and there for not be needed later.
But I see it as true on a smaller scale, I see it daily. Those who are less competent in dealing with issues that arise turn to physical attacks to sort them out.


Corbitt | 18 comments I see merit to both sides of the argument. Timely use of force could be beneficial, but it can be the better diplomat who consistently finds a solution before force ever becomes necessary.

However, it could also be taken as a challenge for the writer himself. As fun as a good action scene can be, I believe it is more interesting to see the politics of resolving a crisis rather than handling through a head on battle.


Paul Harmon (TheSaint08D) | 639 comments Honestly if you look at it from the point of view that you only need to turn to violence because someone else doesn't subscribe to the theory "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." Than you are kind of proving it in a way.

Think about it if everyone involved followed the mantra then there wouldn't be a need for violence. If you turn to violence as a last resort, than you are being forced there by someone else who is too incompetent to solve the issues without it in the first place.


message 5: by Rick (last edited Sep 01, 2012 11:21AM) (new)

Rick | 2111 comments Keep in mind the context - Asimov's Foundation leaders were very bright people with superior technology to their neighbors but without any real military power and on a single world. Violence wasn't, especially in the beginning, a possible solution for them as they were severely outgunned and outmanned.

What he was trying to get across is that, if you've let things get to the point where you need to use violence to solve a problem, you've missed other opportunities that could have avoided violence, i.e. you weren't competent enough to see better ways to solve the problem and use them.

As with all absolutist maxims, it's not that hard to find counter-examples, but it makes you stop and think... 'are there better ways this could be solved that avoid conflict?' For example, was the Civil War inevitable or could it have been foreseen and avoided with no violence?

Finally, it's fiction.


message 6: by Dwayne (last edited Sep 02, 2012 01:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dwayne Caldwell | 141 comments Granted it is fiction, but the conviction behind the maxim doesn't seem to be. Asimov probably thought the quote was applicable to the real world when he wrote the line and he did seem opposed to violence in general. And let's face it, any maxim of note resonates with us partly because we believe there's a fundamental truth to it and we can argue its merits or failings despite its fictional origins. But I agree with Rick that it's not that hard to find counter-examples for absolutist maxims if anything because they are absolutist whereas real-world circumstances are not.


message 7: by Rick (new)

Rick | 2111 comments Dwayne,

I think it's always risky to assert that an author believes things just because they've put them in their fiction. Certainly people don't usually write fiction that blatantly contradicts their overall view of reality, but they do put words in characters' mouths all of the time and don't necessarily subscribe the each and ever word or action. I've not read any biographies of Asimov so I'll defer to others if they cite things like that, but I never took this maxim to be how he felt the world is. At most, it's how he'd like the world to me. But at the end of the day, it's a phrase in the mouth of character who exists in a very different world from ours and who's in a particular situation. I don't think we want to overload it with meaning.


Julia | 180 comments Rick wrote: "Dwayne,

I think it's always risky to assert that an author believes things just because they've put them in their fiction. Certainly people don't usually write fiction that blatantly contradicts ..."


Agree while I can talk about the symbolism of something or what a character's opinion might be reflected in our world. I find those kind of discussions really interesting. However, that is a far cry from claiming a character's views are the authors.

Sometimes it might be the opposite or somewhere in between. Unless they keep bashing me over the head with the view then I'll start making that statement.

I try to be careful not to ascribe characters viewpoints to the authors too often, it's often much more complex than that.


message 9: by Dwayne (last edited Sep 03, 2012 12:25AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dwayne Caldwell | 141 comments Rick and Julia,

I agree completely. I'd never assert that an author believes in something merely because one of his characters (even if it is a protagonist or any other important character) has spoken or thought a bold statement or commentary on the human condition. Which is why I used the word 'probably' because in truth, I really don't know the man. I merely point out it's not a fruitless exercise to pare meaning from something like the maxim that is the topic of this discussion just because its source material happens to be fiction. And let's be honest. "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent," is a pretty bold statement. How can people not focus on its meaning outside of the novel's context? It's not something I'd over-think of course. But I also wouldn't want to sell a quote like that short just because it came from a character's mouth.


message 10: by Ian (new)

Ian Roberts | 143 comments Agree with Sean, this is great from an idealist viewpoint but back in the real world, there will always be someone who will resort to violence hence you will always need some kind of deterrent in place to try to avoid it.

A quote I like is 'walk softly but carry a big stick'

Of course you can take it to extremes - the way to prevent gun crime is not to have everyone in a society carry a gun around for example.....


message 11: by A.E. (new)

A.E. Marling (AEMarling) | 49 comments Rather than a "last refuge for the incompetent," I'd be tempted to say, "Violence is the solution of the stupid." Or "Violence is the first and last option considered by the stupid."

Still not universally accurate, granted, but perhaps equally true.


Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 864 comments Well, being at the halfway point of Book 3, I think Hardin's maxim needs a bit of editing:

"Kill with a borrowed knife."

Hardin didn't use direct violence to repel Anacreon from Terminus. Instead he basically bribed the other three kingdoms to threaten Anacreon on his behalf. But it was still the threat of violence that compelled Anacreon. This is the "indirect approach" used successfully by many empires throughout history: don't subjugate an indigenous population directly if you can get the locals to do it for you.


message 13: by Anne (new)

Anne | 336 comments Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent and corrupt. For example, most wars are actually wished by those getting into them - there is something they wish to gain if only they can destroy the other side. Whoever wins makes the other guy the monster in the history books while overlooking the faults of the winner. For example, FDR bought the patents for the A-bomb process from Szilard in 1939 and began the Manhattan Project - three years before Pearl Harbor - after the UK turned down the sale. The amount paid or the deal made was never made public but it would be interesting to know...what did Einstein and Szilard want? What did FDR hope to gain?


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Sean O'Hara (SeanOHara) | 2334 comments Anne wrote: "Whoever wins makes the other guy the monster in the history books while overlooking the faults of the winner. For example, FDR bought the patents for the A-bomb process from Szilard in 1939 and began the Manhattan Project - three years before Pearl Harbor -"

Incorrect. FDR authorized a committee to look into the feasibility of nuclear weapons in October 1939 -- which you'll note is one month after Hitler invaded Poland -- but the Manhattan Project itself didn't begin until 1942.

It is true that FDR wanted the US to enter the war against Hitler and made numerous policy decisions that turned America's professed neutrality into a joke, however that's because Hitler really was a monster. And I don't know what history books you've been reading, but mine all note the questionable tactics employed by the Allies.


message 15: by Jack (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jack (wineontheveldt) What Hardin means is that violence ends what began with incompetence. The counterpoints here seem to say that violence is justified, if it is in retaliation to another's incompetence. Justification is forever debatable, especially since history is cyclical, and this year's Allies are next year's Axis, but either way it doesn't really contradict Hardin's point. If all the world's leaders were competent, there would be no violence.


message 16: by Dwayne (last edited Sep 06, 2012 04:29PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dwayne Caldwell | 141 comments There's a interesting documentary on Einstein's famous equation E= mc^2 called Einstein's Equation of Life and Death. This addresses Einstein's announcement in 1935 that it was impractical to harness energy from an atomic nucleus because it required an incalculable amount to initiate the process. In 1939, Leo Szilard appealed to his friend Einstein to help him write a letter to FDR imploring him to investigate the feasibility of making nuclear weapons, because he and Fermi found that despite Einstein's belief, it was in fact possible to yield atomic energy (with a neutron chain reaction.) This is what prompted FDR to authorize the committee Sean mentioned. And they wrote this letter, because both Szilard and Einstein were worried about the frightening prospect of the Nazis getting the atomic bomb first. Szilard detested the idea of a nuclear weapon, the results of his and Fermi's research keeping him up at night. But in the end, he found the idea of the U.S. having the bomb more acceptable than Germany. So in a real sense, Szilard initiated the development of the weapon.

However, after the Nazis surrendered, the Manhattan Project continued. Szilard appealed to Truman to stop the project and even began a petition among his fellow scientists advising the government not to test the weapon. But Truman, Groves, and others were adamant about testing the effects of the devastation the weapon could inflict on Japanese cities that were relatively unscathed by conventional bombing during the war. Szilard and Einstein - both being pacifists - were understandably horrified by the results. And it must have been hard to live with the fact they both had a hand in getting the wheels of the Manhattan Project to turn.

So what you have are two peaceful scientists imploring the creation of a violent weapon because they were afraid Germany (which in hindsight didn't even have the resources to make this weapon) would unleash its power on the world, and in the end were powerless to stop the product of their efforts from detonating. Of course had none of this happened, someone would eventually open Pandora's box since atomic energy was on every physicist's mind. So was Szilard and Einstein's efforts incompetence that ended in violence? Again, this is easy to debate because we have the knowledge of events after the fact, but in 1939, I'm sure it was a very real concern although most of the physicists were just interested in the technical challenges. I can only think of one physicist (Lise Meitner) who actually refused to work on the project because she thought the research immoral.


message 17: by Anne (new)

Anne | 336 comments Dwayne wrote: "There's a interesting documentary on Einstein's famous equation E= mc^2 called Einstein's Equation of Life and Death. This addresses Einstein's announcement in 1935 that it was impractical to harn..."

Szilard wasn't peaceful - he was trying to sell the A-bomb process patents to the UK before trying to sell it in the US. Einsein said on his deathbed that he regretted writing the letter to FDR for Szilard more than anything else in his life.

Szilard was not interested in technical challenges. He was interested in selling his patent (which was based on the work of others).

Germany had plenty of resources in the 30's. They also had scientists like Heisenberg who didn't want that kind of weapon to be manufactured who dragged their feet.


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Sean O'Hara (SeanOHara) | 2334 comments Anne wrote: "Szilard wasn't peaceful - he was trying to sell the A-bomb process patents to the UK before trying to sell it in the US."

I'm going to need a citation for that. The only reference I can find online says that Szilard gave the patents to the British War Office so they could be classified.


message 19: by Anne (new)

Anne | 336 comments Sean wrote: "Anne wrote: "Szilard wasn't peaceful - he was trying to sell the A-bomb process patents to the UK before trying to sell it in the US."

I'm going to need a citation for that. The only reference I c..."


It used to be at the American Institute of Physics website... I think the pages are still there.


message 20: by Dwayne (last edited Sep 06, 2012 11:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dwayne Caldwell | 141 comments Anne wrote: "Szilard wasn't peaceful - he was trying to sell the A-bomb process patents to the UK before trying to sell it in the US."

Yeah, I tried looking for that information as well. I can find information that says Szilard gave his patent to the UK to classify the process as well as information on General Groves forcing Szilard to sell the patent to the U.S. If you can find the pages that say otherwise, point them out to me because I'd be curious to see them. I tried looking on the American Institute of Physics website with no luck. As for the idea that Szilard wasn't a peaceful man, I'm sorry, but I'm having a hard time believing that.


message 21: by Anne (last edited Sep 07, 2012 02:56AM) (new)

Anne | 336 comments Does anyone know how much Szilard was paid? [If Szilard had not retained ownership of the patent how could he sell it?]

"Peaceful" men are sometimes defined to be those who wipe out the enemy. [We come in peace. Shoot to kill. ...Jim Kirk]

In 1942, Szilard was declared by General Groves, head of newly-formed Manhattan Project, to be detriment to project who should be arrested and interned for duration of war.


message 22: by Sean (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sean O'Hara (SeanOHara) | 2334 comments Anne wrote: "Does anyone know how much Szilard was paid? [If Szilard had not retained ownership of the patent how could he sell it?]"

Likely because the US and Britain didn't have a unified patent system. But this is a claim that needs a specific citation, not "I saw it on this website once."


message 23: by Anne (last edited Sep 07, 2012 07:12AM) (new)

Anne | 336 comments Sean wrote: "Anne wrote: "Does anyone know how much Szilard was paid? [If Szilard had not retained ownership of the patent how could he sell it?]"

Likely because the US and Britain didn't have a unified patent..."


Not the reason. A patent can be kept secret by the UK but that doesn't mean the UK owns it any more than the US owns the patents of Steve Jobs or the patents it keeps secret unless it buys them.

We both agree Szilard sold his patent to the US.


message 24: by Sean (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sean O'Hara (SeanOHara) | 2334 comments Anne wrote: "We both agree Szilard sold his patent to the US. "

We do not agree -- you claim, without any evidence, that Szilard wanted to sell the atomic bomb patent because he was a money-grubbing SOB, but all the evidence I can find says that the US government forced him to sell. These are completely different things.


message 25: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jlawrence | 938 comments Mod
OK, this back-and-forth prompted me to dig up details from From Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb, which I just finished recently. Prepare for mega Szilard info-dump.

"Anne wrote: "Szilard wasn't peaceful - he was trying to sell the A-bomb process patents to the UK before trying to sell it in the US."

When living in London in 1934, Szilard offered his patent to UK government because he thought the information dangerous and should be kept secret.

"The British scientific tradition that opposed patents assumed that those who filed them did so for mercenary purposes; Szilard explained his patents to Lindemann to clear his name:

'Early in March last year it seemed advisable to envisage the possibility that ... the release of large amounts of energy ... might be imminent. Realizing to what extent this hinges on the "double neutron," I have applied for a patent along these lines .... Obviously it would be misplaced to consider patents in this field private property and pursue them with a view to commercial exploitation for private purposes. When the time is right some suitable body will have to be created to ensure their proper use.' "
pg. 224.

"When he learned...that he could only keep his patents secret by assigning them to some appropriate agency of the British government, Szilard offered them to the War Office."
pg. 244

The War Office refused, not seeing the patents' importance, but the Admiralty, after Frederick Lindemann intervened on Szilard's behalf, accepted the patent.

The letter Lindemann wrote to the Admiralty mentions, "it might be worth keeping the thing secret as it is not going to cost the Government anything." (pg. 224) This suggests Szilard did not walk away from the interaction a rich patent peddler.

After joining the Manhattan project, Szilard only asked the US for money for his patents after it became clear to him that he and other scientists would have no important say in the decisions of what would be done with that research, and how the information should be shared.

"Previously Szilard had believed he would have equal voice in fission development. Since he had now been compartmentalized, his freedom of speech restrained, his loyalty challenged, he was prepared to actuate the only leverage at hand, his legal right to his inventions....the issue was not compensation; the issue was representation."
pg. 504

From the memorandum Szilard sent the Army:

"It was assumed that the scientists would have adequate representation within this government owned corporation...In the absence of such a government owned corporation in which the scientists can exert their influence on the use of funds, I do not now propose to assign to the government, without equitable compensation, patents covering the basic inventions."

"Leo Szilard was advancing singlehandedly to attempt to extricate the process of decision from governmental restraints and return it to the hands of the atomic scientists."
pg. 504-505

Groves and Szilard had had face-offs before, and these maneuvers inspired an already mistrustful Groves to put Szilard under surveillance.

There were complicated posturing and negotiations, that ended with Szilard's basically trading away his patent rights "for the privilege of working to beat the Germans to the bomb" (ie, not being kicked out of the Manhattan Project by Groves). Instead of any kind of patents payment, the "Army agreed to pay Szilard $15,416.60 to reimburse him for the twenty months he worked unpaid and out-of-pocket at Columbia [his fission research] and for lawyer's fees."

The idea Szilard was warlike is deeply mistaken. Many of the other lead scientists of the Project saw the A-bomb's use as Japanese cities as an necessary evil that would shorten the war, save American lives, even lead to world with no future wars.

But for Szilard on the other hand:

"Szilard had dallied with that rationale in 1944 before concluding in 1945 [before the bomb was dropped] on moral grounds that the bomb should not be used and on political grounds that it should be kept secret."
pg. 697


message 26: by Anne (last edited Sep 07, 2012 02:17PM) (new)

Anne | 336 comments Sean wrote: "Anne wrote: "We both agree Szilard sold his patent to the US. "

We do not agree -- you claim, without any evidence, that Szilard wanted to sell the atomic bomb patent because he was a money-grubbi..."


Szilard's story of trying to sell his work in Britain is pretty well documented in books of the 1950's and later. Rutherford was against it, among others. His attempted sale in the UK failed. He went to the US.

You think he patented his various devices and processes because he was a scientist who gives away his developments. Not likely. First, he was an engineer...that's how he made his living.

I expect Szilard would have made ever so much more with the royalties than in selling outright. The details of how much money he got under either arrangement is unknown to the public.

Being a businessman is not necessarily money-grubbing unless you see it that way. Many people earn their livings selling weapon ideas/products.

Most of the men leading the project had intended to use the weapon on Germany but peace was declared first. It is said by some that John Foster Dulles (at a meeting of the so-called "masters of the universe" in San Francisco) agreed to keep the war in Japan going an extra 3 monhs so that the bomb could be tried out on a human population to terrorize the world which would give the US dominance for some decades ahead.

AFTER the war, there was a considerable effort to paint motivations with a brighter paintbrush. Many congressional investigations, outraged public opinion about the civilians harmed in Japan, etc.


message 27: by Sean (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sean O'Hara (SeanOHara) | 2334 comments Josh has pretty well debunked Anne's claims about Szilard, so unless she cites an actual source rather than some website she once saw or generic "books of the 1950's and later" I see no point in continuing that line of discussion. However, I can't let this pass:

Anne wrote: "It is said by some that John Foster Dulles (at a meeting of the so-called "masters of the universe" in San Francisco) agreed to keep the war in Japan going an extra 3 monhs so that the bomb could be tried out on a human population to terrorize the world which would give the US dominance for some decades ahead."

Keep the war going? I'm sorry, have you ever read a detailed description of the planned invasion of Japan? There is no way the US could've completed Operation Olympic in three months, and that was just the invasion of Kyuushuu. I mean, three months before Hiroshima, there was still heavy fighting on Okinawa, and that was going to be the main staging area of the Olympic landings.

Or are you saying the US had some way of making Japan surrender without resorting to invasion or nuclear strikes? 'Cause considering that it took two nuclear bombs and the Soviet declaration of war to make them surrender in real life (and even then, the military tried to overthrow the Emperor to stop it), that doesn't seem likely.

And on top of that, the nefarious meeting in San Francisco you refer to was an organizational conference for the United Nations. And even if the subject of extending the war had, somehow, come up, what would be the point of Dulles agreeing to it when he had no role in the government at the time beyond drafting the United Nation Charter? He didn't become Secretary of State until eight years later.

What conspiracy sites are you getting this crap from?


message 28: by Anne (new)

Anne | 336 comments Sean wrote: "Josh has pretty well debunked Anne's claims about Szilard, so unless she cites an actual source rather than some website she once saw or generic "books of the 1950's and later" I see no point in co..."

Nothing has been debunked. A trip to a good library will turn up multiple sources.

That he sold the patent to the US is also history - only the amount he was given is secret.

Most people don't even know who he was. That doesn't disprove his role.

Telegdi isn't the best of sources but his article isonline and free - it begins...

"It is little appreciated, even in William Lanouette’s
excellent biography, that Leo Szilard worked as a professional inventor during most of his scientific career, constantly filing patent applications..."

http://www.physicstoday.org/resource/...

Amazing it is even a matter of contention.

Szilard was a student of Einstein (who was a patent clerk in that time perod and knew the value of the first patent on any process).


message 29: by Sean (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sean O'Hara (SeanOHara) | 2334 comments Anne wrote: "Nothing has been debunked. A trip to a good library will turn up multiple sources.

That he sold the patent to the US is also history - only the amount he was given is secret."


Yes, and nobody is disputing that. What's at issue is your characterization of his motives, which runs against every source I can find, including the article you just cited which only mentions him assigning the patent to the British admiralty to keep it secret and has no mention of the Manhattan Project, General Groves or nuclear weapons.

On the other side, we have one of the most authoritative histories of nuclear weapons ever written which clearly lays out why Szilard sold the patent, and it has nothing to do with his desire to make a buck as you claimed.


message 30: by Anne (last edited Sep 08, 2012 11:28AM) (new)

Anne | 336 comments Sean wrote: "Anne wrote: "Nothing has been debunked. A trip to a good library will turn up multiple sources.

That he sold the patent to the US is also history - only the amount he was given is secret."

Yes, a..."


Telegdi was always good at sidestepping the controversial which is why I said he isn't the best of sources. Nevertheless Szilard was in the profession of getting and trying to sell patents for most of his career. And even Telegdi indicates they weren't always his original work though he states that diplomatically.

Yes, he assigned the patent to the UK only to guarantee its secrecy. He retained ownership.

If Szilard had only made a buck that would have been heavily publicized as it was considered heroic to be one of the one-dollar US government men who volunteered their time and intellect for the war effort. But the topic of how much he made from the US purchase is unknown and even the sale is seldom mentioned nowadays - which makes one curious.


message 31: by Sean (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sean O'Hara (SeanOHara) | 2334 comments Anne wrote: "Telegdi was always good at sidestepping the controversial which is why I said he isn't the best of sources."

That's the source you cited to back up your claim about Szilard's motives, and it doesn't support your point. If you have one that does, cite it, otherwise there's no point in continuing the discussion.


message 32: by Anne (new)

Anne | 336 comments Sean wrote: "Anne wrote: "Telegdi was always good at sidestepping the controversial which is why I said he isn't the best of sources."

That's the source you cited to back up your claim about Szilard's motives,..."


It's online - that seems the criteria for historical verity in the discussion.

Strange the stigma against inventors(for money) of arms in a country whose main industry is the production of innovative and very deadly weapons of many sorts.


message 33: by Joe (last edited Sep 08, 2012 04:59PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Marion | 7 comments Seems like there's some seriously off-track debates about atomic weapons.

I'd say, in large part, the quote would tend to work as a generalization. People who jump to violence straight off tend to exhibit incompetence.

And, from experience, if you have to resort to it, there's often a place or two you can find in retrospect where you could have eliminated that need by acting in some other fashion.

Also, the specific example from the book where the three other kingdoms are essentially goaded into keeping the other at bay through threat of violence. I don't think the threat of violence qualifies in either Asimov's or the character's mind. After all, if you can deter through threat of violence, it buys you time to find a better, more permanent, solution for later. And if people aren't dying, that's going to be preferable in general.

Instinctively, I want to say that sometimes violence is the best solution. But, empirically, I have no evidence to support that. To add to the WW2 era debates, even if someone could have staved off WW2 through violence early on, would that have actually prevented it? There were a LOT of socioeconomic factors involved that gave rise to Hitler, and any sufficiently capable demagogue could've taken his place, and it could easily have been worse for humanity in the long run, with none of us knowing for certain. It seems a monstrous idea to entertain, but Hitler may have been a lesser evil. Probably not the LEAST, but not the worst long term. You need to look at all the social, economic, and political states in Europe, Asia, and America.


message 34: by Sean (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sean O'Hara (SeanOHara) | 2334 comments Anne wrote: "It's online - that seems the criteria for historical verity in the discussion."

Feel free to pull quotes from a book like Josh did.

I notice you haven't even tried to cite your claims about Dulles prolonging the Pacific War so nuclear weapons could be used against Japan.


message 35: by Anne (new)

Anne | 336 comments I said that "some have said" that about Dulles and the San Francisco meeting. History tends to be what the winners want to write of it as the official story. However, Japan was the guinea pig, scientific teams did move in to take their readings and measurements of damage, health effects and so on and the US became dominant in the world. Maybe that all just happened accidentally with no planning and the Dulles meeting was just rumour. Then again.....

More recent events like H.W.Bush's "winnable nuclear war" (use of so-called "depleted" uranium to slowly decimate a population after the initial attack via radioactive contamination, slow and no great photo-ops to consolidate resistance, difficulty of pinning down exact causation to allow plausible deniability)shows such strategizing exists at some levels of govt.


message 36: by Anne (last edited Sep 09, 2012 04:20AM) (new)

Anne | 336 comments "Cardinal Choices" by Gregg Herkin [Stanford Nuclear Age Series]

In the early thirties Szilard had proposed to colleagues that they create their own "Bund" ... a closely knit group of people whose inner bond is pervaded by a religious and scientific spirit" the purpose of which was to take over "a more direct influence on public affairs as part of the political system next to government and parliament, or instead of government and parliament." In England because of the Depression there was little government spending on scientific work so scientists sought funding from wealthy patrons who invested in inventions with the expectation of financial gain. ...Szilard obtained funding from Lewis Strauss, a NY investment banker. Szilard's Bund for atomic energy in the US became Szilard, Fermi, Strauss, Rabi, Teller, Wigner.

The book goes on to give details on the Einstein letter (that it was first to be sent to the Queen of Belgium but Wigner objected that, as Americans, the information should be sent to the United States first.) and so on.
...

From PBS:
In the first dozen years of the atomic age, few men played a more pivotal role in shaping U.S. nuclear policy than the former banker Lewis Strauss. An ardent champion of the hydrogen bomb, he was also a strong believer in the importance of maintaining a large nuclear stockpile. His appointment to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in 1946 (an agency he chaired from 1953 - 58) meant he was well placed to influence both President Truman's and President Eisenhower's decisions on nuclear issues and to oversee the atomic related activities of all federal agencies.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bomb/peo...

Strauss was the driving force in the hearings, held in April 1954 before a United States Atomic Energy Commission Personnel Security Board, in which J. Robert Oppenheimer's security clearance was revoked.


message 37: by Anne (new)

Anne | 336 comments Szilard's Bund inspiration, according to Szilard's letters. was "The Open Conspiracy" by H. G. Wells.


Katie (Calenmir) | 211 comments Ian wrote: "Of course you can take it to extremes - the way to prevent gun crime is not to have everyone in a society carry a gun around for example..."

Switzerland seems to do alright.

I think the maxim is like psychohistory...can work on a large scale but not so much for the individual. I think war can be preventable, I don't think I could stand and reason with a large man approaching me with the intent to rape me and escape without violence. At that point, I would rather be armed and use my weapons effectively, lord knows as a petite woman I couldn't fight off the average man without a weapon of some sort. So I say the maxim *can* be true, but is not *always* true.


message 39: by Loyd (last edited Sep 09, 2012 07:52PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Loyd | 9 comments Since we're back to the OP, I want to suggest that the original post got it confused. Azamov writes: "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." That was restated in the OP to say: "Force, he believed, was the last resort of incompetence..."

Force and violence are two different things. In my dictionary, force used as a noun, means the use of coercion in any of its many different forms, while violence means "behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something."

In Azamov's hands, we see force used early and repeatedly to coerce the Foundation's enemies in the direction the Foundation wants them to go. I think that is one of Azamov's themes.


message 40: by David Sven (new)

David Sven (Gorro) | 1582 comments Sean wrote: "But as pithy as the line is, is it true?"


Perhaps he is trying to avoid saying that violence is immoral. But he only succeeds in substituting "immoral" for "incompetent" and still assumes violence is immoral.


message 41: by Timm (last edited Sep 10, 2012 09:50PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Timm Woods (Kexizzoc) | 43 comments Paul wrote: "Honestly if you look at it from the point of view that you only need to turn to violence because someone else doesn't subscribe to the theory "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." Than ..."

I agree with this. Granted, I think the line is meant to illustrate the Foundation's unique mentality more than to convey an ultimate fact, but most societies are reluctant to turn to violence; when they do (and they often do), it is almost invariably as a response to someone else's violence or an anticipation of violence. Note that this system doesn't require a "prime mover", a society that acted violent just for the fun of it; the system perpetuates itself. All violent societies (like violent people) ultimately believe they are on the defensive, that their violence must be justified, because in general large numbers of humans are more interested in survival than anything, and violence is not as useful for ensuring survival as peace. But when one society turns to violence, and none of the cultures around them are slick or competent enough to diffuse the situation, then the other societies end up responding in kind, and so on. I'd say this is how it goes down in the real world.


message 42: by Anne (new)

Anne | 336 comments Sometimes, as in the Bush wars, the country that uses violence is left bankrupt. Violence, always expensive, is a losing game ultimately.


message 43: by Anaclara (new)

Anaclara (queenofs2s) | 19 comments sorry I did NOT read the whole thread but I too thought a lot on that quote. In the beginning I thought it was very clever for the same reason people said here: that when a person sees no solution usually goes to violence, BUT, I believe it is generealizing to say that, although is something we shouldn't endorse or do without thinking, violence HAS its moments when it's needed. Some revolutions would never happen if they didn`t ended up with the strongest reaction and if THEY didn`t happen some people wouldn`t be free. People that say "there's always another way" are very alienated in my opinion. When you live in a 3rd world country like I do and you see the power that media and military have now you realize that if things hadn't happened the way they did in the dictatorship in Uruguay and Brazil, let's say, we'd never be free of those tyrants and killers. Some people had to dirty their hands so we didn't have to. It's not pretty but so is reality. I think you need to first live these realities so you can actually have an opinion about it.


message 44: by Anaclara (new)

Anaclara (queenofs2s) | 19 comments that being said, we should always try EVERYTHING before that, I am a teacher and I came from an aggressive family and became to understand the power of understanding and peaceful boundries, I have a nephew which I protect with all my life and never let anybody lay a hand on him, I do not think it's a resource we have to use because it's there, but sometimes desperation and lives are taken (e.g. above) and countries find themselves layed in siege and freedoms are taken. When people can't talk, can't infiltrate, can't live, do you really think violence is without purpose? Again, I am talking about extreme situations.


message 45: by Timm (new) - rated it 5 stars

Timm Woods (Kexizzoc) | 43 comments Your points are very valid Anaclara, although I would say Seldon's quote didn't dismiss violence as "without purpose". I think his quote recognizes that violence can be very effective, but ultimately is the least desirable of the methods for getting what you want. As someone who could predict the path of human history thousands of years ahead of time, we can see where Hari might come across as a bit intellectual-elitist; I would venture to guess that if someone said that their only remaining course of action was violence, Hari would reply "well, maybe if you were smart enough, you'd see the better option." Please note that this is NOT my opinion, just what I imagine Seldon's take would have been. Throughout Foundation we see examples of serious outside-the-box thinking on such a grand sociopolitical scale that frankly make solving the political situations of Third World countries look like a rubick's cube by comparison, (view spoiler) At this point it's important to note that this is science fiction, and not very serious and real political situations which people are suffering through as we speak-- I don't meant to belittle them at all. Nonetheless I do feel that Asimov's point stands, that nonviolence can often be a much more insidious and effective and even morally questionable route than simple violence.


Steven Luke (SteveJLuke) | 6 comments There was also a question in the beginning of this thread about were Asimov himself held this feeling of 'Violence is the last resort of the incompetent.'.

I believe he did. If I recall, he was very much a pacifist. He was drafted into the military at one point and protested, was given a desk job (which he was still unhappy with, because of his distaste for anything military) and very shortly thereafter discharged.


Steven Luke (SteveJLuke) | 6 comments Anne wrote: "I said that "some have said" that about Dulles ..."


Which is exactly like saying 'I just made this up...'


message 48: by Anne (new)

Anne | 336 comments Steven wrote: "Anne wrote: "I said that "some have said" that about Dulles ..."


Which is exactly like saying 'I just made this up...'"


Not at all - it just means it's a touchy subject. There are valid references for Dulles and also Byrnes having such attitudes and it would be surprising if they did not, for that is typical of discussions in war rooms when the mikes are off. Propaganda for the public is another matter.


message 49: by Anne (new)

Anne | 336 comments Steven wrote: "There was also a question in the beginning of this thread about were Asimov himself held this feeling of 'Violence is the last resort of the incompetent.'.

I believe he did. If I recall, he was..."


He worked with Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp during WWII in a classified think tank in a Navy shipyard. Their big contribution was reputed to be what we would call today a data/command center.


message 50: by Sean (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sean O'Hara (SeanOHara) | 2334 comments Anne wrote: "Not at all - it just means it's a touchy subject. There are valid references for Dulles and also Byrnes having such attitudes and it would be surprising if they did not, for that is typical of discussions in war rooms when the mikes are off. Propaganda for the public is another matter. "

What are these valid references? And do they explain how Dulles found his way into a war room eight years before he became Secretary of State, at a time when his only role in government was devising the UN Charter?


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