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I have come across the grammar structure had to have been in Crash Course US history. It is at around 1 minute and 51 second. Here it is in the sentence:

But for that slogan to make sense, there had to have been some way in which war was avoided.

What if the host had said ...there had to be some way..., would have this sentence meant the same? I struggle to see the difference, so help please me to see it, if there is any.

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Although Wilson's supporters were certainly implying that "There is a way to avoid war" (videlicet, by re-electing Wilson), that isn't what they were actually saying.

The slogan the speaker quotes, "He kept us out of war", was cast in the past tense and thus referred to an eventuality which occurred before it was uttered in the 1916 presidential campaign.

Consequently, the "way in which war was avoided" must also refer to a "past-in-past" eventuality: not something which had to exist (simple past) at the reference time, the summer of 1916, but something which had to have existed (past perfect) before 1916.

The speaker goes on to suggest that the "way" involved ignoring the outcry over the sinking of the Lusitania in May of 1915.

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