If you say
that someone has lost the battle
, but won the war
, you mean
that although they have been defeated
in a small conflict
they have won a larger, more important
one of which it was a part. If you say that someone has won the battle but lost the war
, you mean that they have won the small conflict but lost the larger one.
The strikers may have won the battle, but they lost the war.
COBUILD Advanced English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers