We fought a military war; our opponents fought a political one. We sought physical attrition; our opponents aimed for our psychological exhaustion. In the process we lost sight of one of the cardinal maxims of guerrilla war: the guerrilla wins if he does not lose. The conventional army loses if it does not win.

Henry Kissinger (b. 1923) German-American diplomat
“The Viet Nam Negotiations,” Foreign Affairs (Jan 1969)
    (Source)

Sometimes paraphrased as "A conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla army wins if he does not lose."
Added on 2-May-17 | Last updated 8-May-17
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2 Responses to “The Viet Nam Negotiations,” Foreign Affairs (Jan 1969)

  1. Hugh Hyatt says:

    I think you slightly misquoted this. Shouldn’t it be, “The guerrilla wins if he does not lose. The conventional army loses if it does not win.”?

    • Dave says:

      Interesting. I found it in a couple of places the way around as I had it (and, alas, the quotation was behind the Foreign Affairs pay wall), but the Wikiquote entry not only has a longer extract that has it in your order (a longer extract, in fact), though it notes that it’s often quoted the way I had it.

      Thanks!

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