What did Douglas MacArthur mean by “In war, there is no substitute for victory?”

What did Douglas MacArthur mean by “In war, there is no substitute for victory?”


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What does this quote mean? I didn't think it made much sense, since diplomacy exists and no country is unbeatable.


"I didn't think it made much sense, since diplomacy exists" - But, GIVEN war, defeat or stalemate are not as good as winning.

"… and no country is unbeatable" - Obviously, but I don't know how this could support your confusion over the quote.


Douglas MacArthur is one of the most notorious Military leaders in modern warfare possibly only seconded by Patton himself. He said this in a speech in 1951 during the height of the Red Scare.

But once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end.

War's very object is victory, not prolonged indecision.

In war there is no substitute for victory.

There are some who, for varying reasons, would appease Red China. They are blind to history's clear lesson, for history teaches with unmistakable emphasis that appeasement but begets new and bloodier war. It points to no single instance where this end has justified that means, where appeasement has led to more than a sham peace. Like blackmail, it lays the basis for new and successively greater demands until, as in blackmail, violence becomes the only other alternative.

The quote is meant to solicit a response from elected leaders to do something about, what was then seen as a threat to the free world. In current time it could be likened to terrorism or Islamophobia. The point of the speech in which the quote is found almost echoes something similar in recent history. He was advocating that war was already upon us (USA) and we just didn't know it and the only way to win that war that was thrust on us is to do what he had done in WWII meet the opponent head on, with everything we had.

Now, hindsight being what it is. We know that the "imminent threat" he perceived has not come to fruition. While China is known for harassment of western nations and for state sponsored cyber attacks, and currency manipulation the war Douglas saw being thrust on the free world was never seen (or just hasn't happened yet). If a war were to break out between the US and it's allies MacArthur would be proven right, appeasement but only begets new and bloodier war.



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