We like to say that battles are lost or won. Even our best respected historians provide the final score whenever they can. Some battles are ties; some have ambiguous outcomes. Most are won or lost. We have ways of determining such things. We like neat dichotomies, binary oppositions. It’s in the language, but it’s in the language because it’s in the being, our being. Win and lose are easy to understand.
The borderlines we put on battles are not arbitrary. But they’re not real either. They are conceptual. They could be put in other places, both the starting point then the first shot is fired and the end point when the last effective shot is fired are placed there for convenience, so we will be able to give a name to when the thing started and ended. The name is everything. It’s the folder that allows us to catalog the battle, that allows us to have had a battle at all. There is no knowledge without the name on the folder. But we all know too that the battle started long before the fighting and continued long after and may never have ended. We all know that the most decisive victories are provisional and momentary. Many conquered people have eventually won the war—or anyway have had moment in which the victory had shifted their way, had conquered the conqueror from beneath.