Five Greatest American Field Commanders

For today’s edition of History List Friday, I’m looking at what I consider to be the five best American field commanders of all-time. (Note that I didn’t say “United States,” because two of them displayed their genius while making war against the United States.)

Ready? OK, here we go:

5. Winfield Scott – Scott spent fifty years as a commander in the army, and participated in some of its most notable campaigns during the first half of the 19th century. In the War of 1812, Lt. Colonel Scott led the American assault on Queenstown Heights, Ontario. His troops were winning until New York militia refused to cross the river in support; Scott was forced to surrender. Exchanged in 1813, Scott commanded the First Brigade in the Niagara campaign of July 1814, decisively winning the battle of Chippewa before being wounded at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, ending his involvement in the war. In the Mexican War, Scott led a successful amphibious invasion of Mexico at Vera Cruz, and then through a series of flanking maneuvers, forced Santa Anna’s army to backpedal into Mexico City. (No less an authority than Wellington himself had predicted that Scott’s army would never be heard from again.) Santa Anna, believing that the walls of Mexico City could not be breached, fortified the town and secured the fortress-less castle of Chapultepec and dared Scott to attack. Scott did attack, his men carried Chapultepec, and Mexico City quickly fell. Wellington, learning of the feat, now called Scott the world’s “greatest living general.” At the outbreak of the Civil War, Scott was the commander of the Union forces, and as such, was the primary architect of the Anaconda Plan, which was a naval blockade of the South. While this plan took years to show concrete results, it was key in eventually choking the South off from resupply and severing in into easily managed segments.  During his lifetime, Scott published the Abstract of Infantry Tactics, Including Exercises and Manueuvres of Light-Infantry and Riflemen, for the Use of the Militia of the United States in 1830 and in 1840, he wrote Infantry Tactics, Or, Rules for the Exercise and Maneuvre of the United States Infantry.

4. U.S. Grant – Grant might not have been a brilliant military strategist, but he was at the least a very good one. It was Grant’s battlefield demeanor, however, that places him in the top five. Named a brigadier general in August of 1861, Grant quickly established himself as a bold, aggressive commander, seizing Paducah, Kentucky, a key port on the Ohio River.   (In the Western Theatre, control of the rivers would be the key to victory, and Grant understood this from the beginning.) A few months later, Grant seized Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland. At Fort Donelson, Grant’s army suffered a surprise attack while he was away; Grant regrouped and counterattacked, and Donelson surrendered a few days later. In was here that Grant earned his nickname of “Unconditional Surrender” Grant. When asked for terms by the Rebel commander, Grant coolly replied that he would accept no terms except “unconditional and immediate surrender.” Grant’s troops were taken unawares at Shiloh, but, once again, Grant calmly regained the offensive the next day and carried the field. Grant’s dogged persistence and gutsy, imaginative campaign at Vicksburg resulted in the capture of the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi. Coming east after having been given command of all Union Armies in March of 1864, Grant’s campaigns against the heretofore unconquered Robert E. Lee were brutally effective, though terribly costly. It is worth noting that Grant’s tactics changed when he changed theaters; in the West, he maneuvered to gain control of critical waterways. In the East, he used his massive manpower advantage to bleed Lee white. In both cases, he was ultimately successful.

3. George S. Patton – George Patton was the father of American armored tactics. During World War I he was the first officer assigned to the U.S. Tank Corps, and became a vocal advocate for expanded use of armor in battle during the interwar years. In 1942, following U.S. entry into World War II, Patton trained his tanks for battle in California before participating in the successful capture of Morocco from Vichy France.  Given command of II Corps after its disastrous losses against the Afrika Korps, Patton counter-attacked, and in combination with British General Bernard Law Montgomery, drove the Germans out of North Africa.  In Sicily, Patton commanded the U.S. 7th Army brilliantly, driving westward across the island and then north, again in conjunction with Montgomery, until the Germans and Italians were compelled to evacuate. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), while on Sicily, Patton’s slapping of a serviceman cost him the chance to follow the 7th Army into Italy, and he was instead rotated among several locations as a decoy to the Germans, who expected Patton to lead an invasion wherever he went. Eventually he was assigned to England, where again he was a decoy for the fictitious “First U.S. Army Group,” which the Nazis were convinced would be assaulting Calais. This misinterpretation resulted in the misplacement of several German Panzer divisions, making them unavailable at Normandy on D-Day. After D-Day, Patton was given command of the Third Army, which he relentlessly drove across France (until he outran his supplies and was forced to stop; the interval allowed the Germans to fortify Metz, which resulted in a protracted siege). When the Germans surprised allied troops with their 1944 Winter Offensive, Patton disengaged a corps-sized element of his army and turned it north toward the “bulge.” This complicated and dangerous move was executed to perfection, and within days Patton’s men were fighting at Bastogne, which the 101st Airborne were barely holding. The Germans, seeing the strength of the forces opposing them, retreated.  Patton’s army then continued moving east, cutting a swath across southern Germany, finally reaching Czechoslovakia in May as the war ended.

2. Stonewall Jackson – Thomas J. Jackson received his famous nickname at the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas), when his brigade’s unflinching stand in the face of coordinated Union assaults helped turn the tide of battle. In his historic 1862 Valley Campaign, Jackson’s 17,000 men marched 646 miles in 48 days, engaging three different Union armies (totaling about 60,000 men), and preventing them from reinforcing George McClellan’s drive against Richmond during the Peninsula Campaign. Union leaders were intimidated by Jackson, and refused to release any of the valley troops, fearing that Jackson would turn his attention to Washington, D.C. Called to Richmond’s defense just before the Seven Days Battles, Jackson removed his men by train unnoticed, and much to the chagrin of Union commanders, turned up in Richmond just as McClellan prepared to attack. Jackson joined Lee’s army for the battles around Richmond, but he did not distinguish himself there. It has been suggested that he was at his best when given independent command. Jackson’s men did much better at Second Bull Run, Antietam and Fredericksburg, but his fame was sealed at the Battle of Chancellorsville. There Jackson accomplished his famous flank march, which annihilated the right of Joseph Hooker’s Union Army and sent them flying north in panic. Sadly for Jackson, however,  as he was scouting for a night attack, he was accidentally shot by his own pickets. He died of pneumonia while recovering.

1. Robert E. Lee – No American commander has ever been as beloved as Robert Edward Lee. Taking command of the rebel army in June of 1862, with George McClellan’s vastly superior federal forces only nine miles outside of Richmond, Lee discounted the odds and audaciously attacked the Union troops repeatedly over a seven day period, driving them back down the Virginia Peninsula from which they had come. With the exception of the battle at Gaines Mill, each of Lee’s attacks had cost him more men than it had McClellan, but the federal commander was so disturbed by the carnage that he treated them as losses. Lee continued his aggressive tactics at Second Bull Run, where John Pope’s Union Army of Virginia was shattered. Largely because of bad luck (Lee’s campaign orders somehow fell into the hands of a Union soldier), his Maryland Campaign ended badly at Antietam, although the odds there were not in his favor. Lee routed the Union forces again at Fredericksburg in December and at Chancellorsville the next spring, before launching into the north again with a campaign that would end disastrously at Gettysburg. From this point forward, with Confederate supplies and men dwindling, Lee changed his tactics and took up a more defensive posture. In doing so, he was able to inflict devastating casualties on numerous Union armies. However, with the elevation of the determined Grant to command, and the reelection of Abraham Lincoln in November of 1864, Lee and the South were doomed. Ground down to a mere 25,000 men by the spring of 1865, Lee held out for as long as possible before accepting Grant’s offer to surrender. Rather than dispersing his army and continuing the struggle with guerrilla warfare, Lee asked his men to go home and become good citizens; his men did as they were told, and the nation’s reconciliation began. Even at the hour of his greatest defeat, Lee demonstrated that he was still a successful leader of troops.


Worst. Wars. Ever.

As I mentioned in a previous post, warfare is as much a part of human nature as is romantic love or the need for community. That doesn’t mean that all wars are necessary; in fact, some wars are positively pointless in their origins, destructive in their execution and meaningless in their result. Today’s Friday History List is what I believe to be the five most pointless wars in history. Let’s see if you agree.

5. The Siachen Conflict – This pointless war is to resolve ownership of an uninhabitable glacier that lies on the border between India and Pakistan in Kashmir at a height on 20,000 feet. It began in 1984 and continues to this day, which makes it the only ongoing conflict on my list. The problem started when the treaty ending the Indo-Pak War of 1971 (which would result in the creation of Bangladesh), forgot to mention who owned this icy plateau (frankly, the people who drafted the treaty didn’t think it was a big deal). The war has mainly consisted of raids and counter-raids against enemy outposts, resulting in over 2,000 casualties in 25 years. Certainly not a big number, I know, but completely pointless nonetheless.

4. The War of 1812 – On June 18, 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain, largely because of British impressment of American sailors. (Impressment was the forcible repatriation of individuals thought to be deserters from the Royal Navy. The United States’ grants of citizenship meant nothing to the English, whose laws did not allow for the renunciation of British citizenship. Therefore, once a limey, always a limey. Americans claimed that many of the repatriated sailors had never been English.) Remember that the British at the time were engaged in a titanic death struggle with Napoleon, and were far less concerned with the complaints of offended Americans than retaining naval supremacy in the Atlantic.  Oddly enough, by the time war was declared, Britain had rescinded its Orders in Council authorizing the impressments – thus removing the major cause of the war. Unfortunately, the news failed to reach the United States in time. After three years of sporadic fighting, both sides could claim victories, but neither side achieved its strategic objectives. Eventually, the Treaty of Ghent ended the war and reestablished the status quo ante bellum (nothing changed from before the war). Four thousand were dead of wounds and twenty thousand were dead of disease, in what was at best a tactical draw.

3. The Iran – Iraq War – In 1980, Saddam Hussein, hoping to take advantage of instability in Iran after the Islamic Revolution, invaded Iran, looking to settle an old border dispute. However, his army quickly stalled and was driven back by the surprisingly resistant Iranians. Soon, both sides settled into its positions as an ugly, costly war of static attrition ensued. Before it ended in 1988, 500,000 were dead and the two nations had suffered economic losses of $1 trillion. When the war ended, nothing had changed.

2. The Russian Campaign of 1812 – One of the many Napoleonic Wars, this was the Emperor’s response to the Russian Czar’s withdrawal from Napoleon’s continental system, and it was a disaster. Russia, dependent on foreign trade but denied it under Napoleon, dared to challenge Bonaparte by removing themselves from his economic orbit. Napoleon, needing to demonstrate the costs of insubordination, invaded Russia in the summer of 1812. The French Grand Army made rapid progress as the Russians withdrew before him. By September, Napoleon had captured Moscow (which had been stripped of anything of value before its abandonment) and then settled in to wait for the inevitable surrender offer. It never came. What did come was the Russian winter. By the middle of October, Napoleon gave up and set out for the return march to France. His Grand Army, 600,000 strong, was caught in an early (and brutal) winter, attacked incessantly by roving bands of angry Cossacks and slowly ground away. Of those that left Moscow in October, only 40,000 made it home alive. The Grand Army had been crippled, setting the stage for the demise of Napoleon in the years that followed.

1. World War I – Easily winning the prize as the worst war ever, the Great War started for almost no reason, killed tens of millions, settled nothing and then, as if needing to prove itself again, set the table for World War II. In 1914 Europe, following years of military buildups and the creation of constricting alliances, was like a tinderbox just waiting for a spark. That spark came in June with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Serbian extremists (probably with the tacit approval of the Serbian government). Soon, threats were being exchanged, mobilizations were being issued, and by August the great powers of Europe were at war. Stalemates followed invasions, and a war between the trenches was inaugurated. The war itself was typified by thousands of senseless frontal assaults against heavily armed positions by hundreds of thousands of doomed troops. By the time of the armistice in November of 1918, nearly 40,000,000 were killed, wounded or missing, the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires had fallen and France and Belgium had been laid waste. From the peace came the Bolshevik Revolution, the poorly conceived and only somewhat executed Treaty of Versailles, and an unstable Germany that would soon respond with the greatest evil known to mankind – and an even more deadly world war to settle the remaining issues from this one. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner.

On Government-Sponsored Torture (from the collected works)

In this essay, I will address the moral issues that pertain to the justification for government-sponsored torture as a means of extracting information, in this case the government being the United States. I will demonstrate that while torture might be an effective method for gaining such information, it is by no means a fool-proof method, and the infrastructure required to maintain an efficient torture program would inevitably be subject to corruption and would become detrimental to both the individuals involved and, in the long term, to the United States itself.

When torture is discussed in America, there only seems to be one setting in which most people believe that the practice would be justified, and that, of course, is the “ticking time-bomb” scenario. In this scenario, a terrorist has planted a time-bomb in a public place, and only torture can make him reveal the information necessary to stop the bomb. The choice presented is very narrow: the rights of one terrorist versus the rights of perhaps thousands of innocents. In this scenario, a majority of Americans agree that torture is, in fact, justified.

The reason most people accept torture at this point is that most people are utilitarian in thinking; that is, they seek the option that “maximizes total aggregate happiness.” (Allhoff, 245) This school of thought weights the offended right of one against the offended rights of many and favors the many. The opposite school of moral thought is that of deontology, which teaches that people should never be treated as merely as means to an end, and that regardless of the circumstance, a person’s rights must never be violated. (Allhoff, 246) This protection of individual rights would not be abrogated by that person’s participation in criminal or violent activity, no matter how heinous that activity may appear. (Allhoff, 248) In fact, it would be argued that it is exactly those people who we find most offensive that are in the most need of our protection, because public sentiment so willingly denies them sympathy.

Most Americans tend to reject the absolutist nature of deontology, and are more comfortable in the more practical elements of utilitarianism. Alhoff argues that torture is permissible under the following conditions: “…the use of torture aims at the acquisition of information; the captive is reasonably thought to have the relevant information; the information corresponds to a relevant and significant threat; and the information could likely lead to the prevention of that threat.” (Allhoff, 255) No doubt, most Americans would tend to agree with this rubric.

Once the legality of torture is established, the discussion of which tortures are themselves permissible ensues. For example, how much pain is too much pain? Allhoff sets the bar at “the minimum trauma necessary to obtain the desired compliance.” (Allhoff, 256) What is, after all, a minimum amount of pain? Since pain thresholds vary from person to person, setting an objective standard is impossible, so this would be left to the interpretation of the torturer, who is necessarily in a conflicted position from which to judge what pain has exceeded the “minimum”; in these situations, restraint is rare, while “escalation is the rule.” (Luban, 1447) Even if one could imagine a scenario whereby this threshold would be observed, myriad other problems present themselves, one of which Allhoff himself recognizes, the problem of misinformation. (Allhoff, 258)

Since most interrogations are largely “fishing” expeditions, it would be a comparatively easy thing for a detained individual to reveal “misinformation”, or inaccuracies designed to mislead the interrogators. Soldiers and other combatants are routinely trained to do just this by their governments, and it may not be known for months or years exactly what information was true and what was not. Under torture, prisoners would be far more likely to tell the interrogators what they think they want to hear, whether it is true or not, complicating the information gathering process.

Another complication is that genuine information that has been obtained through conventional investigatory methods can almost never reveal exactly what any one prisoner may be withholding, or even a group of prisoners. Therefore, since the interrogators do not know what it is exactly that they are looking for, it would become necessary to torture nearly everyone to be sure that all pertinent has been obtained, and then to cross-check that new information against the torture-acquired information just obtained from other prisoners. If there were any conflicts between accounts of tortured prisoners, more torturing must occur, so that confirming information can be extracted, which must then be cross-checked again, ad infinatum. Eventually, those prisoners that have survived would be saying almost anything to avoid increasing pain. Deciphering the truth from the lies would be nearly impossible. It seems that torture is a poor interrogation method at best.

From my perspective, however, the real problem with legalized torture is the creation of a permanent state-sanctioned torture infrastructure. This new government bureaucracy would by necessity be populated with individuals who would be trained to inflict pain on their fellow humans while feeling nothing themselves. Because of the chain of command, they would be automatons executing decision made from above by people who have no direct contact or responsibility for the individuals being tortured. (Luban, 1447) The current poster child of this “torture culture” is Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where ordinary American soldiers committed terrible crimes against prisoners. This outcome is not remarkable once torture is institutionalized, and would be replicated on a far greater scale if torture in general becomes an acceptable interrogation tool. (Luban, 1452)

The persons who would be part of this culture of torture would themselves likely become psychological casualties, as …”virtuous people are probably not involved in the intentional and coerced causation of pain and suffering in other human beings…” and could be considered”…damaged goods.” (Casebeer, 268) The difficulty of soldiers returning from combat assimilating into normal society has already been well documented. One can only imagine the difficulty to be encountered when one’s occupation is to torture and maim professionally.

This culture of torture clashes not just with American values, but also more directly with American identity. Since the founding of this nation, Americans have always considered themselves a “city on a hill”, a shining example of the greatest aspirations of humanity and even perhaps morally superior to the “old world”. In past wars, Americans have prided themselves on not retaliating against an enemy they considered ruthless and barbaric. When the enemy committed crimes against soldiers and civilians, retaliation was still frowned upon. (May, 317) The enemy was not treated as they deserved to be treated, but as human and vulnerable. (May, 318) When those wars were over, veterans were welcomed home having not just vanquished an enemy, but also having reinforced American values and identity. If the United States were to establish the legitimacy of institutionalized torture, that identity would be rapidly eroded.

In my view, torture must be prohibited at all times not just because it is ineffective as an interrogation tool and it complicates other more conventional interrogation practices. In a free society, a society where people grow up secure in the belief that they have value as individuals, a society that believes it has values to offer the world, torture is a lethal threat. American identity depends upon the belief that we are morally better than nations that routinely torture, and we must recognize that government-sponsored torture does great damage to the individuals who direct and inflict it. Torture may damage the bodies of terrorists; it would certainly destroy the soul of America.

On Warfare as a Natural State (from the collected works)

In this essay, I shall demonstrate how war is a natural state of humanity that derives from a normal psychological reaction in individuals and groups. I will trace the development of law within the community and relate it to the use of force both inside and outside the community. I will also elaborate upon the psychic benefits of war to a community, and I will explain how these benefits are key to the development of identity within a community, without which the community cannot survive.

War has always been a part of the human experience, because war is an integral part of human nature. It is no more possible to be rid of the human need to go to war than it is to be rid other uniquely human psychological needs, such as the need for possessions or land ownership. Sigmund Freud, in a letter to Albert Einstein, reflects on this, calling war “the original state of things: domination by whoever had the greater might – domination by brute violence or by violence supported by intellect.” (Freud, 275) He notes that this “death instinct” enhances a creature’s ability to survive, by being able to destroy another creature, and therefore represents a “biological justification” for violent human conflict. (Freud, 282, 283) He even goes so far as to admit that it is pointless to attempt to eliminate this proclivity for war, and that any society that claims to have done so is perpetrating a fraud. (Freud, 283) In the end, he asks, “Why do we not accept it as another of the painful calamities of life?” (Freud, 285)

What is it that prompts people to react violently? Freud attributes war to “conflicts of interest between men” that are only settled when “one side or the other (is compelled) to abandon his claim or his objection by the damage inflicted on him and by the crippling of his strength.” (Freud, 275) J. Glenn Gray says it “arises from the frustration of action and consequently thwarted self-realization and deprivation of freedom” that, in turn, leads to passions for which the response is “violence, usually unplanned and spontaneous.” (Gray, 29, 11, 12) Gray goes on to differentiate between “force” and violence”; he gives “force” the legitimacy of authority while denying that legitimacy to mere “violence.” (Gray, 14) However, Freud notes, “law was originally brute violence and that even to-day it cannot do without the support of violence.” (Freud, 280) He says that law is simply the raw power of a community, as opposed to the “violence of a single individual.” (Freud, 275)

Key in development and the maintaining of any community is identity, which is often expressed as nationhood. Freud says “the structure of human society is to a large extent based upon” identifications. (Freud, 284) Michael Gelven calls these identifications the “we-they principle”. He calls the “we-they principle” an essential way in which we think about the meaning of our own existence. (Gelven, 14) He demonstrates the need for belonging to a larger group, the nation, saying that for humans, “being a native of my country matters (emphasis original).” (Gelven, 12) He goes on to say that this identification as a people typically outweighs our normal desire for peace. (Gelven, 17)

Part of this identification with the nation is the willingness to eliminate threats to the nation, which Chris Hedges calls “part of the redemption of the nation.” (Hedges, 139) Hedges insists that while war is “nearly always a sordid affair”, the state requires the “myth” of glorious, heroic warfare to survive as a community. (Hedges, 173)

In War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, Hedges says, “War fills our spiritual void”, giving the nation a shared purpose or calling, satisfying our core beliefs, such as the belief in self-sacrifice. (Hedges, 158-159) Gelven notes this when he says, “…the more vivid and ghastly the depiction of (war’s) misery, the more it is treasured. (Gelven, 9) In this regard, war imitates love, and often feels like love at its outset. (Hedges, 159) Sullivan Ballou, a major in a regiment of Rhode Island volunteers in the Civil War, refers to this strong emotional pull in a letter he wrote to his wife only days before he was killed in battle. Ballou says, “Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.” This part of our communal identity can be traced back for centuries. The idealizing of “suicidal self sacrifice…is…part of the liberal state’s pre-Enlightenment Christian heritage.” (Huq, 1)

For many, war becomes a substitute for love. Hedges proposes, “…the most acute form of suffering for human beings is loneliness”, and he speculates that some “found fulfillment in war, perhaps because it is the closest they ever came to love.” (Hedges, 161)

In many ways, however, war can be more like a narcotic than love, in that it requires “…a higher and higher dose to achieve any thrill…finally, one ingests war only to remain numb.” (Hedges, 162) Hedges describes fighters in Central America engaging in a frenzied orgy of death, speaking in unintelligible shouts, “high on the power to spare lives or to take them.” (Hedges, 171)

Yet, Hedges insists that drugs are themselves a “pale substitute” for the “awful power and rush of battle.” (Hedges, 163) Coming down from war’s high can be difficult. Hedges notes that once removed from war, “we sink into despair, a despair that can lead us to welcome death.” (Hedges, 164) He furthers this connection by branding war as “necrophilia…hidden under platitudes about duty and comradeship.” (Hedges, 163) Hedges concludes that war leads us “into a frenzy in which all human life, including our own, seems secondary.” (Hedges, 166) Some can never relinquish the thrill of warfare, and are drawn back in until they are destroyed by it, consumed, Hedges says, “by a ball of fire.” (Hedges, 170)

For all of its destructive power, Freud insists that there is in war the potential for good. Sometimes, even within a community, there are injustices that will not be remedied by the ruling power, which creates laws by itself and for itself, with little regard for lower classes of society. (Freud, 276) Often “rebellion and civil war follow, with temporary suspension of law and new attempts at a solution by violence.” (Freud, 277) If war can become the vehicle for establishing a more lasting peace, a peace that “makes further wars impossible”, then war might be seen as appropriate. (Freud, 278) In this case, if war promotes justice and restores a long-lasting peace, future wars become less likely.

Freud says that “Wars can only be prevented with certainty if mankind unites in setting up a central authority to which the right of giving judgment upon all conflicts of interest shall be handed over.” (Freud, 278) Unfortunately, nations will never agree to such a surrender of sovereignty or self-interest, because to do so would be to dispose of their national identity, which, as we have seen, is indispensable to their survival as an individual people. Further, even if this universal surrender of authority were agreed upon, there would still occasionally be the rise of small groups or individuals for whom the rule of law or rights of the innocent are of little account, and for whom violence is the accepted path. For people such as these, war is often the only weapon that promises the restoration of peace.

So while it is impossible to permanently eradicate the scourge of war, it remains within our power to limit it to situations where war is the last available remedy for injustice, or in the instance where violence must be met with violence to restore peace. To do this, we must fully comprehend human nature as it is, rather than simply wish for human nature, as it is not.

As Michael Gelven so aptly put it, “To understand war is thus to understand ourselves.” (Gelven, 18) If we anticipate the factors that bring on war, such as permanent states of injustice, a people’s sense of powerlessness and situations that encourage acts of naked aggression, we might react with foresight and avoid large-scale conflicts later. Denying the human need for conflict is eventually counterproductive. Rather, by accepting the reality of warfare, we can then begin the process of making war less likely, which in this imperfect world might just be the best we can hope to do.