[FOUNTAIN]The cost of victory

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[FOUNTAIN]The cost of victory

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) faced his final battle on fields near the village of Waterloo, in the southeastern part of Belgium, on June 18, 1815. In that battle, the French Army and the allied forces of Britain, Prussia and other countries fought so fiercely that 55,000 young men on both sides perished. Napoleon's loss caused France to exile him to the island of St. Helena. He never left that lonely outpost and died there six years later.

Though Napoleon had several opportunities to win the Battle of Waterloo, he couldn't. He failed to coordinate strategy with his marshal, Emmanuel de Grouchy. The weather conditions were also unfavorable to Napoleon. And Napoleon repeatedly made judgmental errors.

The Battle of Waterloo was impressive not only for showing the bravery of a hero but also for a comment made by the winning British commander, Arthur Wellesley Wellington (1769-1852). Wellington was depressed after reviewing the losses to his forces, and he was not pleased even with the gains achieved. He said, "I feel as if I was defeated. The next greatest misfortune to losing a battle is to gain a victory such as this."

His victory was, writers might say today, a "Pyrrhic victory." A Pyrrhic victory is one earned at a great cost. The term originated from Pyrrhus (318 B.C. to 272 B.C.), the king of Epirus, an ancient country covering parts of what are now Greece and Albania. In 279 B.C., the forces of Pyrrhus had a great battle with the Roman forces at Asculum, near the Adriatic Sea.

The geographical features were unfavorable to Pyrrhus's troops. With 20 elephants in tow, his forces attacked the Roman Army across a river, but Pyrrhus's forces suffered losses because the river's current was swift. Pyrrhus's casualties were great due to the desperate resistance of the Roman Army. The battle ended with a victory by Pyrrhus, though 25,000 soldiers on both sides lay dead.

According to the Greek historian Plutarch (A.D. 46 to A.D. 120), as Pyrrhus's soldiers shouted in triumph, Pyrrhus said, "One more such victory and I am lost."

Korea's presidential election left many questions. If the winner gloats over his victory, refusing to face the serious aftermath of the conflicts between generations and ideologies exposed during the campaign, the public will punish him. The winner should above all promote harmony. And he should seriously review exactly why the loser nearly beat him.



The writer is a deputy foreign news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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