Quote: "Congress snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by cutting off funding from our ally in 1975." Melvin Laird, Nixon’s Defense Secretary, writing in the current issue of Foreign Affairs.
Figure of Speech: hysteron proteron (HIS ter on PRO ter on), the word swap.
Remember the Vietnam War? The one that we were continually on the verge of winning until we lost it? The one that was going to bring democracy to all of Southeast Asia? And where most natives of both sides saw us as occupiers instead of liberators?
Now we know why we lost it. It was Congress's fault for yanking funding for the war after nine futile years.
Laird uses the hysteron proteron, which reverses the ordinary word order of a sentence -- "snatched defeat from the jaws of victory -- in a not-so-subtle reference to Iraq.
Snappy Answer: "The jaws of victory were biting us in the butt."