The Long Defeat
“He has dwelt in the West since the days of dawn, and I have dwelt with him years uncounted . . . and together through ages of the world we have fought the long defeat.”
- Lady Galadriel to Frodo, J.R.R. Tolkien's LOTR
Expanded upon outside of the LOTR:
“I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic,” he writes in one of his letters, “so that I do not expect 'history' to be anything but a 'long defeat'—though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.”
The usage was popularized by Tracy Kidder in the book Mountains Beyond Mountains.
I have fought the long defeat and brought other people on to fight the long defeat, and I’m not going to stop because we keep losing. Now I actually think sometimes we may win. I don’t dislike victory.... We want to be on the winning team, but at the risk of turning our backs on the losers, no, it’s not worth it. So you fight the long defeat.
- Dr. Paul Farmer, as described to Tracy Kidder