Start X to Stop X

"Si vis pacem para bellum"
Latin adage, translated as "If you wish for peace, prepare for war"

So, you have an idea, it's beautiful and you want to fulfill it. Let's say, for example, you want peace. So, how are you going to fulfill it? Fight a war.

Put it basically, you're doing the exact opposite of what you're trying to fulfill.

This comes in two setups, but leads down to the same point:
  1. You want to fulfill X, so you do Y, which is completely opposite to X. (the page quote)
  2. You want to stop X, so you do X. (For example, you want to stop war, so you start a war, so when you finish it, you can disarm everyone)

As hypocritical as it may sound, sometimes this is the only possible choice, and some people will even acknowledge it.

Some will know this with the phrase "Fight fire with fire", which this trope is (in Setup 2), but this trope also includes the ideology of the action, not just the methods alone, but, of course, it's not totally necessary to have the ideology to back it up.

Compare Turn the Other Cheek, when allowing someone to hurt you can be a Badass Pacifist tactic that stops them from hurting you, and Zeroth Rebellion, in which this trope is utilized by a logical program.


Anime & Manga
  • Many Gundam villains.
    • The protagonists of Gundam 00 seek to end global conflict by attacking anyone who causes military aggression.
    • Gundam Wing has Zechs desire to cause such intense devastation to Earth that war loses all appeal. In Endless Waltz this is partially the reason Wufei switches sides and fights against the Gundam Pilots, which is explained more in supplimentary materials.
    • Gundam AGE has Lord Ezelcant decide to end war forever by... staring a huge war. His Social Darwinist agenda is even worse. He wants to purge humanity of warlike tendencies. Except the people who live through wars and disasters tend to be the ones who fight the hardest to survive.
  • Bleach: During the Blood War arc, it's revealed that Quincy have developed a way to seal a shinigami's final release (or "bankai"). To test its capabilities, several captains allow their bankai to be sealed... except that the Quincy actually steal the bankai and use them against their owners. Worse still, when Kisuke Urahara found a way to turn the stolen bankai against the Quincy that stole them, thereby not leaving the Captains at a horrible disadvantage, it was then revealed that having stolen bankais also functioned as a Power Limiter, preventing the use of the Quincy Vollständig. The advantage they got back was pretty much nullified on the spot.
  • Code Geass plays this one very straight. Early in the second season, Zero publicly admits that he became evil because he was convinced it was the only way to defeat the evil Britannian empire.
  • Pain from Naruto, who wants to end all wars by giving people the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.
    • "Salamander" Hanzo, a legendary shinobi with a reputation as The Dreaded, claimed his warmongering ways sprang from an attempt in his youth to unite the land under him. This is a case that doesn't work as well as Pain's; while Pain based his plan on human nature and acknowledged a lot of people would die in cycles because of it, war would become unbearable as long as his weapon existed and long periods of peace would be possible. Hanzo's wars just made the division in the shinobi world worse (since he lost interest in his original ideals early on and became a paranoid monster that oppressed his people) and was actually directly responsible for driving Pain insane in the first place.
  • Crest of the Stars The Ahb take the position that humanity will be inevitably be destroyed in a galactic war if left to themselves. So they decide to conquer everyone and incorporate them into their Empire, denying all other races the ability of hyperspace travel so that there won't be any war. Tactics used to accomplish this salvation include blowing away the atmosphere of rebellious planets. And they're the protagonists!
  • Light Yagami of Death Note commits mass homicide in order to put an end to all crime.
  • In episode 21 of Genesis of Aquarion, Sirius declares that "the reason I fight is to create a world free of fighting, where beauty prevails."
  • Paradox from the Yu-Gi-Oh! Tenth Anniversary Movie wants to use Duel Monsters to Stop Duel Monsters from being made.
  • Chris from Senki Zesshou Symphogear uses her heavily armed Powered Armor to end wars and fighting by beating thouroughly anyone armed at all.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima!, the group "Perfect World" wants to save the Magic World from its inevitable impending collapse by destroying it first, sending all its inhabitants to their "perfect world" that is suspiciously afterlife-like.
  • The Miyaji High Student Council employs this strategy against the unwanted Miyaji Cardfight Club in Cardfight!! Vanguard. By sending "assassins" against said club, they hope the club will cease to exist once they beat them in their own game. Needless to say, this has yet to succeed, prompting the vice president to take more extreme measures in sabotaging.
  • In Vision of Escaflowne, Emperor Dornkirk's method for creating a world free of war mostly consists of invading sovereign nations by military force.

Comic Book
  • Watchmen: in order to stop people from killing each other, make it look like an outside force (aliens) are going to attack them. By killing a whole lot of people.
  • DC One Million: in order to stop Solaris's plot to destroy the past, the heroes have to build him.
  • In Hellboy, a sea-witch captures Hellboy and plans on killing him because she's afraid someone will take his Right Hand of Doom and use it to destroy the world. This gets lampshaded by Hellboy himself.

Fan Works
  • In the Death Note AU Those Who Stand for Nothing Fall for Anything Light becomes a Corrupt Politician in order to put an end to corruption.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic story, Flash Fog, Ponyville is threatened by the accidental release of a huge mass of experimental and highly dangerous fog. After trying everything else she can think of to disperse it, resident fog expert Fluttershy decides to try saving Ponyville from the fog by letting it roll through Ponyville and into the Everfree Forest, where she hopes the wild magic permeating the place will negate the pegasus magic in the fog which makes it so hazardous.

  • In Demolition Man, cop 20th century John Spartan is thawed out in the future to catch 20th century criminal Simon Phoenix on the basis of "Send a maniac to catch a maniac."
  • The Big Bad of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is a nuclear weapons specialist who is convinced that mankind will keep building more and more powerful weapons until it inevitably wipes itself out in nuclear war. So he seeks to prevent this by...starting nuclear war RIGHT NOW while weapons are not powerful enough to completely wipe out mankind in the hopes that the survivors create a WMD-free society.

  • Frindle combines this with Reverse Psychology. A young boy is trying to popularize the term "frindle" as an alternative for "pen," and a disliked teacher is secretly rooting for his act of rebellion, but she doesn't think he has much of a chance on his own. She therefore bans the use of the word in school, so that the other students will use it as a way of spiting her.
  • The Wheel of Time: Throughout the series, the characters have been trying to prevent the Dark One from breaking free of his prison. In the twelfth book, it's revealed that in order to keep the Dark One sealed away, they first need to break the seals on the prison, so they can remake the seals even stronger.
  • In the Dragaera series, we learn that the Morganti weapons, which devour the souls of their victims, were created by the Serioli to make war so horrible that no one would ever fight again. It worked... but only for the Serioli, who have a very alien way of thinking. Dragaerans and Easterners don't have the same level of conscience that would restrain them from destroying a soul.
  • Subverted in Jingo, where Vetinari sees the Klatchian empire is remarkably well prepared for a conflict that supposedly flared up only a few days ago, noting: "If you want war, prepare for war." When Leonard corrects him with the page quote, Vetinari thinks about it and says he doesn't see it.
  • The protagonist of The Janson Directive muses upon this concept (with regards to American foreign policy).
  • In The Mistborn: The Original Trilogy Elend who is fighting for the freedom and rights of the people ultimately declares martial law and seizes absolute power in order to ensure the survival of his people. He determines that he'll do anything to ensure the survival of his people even if it means he's seen as the next Lord Ruler.

Live-Action TV
  • In one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a scientist is trying to convince the Federation that warp drive is dangerous, and is damaging space (using similar arguments to how real life greenhouse emissions are damaging Earth), which is particularly bad around her planet since it's a major shipping lane. In order to try to convince the Federation to stop using warp drive, she intentionally self-destructs her ship's warp drive in order to cause the very damage she was trying to prevent, just to prove her point. As a result of the episode, the Federation begins research into safer drive systems; in the meantime (as a stopgap measure), an order is issued to all Federation ships to restrict travel to warp 5 for non-emergency situations.
    • Which is mentioned only twice in subsequent episodes. Status Quo Is God.
    • It's revealed that Voyager and other later designs for starships have the non-subspace damaging warp drives, dealing with the issue this episode brought up. However, it's All There in the Manual.
  • Crichton of Farscape showcases just how destructive wormhole weapons are so everyone would stop trying to bully, blackmail, threaten and Mind Rape the secrets out of his head.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "A Taste Of Armageddon", two planets fight a "clean" war by having computers figure out who was killed by each virtual attack, whereupon the designated casualties report for termination. Kirk destroys the computers on one side, forcing them to choose between fighting war in the usual messy manner or making peace.
  • Once Upon a Time has this in Season 4 with Ingrid/The Snow Queen, who feels that magic users will always eventually be isolated and so she, Elsa, and Emma should be one big happy family with no one else involved. She intends to get Emma in her "family" by helping Emma control her powers...only Emma's never had control problems before. So in "The Snow Queen" she preys on Emma's insecurities to create control problems that she can then solve.
    • Ingrid is shown to have a history of this, often with it not working out. Wanting to convince Elsa that Anna will turn on her, she uses a spell to force Anna to turn against Elsa. Elsa sees right through it. Wanting to convince Elsa that people will turn on her for her powers, she frames Elsa for murder. It fails.
  • The whole SuperPAC saga. In 2012, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report started a SuperPAC to demonstrate the opacity and lack of rules surrounding the collection, distribution, and spending of SuperPAC money, by having Colbert "not" collude with Stewart on it, spending the money questionably, etc, with the guidance of their lawyer, Trevor Potter. Then it more explicitly became this trope when they donated some of the SuperPAC money to organizations dedicated to changing SuperPAC rules to stop exactly those kinds of shenanigans.

Tabletop Games
  • In Arkham Horror, the spell "Call Ancient One" allows you to awaken the Ancient One instead of waiting for him to awaken on his own. The reason to do this is that you want to fight him at a time of your own choosing, when you know that you have the firepower to punch out Cthulhu. Works better against some Ancient Ones than others.
  • Many members of the Boros Legion in Magic: The Gathering are dedicated wholeheartedly to the cause of stopping Guild violence with, um, more Guild violence.
  • Warhammer: Vampire lord Carstein's master plan to prevent Chaos from taking over the world is to kill everyone and raise them as zombies. No emotions, no Chaos.

Video Games
  • Most of the Quest for Glory games require you to play Unwitting Pawn to the villain's scheme before you can put an end to that scheme. In the second game, this is actually in force by your enemy, who needs "A hero from the north" to fulfill a prophecy, and so send the elementals to test younote . In the third game, you're trying to avert a war between the Leopardmen and the Tribal People, but the only way to discover who's trying to incite the war is to let the war actually happennote . In the fourth game, the Big Bad plots to unleash an otherworldly Old God that was partially summoned years ago (and the partial summoning is responsible for the sorry state of the surrounding countryside), and to permanently banish the Old God, the hero has to (unwittingly) finish summoning itnote .
  • The Maymai Alliance in Spectral Force Genesis wants to stop a war that will ravage the land, but to do it, they'll beat everyone else and then disarm them all.
  • In Assassins Creed II, one of Altair's Codex pages lists what he considers the three ironies at the heart of the Assassins - They seek peace, which they try to obtain through murder. They seek to free the minds of men, but require obedience to a leader and a set of rules. They seek to expose the dangers of faith, but use it themselves. He goes on to say that he is trying to find a way to resolve the contradiction but fears that no solution exists.
  • Gears of War 2: To stop the Horde from sinking humanity, Marcus and Dom decide to sink Jacinto faster to take them out, too.
  • Final Fantasy VIII, of course, features the master plan to prevent Ultimecia from compressing time: Let her compress time and jump her ass while she does that.
  • Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Explorers: Stop time to stop time from stopping.
  • Fight, Mega Man! For everlasting peace!
  • In Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal, a Translation Train Wreck of Pokemon Crystal Version, you apparently have to pull the power supply out to start up the PC.
  • Pokémon Black and White : Team Plasma wants all Pokemon to be released into the wild, and they'll use their Pokemon to force you to give them up. Turns out The Man Behind the Man Ghetsis just wants everyone else to release their Pokémon, so he'll be the only one with Pokémon and can take over Unova with ease.
  • Melty Blood: Dust of Osiris' plan to defy the end of humankind's existence is by ending humankind's existence and leave behind a record of some sort.
  • In the Mass Effect series, the true reason the Reapers cull organic life in the galaxy every 50,000 years or so? It was the answer their creator the Catalyst, the first true Artificial Intelligence ever created, came up with to its creators the Leviathans' question of how to prevent synthetic life from wiping out organics. The Catalyst believed that organics would inevitably create synthetic life and just as inevitably come into conflict with it. Such a Robot War could wipe out life in the galaxy forever. To prevent this, the Reapers wipe out the most advanced races before they create synthetic life, leaving the less advanced species alone. In the process, they preserve said races by using their genetic material to create new Reapers and continue their own genocidal cycle.
  • StarCraft II: The Overmind's idea: start a genocidal war to stop a genocidal war. It seeks someone strong enough to take over the Zerg Swarm, lest the Zerg Swarm will eventually be mind-slaved by the Xelnaga Amon. Amazingly, this plan seems to be working in its favor despite everything.
  • Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker: Hot Coldman turns out to be a complete nutbar who believes that nuclear deterrence is doomed to fail because no one has the guts to return fire. So his solution is "nuke everyone so no one can nuke anyone".
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance: The goal of the Visionary Villain in an age where the world is hooked on a global war economy: "You still don't get it. I'm using war as a business to get ELECTED! So I can end war as a business." Raiden predictably finds this completely ridiculous.
  • Lloyd and co from Tales of Symphonia, after discovering where Exspheres come from, resolve to stop the Desians and Cruxis and stop the manufacture of Exspheres. However, they quickly realize afterwards that, in order to even stand a chance against them, they have to keep using their own Exspheres anyway. The party continues to use theirs after the game, while planning to give them up after Lloyd finishes his quest to gather every Exsphere on the planet.
  • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors Past!Akane is trying to survive a Nonary Game. To this end, she causes a time paradox, shifting her consciousness into the future...where she creates another Nonary Game and risks people's lives to make them play it. It Makes Sense in Context, but it's still morally questionable enough to make her the Big Bad.

Web Original

  • Janis from Erfworld is a Hippymancer who wants to see Erfworld at peace. She's become convinced that this won't happen until things get broken even worse than usual.
    "Lord Parson doesn't want to lead it. I respect him for that, but I'm also really quite frightened about what will happen to the whole world if he takes command again."
    One corner of Janis' mouth drooped, and she touched his shoulder.
    "It will break. I told you. He may war so terribly that it breaks war itself. That is my own hope." She smiled sadly, "And in the long run, I have few others."

Western Animation
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Lesson Zero", Twilight Sparkle literally goes crazy with worry about not turning in her weekly friendship report to Princess Celestia on time and, after failing to find a problem to solve, decides "If I can't find a friendship problem, I'll make a friendship problem!"
    • The episode "It's About Time" has Twilight get a visit from her future self which makes her think that there is going to be a terrible calamity by next Tuesday. The episode has her growing increasingly frantic and sleep-deprived, trying to figure out what this calamity is so that she can stop it. Finally, she gets so desperate that she decides the only way to prevent whatever is going to happen is to find a spell to stop time itself, so that next Tuesday can never come. The big punchline to the episode is that there never was any future calamity on its way, and the whole plot was kicked off by a Stable Time Loop caused by 'future' Twilight going back to the past in a failed attempt to tell herself not spend the next week freaking out.
  • An episode of Kung Fu Panda Legends Of Awesomeness has Po consider releasing a Sealed Evil in a Can so he can defeat it and restore his fan club's faith in him. After a brief Imagine Spot he opts against it, but then accidentally releases it when he drops the jar it was in.
  • The episode "Jet" of Avatar: The Last Airbender features one rather similar to the Vietnam situation in the Real Life section. An Earth Kingdom village has been taken over by the Fire Nation, and the rebels are determined to save it. Their solution? Blow up the dam and kill everyone in the village.
  • At the end of season 3 of Reboot, Mainframe is falling apart thanks to Megabyte's reign. When a Game approaches, Bob decides to let it crash the system instead of play it. Mainframe is too far gone for system repairs — their only recourse is the User rebooting the system after it crashes. To save Mainframe, they have to let it and everyone in it die first.
  • King of the Hill: In "Hank's Bully", a young boy named Caleb and his family move into the neighborhood, and immediately begins bullying Hank, calling him names like "Dusty Old Bones, full of green dust" over and over. Hank tries to tell Caleb's parents, but they brush it off, since he acts so nice around them. Eventually, Hank decides the best way to have Caleb's parents put an end to it is to have Bobby mimic Caleb's behavior, with Hank repeating the parents' statements once they complain about it.

  • Windows 95 and later: click the Start button to Shut Down the computer.

Real Life
  • World War I's description as "The War to End All Wars" sounds like an example, but in reality peace wasn't the goal of the instigators. The term comes from the vain hope of the survivors that its horrors would put people off warfare for good. Obviously that didn't come to pass.
  • Peter Arnett quoted a United States major as saying, "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it."
  • Mao Zedong's defining phase, "political power flows out the barrel of a gun" came from this passage: (Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol. II, pp. 224-225)
    [O]nly with guns can the whole world be transformed. We are advocates of the abolition of war, we do not want war; but war can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun.
  • A common modern justification for war is to ensure or restore peace, now that war for glory or financial gain have become passé. One of the well-known protest-signs against the war in Iraq read "Bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity" and a common rebuttal reads "How else do you make more virgins?"
  • Back-fires are controlled fires used to stop the progress of an uncontrolled one (by using controlled fires to consume the fuel for the uncontrolled fire), and the origin of the phrase "fight fire with fire."
  • The page quote was used in a more pithy form by Cromwell's English republic as its motto - Pax Quaeritur Bello, or "Peace is sought through war".
    • Said page quote is also a poor example of the trope; the idea is that if your country is militarily weak, you'll be attacked by opportunistic neighbors. So if you want peace, build up a strong enough military that those neighbors will think twice about attacking you. Result: peace, not from starting a war (which would be this trope), but by merely being prepared to fight a war, even though you have no intention of starting one.
    • "It takes two people to make peace, but only one to start a war"
      • Not according to Clausewitz: it takes one to decide to attack, but there's only a war if the attacked party decides to fight back. Both parties have to agree to fight for there to be a war.
  • Bruce Hoffman suggested in his 1998 book Inside Terrorism that the trend of escalating violence would soon lead to an act of terror so awful that the world's sympathies would turn against the perpetrators. Terrorism would get so horrific that terrorists would abandon it. It hasn't happened yet.
    • On a small scale though, the US forces in Iraq began to have a bit more success against the foreign jihadists in the mid-2000's when their acts of terrorism became so brutal that the local armed rebels got sick of them and began opposing them.
  • Unstable negative feedback processes, instead of steadily self-regulating, can sometimes turn into this.
  • It is common for bomb squads to deal with a suspicious package or bag that might be a bomb by blowing it up in a controlled explosion.
  • A certain logic problem revolves around this. You're stranded on an island covered entirely with a forest. A lightning strike starts a fire at one end of the island, and the wind is causing the fire to slowly spread across the rest of the island. How do you survive? Pick up a branch from the underbrush in the forest, go near the fire and light the stick. Run to the other end of the island and light the forest on fire there. It will burn out soon, as it can't spread against the wind. You can then use this burnt-out section as a safe spot when the main fire comes.
    • Additionally, this is done by firefighters to create firebreaks during forest fires, with the added caveat that the main fire is so hot it will burn against the wind/downhill/etc.
    • This is also periodically done to prevent major fires, by creating low-intensity fires to burn off much of the dry undergrowth and dead foliage that contribute to major fires. Sometimes these controlled burns get out of control, making it a controversial tactic.
    • And inverted when naturally occurring fires are stamped out early, meaning that the underbrush does not get burned off naturally. Eventually a fire starts in such a fuel-rich environment and rapidly grows into a huge blaze.
  • Explosive Reactive Armour attached to armoured fighting vehicles uses one explosion to neutralize another explosion in Anti-Tank warfare.