Elfarmari points out that without the destruction of the Ring, Sauron would not be defeated at all. Surely that is a metaphor -- ask Sauron himself whether he was defeated or not at the Last Alliance . Without the destruction of the Ring, to be sure, the evil of Sauron would linger; though perhaps it might linger dormant for many centuries, as it did before it was found by Gollum. The only sure thing in this "Sauron x Evil" debate as concerns the Ring of Power is this: Sauron can be defeated without the destruction of the Ring; since he was defeated before in such a manner. And if we assume that "the war on Sauron" ends only with the destruction of his spirit, well, his spirit was not destroyed... so again we are imposing on the Istari an impossible job. No, their job was neither to destroy Sauron's spirit, nor to destroy impersonal evil -- it was to defeat Sauron's incarnate form. To kill him, one more time. If the Ring had not been found, the only hope would be in arms; but it would be a hope, as it was once before. Now, if you compare the strength of the West in the time of the Last Alliance and the strength of the West in the time of the War of the Ring, you see an enormous weakening through time. The kinstrife and consequent loss of Umbar, the end of Arnor, growing estrangement between men and elves, etc. etc. Why wouldn't unveiled Maiar, with the authority of emissaries from the Valar, prevent or at least slow this trend? I think the burden of proof is with the Scholars in this question. Why couldn't even one unveiled Maiar use his authority to stop the kinstrife, or prevent the destruction of Osgiliath? We see of Gandalf the White that he has an enormous authority, even when he faces Denethor himself. Sure, he chooses to hide this authority, but he has it; and when there is need he uses it. He is no longer limited. This is the only unveiled Maiar that we have access to in the story, and even so he is not "fully" unveiled -- he is still incarnate. But many of the limitations imposed upon him were withdrawn by Eru. Look at his performance after that! If you consider that there were many Istari available (and not only one), this becomes a certainty. There is no way in which the trend towards weakening in the West could not be stopped or slowed by the unveiled Istari. The unveiled Maiar would be able to reason (as I did) that the only way to kill Sauron without the Ring was to use force, and they would build up the military strength of the West through centuries... How could this not shorten the war? I think it would prevent it altogether -- Mordor would surely be on the West's hands, and Minas Ithil... the Ringwraiths would be destroyed if they showed their faces around... All this is speculation, and fun . It's not too productive, though, as Lhun pointed out. The big question is -- why would unveiled Maiar perform less efficiently at building up resistance and preparing for war than limited Maiar? That is the question without an answer, so far; all of the scenarios imagined by the Scholars do not address it. That is, until Maedhros' last post . (...) A good suggestion by Maedhros -- that the unveiled Maiar would act just as limited Maiar did, because it was the best chance for overall success (and this consideration is not limited to "the war on Sauron", but to success "in the big picture"). It need not be pointed out that it is but another scenario, i.e. speculation. But refer back to the example of Gandalf the White. He does not become a big bully. He does not try to force his will upon other people. In that sense, he acts exactly as Maedhros is describing. However, he is still unlimited, or less limited, than Gandalf the Grey; and it shows. He has a greater authority, and a greater power, and a sharper wit. So yes, we can accept Maedhros' scenario without losing our position in the debate; it is far from being a fundamental flaw. It remains on the Scholars' shoulders to prove or at least try to explain why would the presence of Gandalf as "the White" from the beginning of the story prolong the war. He is the wisest of the Maiar, he would use his powers in a wise way . Even if he uses persuasion and understanding, he will still be more efficient. If he falls to the temptation of dominating other wills, he will be more efficient still. There is no scenario in which he can be less efficient in opposing Sauron. That sentence, "from the beginning of the story", can be taken in two ways. The first sense, restricted to the War of the Ring and its immediate surroundings -- say, the period depicted in LotR -- is quite enough for the GoT position. Gandalf the White, without the "diminishment of the wit" that is inherent to incarnation (according to Manwë), would surely be able to identify the hobbit's ring as the Ring of Power much earlier; he would be able to cast it into Orodruin or to send a hobbit to do the job many decades before Sauron declared himself openly. He would not be arrested by Saruman, since Saruman (even if treacherous) would not be aware of the Ring. There are so many small mistakes that would have been avoided... and I am again falling back into speculation. But that should be the Scholars' job. They are the ones who must point out why a sharper Gandalf would not make sharper decisions. The second sense of "the beginning of the story" is "since the Istari's arrival" -- the sense in which the "war on Sauron" began in the depths of time, when Sauron attacked Eregion, with many victories and many defeats (as Elrond said in the Council). And in that sense the greater wit and power and authority of the unveiled Istari would be even more useful. But I don't want to repeat the military and political speculations of the beginning of the post. I'll wait for an explanation from the Scholars, as to how Istari with more power, authority, and wit, with less pain and fatigue, could have been less efficient in their job. Remember Gandalf the White.