The Application of Minimum Force

April 28th, 2008 by k8gu Leave a reply »

I just finished reading Robert Young Pelton‘s Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror.  It’s a pretty well-balanced look at the face of the modern mercenary that should easily let you draw your own conclusions about “the business.”  Toward the end of the book, Pelton recounts a meeting he attended between the energetic chairman of one large, infamous, U.S. security contractor and representatives from a British counterpart firm.  The British, Pelton reminds the reader, have a long history of counterinsurgency experience (including the birth of the U.S., I might add).  At the end of the meeting, after the American has bragged on his weapons R&D, one of the British men parts with the following words, “It’s the application of minimum force.”

The entire book was worth reading for this sentence.  It is a brilliant statement that tends to be lost on most of us, not just in terms of military action.  A friend in college used to talk about how the school football and wrestling coaches liked farm boys because they were often deceptively strong.  I told him that I suspected “farmer strength” tends to come from a lifetime of having to move things.  Familiarity with your work environment makes you a better worker.  I used to do plenty of framing work, mostly with Habitat for Humanity.  One of my favorite parts of home construction is hanging trusses.  Walking on walls is like ice skating or walking barefoot on sharp gravel or hunting or conducting a tense meeting or traveling in a foreign country or driving on snow.  Make one quick move and you’ll fall.  Acceleration, literally the result of an unbalanced force, is perilous.

New personal goal: Practice more finesse and less brute force.  Apply minimum force.