Defeat - sometimes better than you think

Sometimes you don't want to win.

Correct, winning isn't always the best thing. Actually, it's quite often a bad thing. Pyrrhic victories are such examples. Victory under a dictator is another example (Argentina would likely have remained a military dictatorship if it had won the Falklands War). Seriously, defeat in WW2 was in my opinion less terrible for Germany than a victory would have been. Even if victory would have happened as early as '41.

Look at the Vietnam War. Some hawks wanted to commit more troops, more funds - imagine that would have 'won' the war for the USA. Would that have improved anything for the USA?

The Afghanistan War is another such example. Was the Western 'victory' in the late 80's really in our best interest?
Hey, wouldn't we love to see a secular People's Republic in Afghanistan now? A central government in control & no poppy cultivation? AQ would never have settled down in Afghanistan after being expelled from Sudan, we would never have entered that quagmire! Any negative aspects of such a regime would have been ridiculously small in comparison to decades of civil war.

The most - endless examples are of course all the times we were better off not to wage war - that's of course something that's difficult to tell as example. Wars not fought are not really well-known.

Defeats in not terribly important wars (should unimportant wars be waged at all?) can also be a good preparation for a later major, truly important war. Losers learn/reform often better than winners.

By now you most likely think that I'm strictly anti-war. Well, wars rarely proved to be good methods. Most often, you only get a big mess by waging war. It would be wise to avoid at least those that do more harm than good.

The attitude that results from this is of course highly despised in military circles for reasons of reliability and morale. Soldiers are citizens, but are not supposed to question wars they've been committed to. That's OK.
It's really a political issue, not a military one, and it's a good idea to separate it. We should keep in mind (as politically-interested citizens) that war & peace are more complicated than "to win is good".

This topic is very much linked to the definition of "victory".
A so-called "won" war (your army being the last on the battleground) can be a Pyrrhic victory and as such pretty much a loss for the nation, a lost war.
It's quite a nonsense to cheer a 'won' war that as net result has hurt the country more than its alternative - not to wage war - would have.

A honest, rational assessment of the benefits and costs of warfare (even though it's difficult to convert human lives and expended treasure into a common measurement) could help to avoid the avoidable hazards of war and to find to an optimized policy for war & peace

Sven Ortmann

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