Kevyn: So we're losing?
Petey: No, we're winning expensively.
Dilbert: I had a great day at work. For some reason, no one interrupted me so I got a lot done.
Garbage Man: Today is a holiday.
Dilbert: All my victories are tainted.
If we have eight more victories such as these there shall be nobody left to bring news of them.
— A British politician learning of the "victory" at Bunker Hill (226 men dead, 828 wounded out of ~3000)
Random Fireman: We put out the blaze!
Peter Griffin: At what cost?!
So tell me who won here tonight
The price of winning worthless fight
Sonata Arctica, "Destruction Preventer"
"The first rule of prosperity is not to let yourself weaken so much in battle that you can't defend yourself against another threat."
The entrance fee cost me
Two dollars, and then
It cost twenty more
For those burgers and fries.
My hospital bill
Was a hundred and ten.
But I won –
The five-dollar first prize!
— Shel Silverstein, "Big Eating Contest"
Savor your moment of triumph Superman, but remember, victory has its price.
Sometimes when you win, you lose.
— Chris, What Dreams May Come
"The next worst thing to a battle lost is a battle won."
— The Duke of Wellington a day after Waterloo.
But it is entirely possible to win against the enemy, it is possible even to kill the enemy, and still to be defeated by the battle.
The Vietnam War was America's second longest, finally ending only in 1978 with the diplomatic agreement mediated by President James E. Carter under which the guerrilla forces of the Viet Cong and the People's Army of Vietnam (formerly the North Vietnamese Army) agreed to lay down arms in exchange for the right to field their own political candidates. Only the Cuban conflict would last longer: at the time of the Vietnam memorial's groundbreaking, the guerrilla war which had begun following the April 1961 Bay of Pigs "intervention" is still in progress.
The Linebacker operations of the early seventies had broken the formal power of the Communist regime then in power in Hanoi, at the cost of several million Vietnamese dead from flooding, disease and starvation following the bombing of the North's dike system. The North Vietnamese had refused to simply surrender, however, and they and their Viet Cong allies had waged a fierce guerrilla struggle even after the occupation first of Hanoi and then of the Communists' second capital, Haiphong. At home, the seemingly endless conflict had grown increasingly unpopular, as American troops continued to fight and die even after "victory" had supposedly been won.
President Carter's negotiation of the Vietnam accords had been sharply criticized by, among others, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who said that the peace agreement "granted the Communists what they could not win on the battlefield" and predicted that Vietnamese leftists would now try to subvert the unified government of Vietnam from within. Among the critics was former governor Ronald Reagan of California, who in 1980 would exploit anger over the pact in his successful run for the White House.
The influence of Reagan and his supporters would be revealed in the final design of the memorial, which featured a group of soldiers planting a flag atop a broken wall and bore the names of every American killed in the conflict.
"...Our homes have been returned to us...but not before they were looted. Ransacked by a megalomaniacal ship with designs to become a ruler, just like its brain-diseased masters.
...And even though Hal claims to view this as victory for us...I just can't. I really can't. Innocent people still died from the first invasion of Arkanea, the riots caused over that supposedly incurable disease, the second invasion, all the other invasions on the neighboring kingdoms...our home and many of our friends' homes have been destroyed then rebuilt into something utterly alien...many people will still be homeless or wrecked due to all the economic destruction wrought by the pilfering...
...All for what?
Because we had metal. Just because we had metal."
— Rowan Hunter, We Are Our Adventuring Avatars
Game Grumps: Died
Jon still won though
I can't believe you got him! You expert, rootin'-tootin', eagle-eyed, Goth-loving marksman! I love it, you managed to find a way to win, and everybody still loses!
You've crossed the finish line
Won the race but lost your mind
Was it worth it after all?
—Lazlo Bane, "Superman"
For years and years I wandered the earth
Until I died and went to hell
But my despair had ascended to heaven
That's how I finally got rid of it.
—They Might Be Giants, "Hopeless Bleak Despair"