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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

End Game: "End Game

What happens when war isn't winnable?

by Barry Eisler

I've been thinking about what happens when a society goes to war for a limited objective but then comes to face what seems to be an unlimited cost.

The more blood and treasure a society spends on such a war, the harder it becomes to acknowledge that it can't be won. After spending so much, a retreat would be painful: The society would have to acknowledge that the entire enterprise — the lives lost, the money spent — was a waste (worse than a waste, really, because of opportunity costs and unintended consequences).

Any society would want to avoid the pain inherent in such acknowledgment. It would prefer to believe there is still some chance of winning. If victory is possible, even if securing it turns out to be costlier than first believed, at least the society would have something to show for what it paid."

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