“Never Get Involved In A Land War In Asia” Meaning In The Princess Bride?

“Never Get Involved In A Land War In Asia” Meaning In The Princess Bride?

The Princess Bride is an iconic movie- a masterpiece of entertainment buttered with perfect performances. It has everything from sweeping romance and wry satire to scrupulously choreographed swordplay, most-evil men, and gorgeous women. In simple words, the movie is beautiful because it has something for everybody like a beautifully designed medieval theme and even one of the most famous and weird aphorisms-:


“You’ve fell victim to one of the classic blunders!…never get involved in a land war in Asia”.


Since there is no evidence of a land war or Asia in the plot, what does this line mean? Well, not to worry folks, Here is our best attempt to explain its meaning.


Never Get Involved In A Land War In Asia” Meaning.


In general terms, “Never get involved in a land war in Asia” means that one should never start a battle that is too arduous for one to resolve and achieve victory. It is a version of the famous idiom – Don’t bite off more than you can chew. But this quote has another famous meaning which we shall discuss in a later section – Origin Of The Quote.


Who Said “Never Get Involved In A Land War In Asia” In The Princess Bride And Why?


The quote was said by Vizzini, the Sicilian criminal and bully employed to kidnap and kill Buttercup while exercising hubris during a battle of wits with the other guy. Like a typical megalomaniac, he displayed his superiority by performing the typical villain monolog, labeling the other guy’s actions as a classic blunder. He said-


“You’ve fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well known is this; never go in against a Sicilian, when death is on the line! Aha ha ha ha…”


While describing the second ‘classical blunder’ to never go in against a Sicilian, Vizzini keels over, dead! Vizzini was proven wrong as the other guy got the better of him by tricking him into drinking poisonous wine and eventually killing him in his homeland.


Never Get Involved In A Land War In Asia” Origin.


The quote is a well-renowned aphorism. Although there is no consensus on who originally used it, it is variously attributed to Bernard Montgomery (British General). Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery said it in the House of Lords in 1962:


Rule 1, on page 1 of the book of war, is: “Do not march on Moscow”. Various people have tried it, Napoleon and Hitler, and it is no good. That is the first rule. I do not know whether your Lordships will know Rule 2 of war. It is: “Do not go fighting with your land armies in China”. It is a vast country, with no clearly defined objectives. 


He was probably referring to the experience of World War 2, where Germany was broken in Russia and Japan in China. Later, in 1968, after the U.S. got involved in Vietnam, he revised it to the current version, published in the New York Times on July 3, 1968.


The United States has broken the second rule of war. That is: don’t go fighting with your land army on the mainland in Asia. Rule One is, don’t march on Moscow. I developed those two rules myself. 


However, the exact line was in the original book by William Goldman published in 1973. At the time, the U.S. was trying to extricate itself from the Vietnam War. Many Americans thought the war a terrible mistake, and “Never fight a land war in Asia” was a frequently heard “obvious truth“.


Moreover, it is said that General Omar Bradley expressed his belief before the U.S Senate Armed Forces Committee:


Senator [Henry S.] Bridges: “Do you believe that we should never fight a land war in Asia?“.

General Bradley: “Yes, I do not believe we should get involved in a land war in Asia. But, if possible we should avoid it.”


General Bradley’s quote got misquoted during the Vietnam war as, “Never get involved in a land war in Asia“, because everyone thought it was a grave mistake to fight a land war in Asia. A significant fraction of the viewers of the 1987 film would have clear memories of that period of American history.


Why Should One Never Fight A Land War In Asia?


Getting involved in a land war in Asia has always proved to be a classic blunder in the real world. Examples from before The Princess Bride include the Korean war, the Vietnam war, and the Russian war in Afghanistan. All three land wars in Asia are seen in history as epic blunders. The most famous mistake was Napoleon’s march into Russia that destroyed his once-powerful army. Asia, being humongous in size, has large countries with huge populations. The large area of operations combined with difficult terrain required a lot of labor and strength to move men, armor, and supplies.


In a later context, the high costs and dubious benefits of America’s strategic quagmires in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq gave a land war aversion resonance even in the U.S. popular culture—including the priceless “wisdom” of The Princess Bride.



“Sometimes You Eat The Bar, And Sometimes The Bar Eats You” Meaning In The Big Lebowski (1998)

Was Tim The Enchanter An Ad-Libbed Name in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)?