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What does mean a sentence "Intervention that has yet to be a total success"?

Does it mean the success is not total or that there will be total success soon? Or the total success was planned but difficult to achieve?

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On its face the phrase carries the implication that total success is expected but has not happened yet. In the context of the Western intervention in Libya (where I suspect you saw the phrase), fighting is continuing in Sirte and Bani Walid but may end soon.

However, tone is important, and it may sometimes be used as a gentler way of saying that the intervention has been a disaster.

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The phrase "has yet to be a total success" could be alternately expressed as "has yet to totally succeed."

The inclusion of the word yet by the speaker tells us that, from his/her perspective, success is imminent.

Objectively, this may or may not be true. For example, an overly confident manufacturer could use this phrase to soften the news of a product's failure, even if it's clear that the product will likely never be a success.

The phrase does not give any clues as to why success hasn't yet occurred. It simply informs us that the speaker believes that, despite the delay, success is still expected.

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It could also be a sarcastic remark by somoene who doubted it would ever be a success. – Barrie England Oct 6 '11 at 6:53
Yes, that's also true. – onomatomaniak Oct 6 '11 at 6:55
Taken literally, the phrase would mean that complete success is expected but has not yet been achieved. But in practice, I think this phrase is almost always used sarcastically to mean that the effort has failed badly. – Jay Oct 6 '11 at 22:03

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