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Sword of Damocles

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Dionysius had a point to make.

"Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station."
Governor Tarkin, stating his named doctrine in A New Hope

A weapon used as a deterrent, to sway people into acting in a certain manner. This comes from the second moral of the original story of the Sword of Damocles, where "The value of the sword is not that it falls, but rather, that it hangs."

More often than not, the weapon is intended to have some type of height advantage, to more explicitly invoke this image. This can include launchable weapons that once off the ground serve that purpose.

The Kill Sat may easily be an example of this. The Weapon for Intimidation is a somewhat related, smaller scale version. See also Appeal to Force and Gunboat Diplomacy. For the other moral of the Sword of Damocles story, see Prestige Peril. When two or more opposing forces have this, it's Mutually Assured Destruction.


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  • Nationwide Insurance has a commercial where a woman's insurance deductible hangs over her head as a giant rock in a net, threatening her much like the titular Sword. ("The World's Greatest Spokesperson in the World" is able to make it shrink with Nationwide's "vanishing deductible".)

    Anime & Manga 
  • Code Geass:
  • Death Note:
    • The premise is about a notebook that can kill anyone with a public identity in any physically possible way, which is used by the protagonist Light "Kira" Yagami to make criminals (and anyone opposing the Villain Protagonist) literally drop dead and/or spend the last moments of their life under the complete control of a shadow dictator. While this drops the crime rate to near-zero and ends all wars, civilization under Kira becomes shallow and hypocritical due to the constant fear of being accused by their friends, family, and neighbors of harboring criminal or rebellious thoughts and then being killed by an invisible, all-powerful entity, or being killed by the entity for no reason at all while the rest of the world villainizes them posthumously.
    • In the Death Note Special Chapter, A-Kira decides to auction a Death Note to various First World governments, rationalizing that these countries already have nuclear weapons as swords of Damocles, and giving them yet another Artifact of Doom will just cause it to be tied up by the bureaucracynote . He sells it to Washington DC, which wins the auction for a whopping 900 billion dollarsnote , but Ryuk reveals to Donald Trump that the new rule patch means if he accepts the note for United States custody he will literally drop dead. The president decides to surrender the notebook, but pretends America has a brand new magical sword of ink and paper.
  • Fist of the North Star had Raoh effectively act as this: Indeed, during his first battle with Kenshiro, news of him not winning (the fight was a draw, but this was as good as outright losing to the lands Raoh conquered, and to his minions) and him hiding away to recuperate had his territories descend into chaos. It's only when he returns does he restore order to those regions.
  • In The Irregular at Magic High School, the Yotsuba clan accidentally brought a Physical God into existence. He was too dangerous to let live, but so useful that they didn't want to murder him, so they took a third option: brainwashing him into a Morality Chain. Unfortunately, the holder of that chain is mortal, and there's no way Tatsuya will let them repeat the process. So the vast majority of Yotsuba are not happy, even though they have unimaginable wealth and power; they know that someday the Barrier Maiden will die, and all the Earth with her. Even while she's young they have no peace, because they see Tatsuya lurking in every shadow, an eternal reminder of their failure and greed.
  • Literal Swords hang over the Kings' heads in K, referred to In-Universe as "Swords of Damocles". They are manifestations of a King's power, and if Kings overextend their power and the Sword falls, large areas around them will be destroyed as well. When it gets close to this, the only way to prevent it is for the King to be slain - but it is difficult for one who is not a King to slay a King, and the burden of killing a King puts a huge strain on a King's sword... leading to something of a cycle that two generations of Red and Blue kings have found themselves in. Both seasons of the anime have the possibility of this situation as a plot point.
  • This was Pain's plan for the tailed-beasts powered weapon in Naruto; to create (and even use) a weapon so terrible that it would put an end to war, at least until people stopped fearing it and it would have to be used again.
  • One Piece:
    • The protection or threat of one of the Three Great Powers is used to control specific locations. Whitebeard's protection kept people from attacking even the weakest of his territories, Boa Hancock's membership in the Seven Warlords of the Sea protected her home of Amazon Lily, and the threat of a Marine Admiral, Buster Call, etc., kept certain laws and policies in place for the marines. The Three Great Powers are more of a delicately balanced Cold War. The deterrent is their respective strengths. The Buster Call would fit with this trope more, though there is no one weapon in the series yet that keeps any sort of peace. On a smaller scale, things are protected using the threat of powerful individuals.
    • The World Government and at least one other independent villain have tried and so far failed to acquire a truer version of this trope in the form of one of the three Ancient Weapons. The World Government are convinced that with an ancient weapon at their disposal, they'll be able to end the age of piracy (and any other opposition to their rule). Said independent villain was also confident that the World Government would let him get away with anything once he had attained the weapon Pluton.
  • In Soul Eater, Arachnophobia get their hands on an Artifact of Doom named Brew, but it doesn't work (because Medusa's team stole the real one and gave them a fake). However, Arachne still realizes it to be useful because everyone thinks they have it, and thus can still threaten enemies into retreating.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Kang Dynasty, Kang the Conqueror decides to invade Earth (again) in an attempt to train his son Marcus. His base of operations is a gigantic spacecraft shaped like a sword called Damocles.
  • Watchmen:
    • Nite-Owl's Archimedes seemed to be intended to serve this purpose, and was used this way when there were riots in the streets — though, as it was his ship, it wasn't exactly taken seriously.
    • This is also Ozymandias's plan — by creating fear of an extraterrestrial attack, he intends to scare the planet into world peace. It seems to work, but close examination reveals he launched his plan just as the United States and the Soviet Union were about to start peace accords anyway, meaning that he's scuttled real peace in favor of peace based on a false fear, liable to collapse if it's ever revealed... like what may be happening a few days after the last panel.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In Evolution II, Alex and Heller hope that the idea of the former's Kaiju-sized transformation will keep any conduits who hope to use their new powers for selfish reasons in line.
    Alex: Not sure I can do that again. Burnt through my Biomass fast just keeping myself from collapsing under my own weight.
    Heller: But the idea alone you could wreck them by stepping on them should keep them at bay. Best weapon is the one you don't need to use, right?
  • Rocketship Voyager: After World War III, Spacefleet has A-bomb platforms orbiting Earth to enforce peace. Agritech Keshari (an expy of Kes from Star Trek: Voyager) is slowly dying of radiation poisoning as she was Collateral Damage when Spacefleet nuked the palace of her ruling Khan to stop his genocidal intentions.
  • In This Bites!, Captain T-Bone reorganizes the former CP9 agents into "Jormungandr", which not only serve to assassinate the other Cipher Pol cells but also to kill a member of the New World Mason who chooses to stray from their morals and their original path of helping the world.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Austin Powers in Goldmember, this is the intended effect of Preparation H.
  • In The Reveal at the end of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Klaatu claims that this is why his people built Gort and other robots like him; the robots were purposely programmed to destroy Klaatu's planet if war ever started, preventing the species from ever doing so.
  • The Doomsday Machine from Dr. Strangelove was meant to be this; a series of buried bombs jacketed with "cobalt-thorium G", which are set to detonate automatically should any nuclear attack strike the country. Within ten months after detonation, the cobalt-thorium G would encircle the planet in a radioactive shroud that would render the Earth's surface uninhabitable. The device cannot be deactivated, as it is programmed to explode if any such attempt is made. This was originally designed not to be used so much as scare off any ideas of nuclear war from Russia's enemies by way of mutually-assured destruction. However, with General Ripper's Sanity Slippage, it ends up being activated less than a week before its presence would have been announced to the UN, thus rendering the whole thing moot and the world dead.
  • The MacGuffin in Escape from L.A. is the controller of a satellite called "The Sword of Damocles", which can hit any country its wielder wants to punish with an electromagnetic pulse. The President Evil's daughter runs with it so she can give it to the Big Bad.
  • Tony Stark's exposition of his Jericho Missile in Iron Man might be a variation of this; a weapon that only needs to be fired once.
    Tony Stark: They say that the best weapon is the one that you never have to fire. I respectfully disagree! I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once. That's how Dad did it, that's how America does it... and it's worked out pretty well so far. Find an excuse to let one of these off the chain, and I personally guarantee you the bad guys won't even want to come out of their caves.
  • In Our Man Flint's sequel, In Like Flint, Gen. Carter schemes to load a space station with nuclear bombs instead of a weather laboratory (under the code name Project Damocles) and launch it into orbit around Earth.
  • The evil professor from Real Genius makes his genius students build him a laser (while his Butt-Monkey student/valet works on the tracking system) for a space-laser version of one of these he promised to the military (for a supposedly obscene amount of money).
  • One of the songs in The Rocky Horror Picture Show is titled "The Sword Of Damocles". In said song, Rocky sings about how he's just been born and how he can already fear that something is about to go terribly wrong.
    Rocky: [singing] The Sword of Damocles is hanging over my head/and I've got the feeling someone's gonna be cuttin' the thread.
  • In Star Wars, this is what Tarkin intended the Death Star and its superlaser to be used for: The threat of having your planet instantly destroyed would (presumably) curtail the ambitions of any seditious systems and work more efficiently than actually physically oppressing someone by force. The Expanded Universe gave this philosophy the name "The Tarkin Doctrine", and revealed that The Empire built an impractically large number of various planet-destroying devices in an attempt to implement it in practice. Since they all had a nasty tendency to get hijacked or blow up due to Rebel Scum, sabotage, or other unfortunate circumstances, the doctrine was a resounding failure.

  • Between Planets: The Circum-Terra space station has hundreds of nuclear missiles, enough to destroy any military force that threatened Federation control of Earth.
  • Cradle Series: During the Uncrowned King tournament, the ascendant being Kiuran of the Abidan offers a prize: Penance, a weapon that can kill one living thing on the planet, without exception, without fail. The Monarchs are very interested in this, and note that whoever gets it will be able to do whatever they want just by the threat. When someone does win it, they are promptly informed that they have to use it immediately. Kiuran conveniently forgot to mention that earlier.
  • Dragaera: A species called the Serioli created the Soul Eating Morganti weapons — which annihilate people in a world where Death Is Cheap and Reincarnation is the default fate of souls — as a peacekeeping measure, by making the threat of war too horrific to risk. It worked... for the Serioli. Dragaerans and humans don't share their scruples.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Referred to overall as the "Doom of Damocles". The "Doom" is applied to those wizards the White Council believes to be just shy of irredeemable, and can summed up as "One strike and you're out", or in other words, "do any Black Magic at all whatsoever and you get beheaded by the Wardens". Note that this usage has little to do with this trope and is based on the original meaning of the term.
    • Ghost Story reveals that Harry himself served as this for Chicago with a lot of the supernatural community. They found him so terrifying that most just didn't bother showing up.
  • Voldemort in the Harry Potter series uses the werewolf Fenrir Greyback this way: do what he says or he'll send Greyback after your kids. As Lupin (who was himself bitten by Greyback as a child) puts it, "It's a threat that usually yields good results."
  • In the Honor Harrington novel Mission of Honor, when Honor shows up at Haven to negotiate a peace treaty, her fleet of superdreadnoughts in orbit are referred to as "an infinitely polite sword of Damocles".
  • Referenced in The Salvation War when referring to Uriel. Considering what Uriel is capable of, even with tinfoil hats and cruise missiles to stop him, this is not surprising.
  • Space Cadet (Heinlein): One of the Patrol's routine tasks is to maintain the string of satellite nuclear weapons orbiting Earth. Unlike Between Planets, which involves The War of Earthly Aggression, this is presented as Utopia Justifies the Means. The protagonist however has to address the issue of whether he might be called upon to nuke his own hometown someday.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Season 5 of The 100, the Eligius prisoners are revealed to have a missile retrofitted with the Hythylodium they were sent to mine for on asteroids, which is even called the Damocles. The original plan was for Colonel Diyoza to hold the Earth hostage with the Damocles and demand for the prisoners to be pardoned for their crimes and allowed to return to their lives, a plan that became useless since, in the hundred years it took for the prisoners to return home, the Earth had suffered from the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse. In the season finale, Paxton McCreary spitefully fires the Damocyles after it becomes clear that his forces can't win the war for Eden destroying the last habitable place on Earth and turning the planet into an irradiated husk.
  • Blake's 7:
    • "Countdown": When Albian legally demanded their independence, the Terran Federation placed a Doomsday Device on the planet and threatened to detonate it if they rebelled. The rebels try to seize the control room in a coup de main, but it turns out the bomb itself is hidden elsewhere, and there's a Race Against the Clock to find its location before it detonates.
    • "Volcano": A race of pacifists threaten to detonate another Doomsday Device if any aggressor lands on their planet. The Federation decides to call their bluff. It's not a bluff.
    • Subverted in "Death-Watch". President Servalan is serving as neutral arbiter between two systems, and has her battlefleet on 'routine maneuvers' near the border, "...a small demonstration of concern for my personal safety, which both sides understand and accept." However, Avon realizes that Servalan is plotting to have the two systems go to war, and it's actually an invasion fleet waiting to mop up the survivors.
  • This was taken very literally in Power Rangers Zeo, where King Mondo dug up a "powerful but unstable" weapon called the Damocles Sword which he had buried centuries ago so he wouldn't be tempted to use it. Apparently, the sword was a self-induced version of this trope, which he broke after thinking he could defy it. As it turned out, his choice was a foolish one. Trying to fight the Rangers with it only resulted in him losing the battle (and being the first Big Bad of the franchise to fall in combat to the Rangers, a very dubious honor).
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Assignment: Earth", the U.S. is about to launch an orbital nuclear warhead platform. Gary Seven's mission is to make it malfunction to scare other nations into not using them.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Forgotten Realms spell Blade of Doom causes a sword-like blade of force to come into existence over the target creature. When the target performs a specific act, the blade drops onto the target, damaging it.
    • The Book of Vile Darkness has a few spells that answer the question of "why don't the commoners rebel against the evil empire?" pretty succinctly, including one that causes it to rain acid over an entire region for months.

    Video Games 
  • The Binding of Isaac: Antibirth features an item called Damocles. If you choose to use it upon picking it up, you get an extra item for every item that spawns. Unlike other items that spawn an extra item, which make you choose between the two, extra items spawned from Damocles' use can be taken even if the originally spawned item is picked up. Extra items that spawn in Shops and Devil Rooms can even be taken for free! The catch? Upon use, the sword dangles from a string over your head, and, upon getting hit, starts counting down an invisible timer. When this timer runs out, the sword falls off the string with no prior warning and instantly kills you. The timer is random, meaning it could kill you as soon as you get hit, or you could get hit and not have the sword fall on you for several floors, if at all. This creates an interesting dilemma - Do you use the sword and pray that it won't fall on you before you finish the run? Or do you pass up on it and miss out on the free items? Downplayed in that having extra lives or being invulnerable when the sword drops will prevent it from killing you, though you'll lose out on the extra item drops when it does.
  • The Elder Scrolls: In the distant past, Mad God Sheogorath hurled a rogue moon at the newly built Egopolis of the Dunmeri Tribunal Deity Vivec. Vivec saved the city by freezing the moon high above it, but then invoked this trope. He told his followers that the moon was held in place by their love for him, and that if they should stop loving him, it would fall. He's not actually lying. Due in no small part to the player's actions in Morrowind, Vivec disappears early in the 4th era. Some temporary measures are enacted to keep the moon in place, including the use of a soul-burning machine. However, those attempts prove futile, and the moon falls with all of its original momentum, causing province-wrecking results. Years later, the waters where the city once stood are still boiling.
  • In Final Fantasy XII, though not an actual weapon (unless you count living people as potential weapons), Basch Fon Ronsenburg is the Sword of Damocles Vayne put in place to Marquis Halim Ondore IV, having proclaimed him executed years ago when Vayne told him to. He even mentions the trope in dialogue upon discovering it.
  • The Forgotten City, which started life as a quest mod for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, has this as the central premise. It takes place in a lost city populated by various people of different races and backgrounds live in relative peace... as long as they all obey the Golden Rule: "The many shall suffer the sins of one." If anybody so much as steals a single coin or lays a hand on another within the city's confines, everyone pays the price. This, however, doesn't stop people from exploiting the Golden Rule under false pretense of fairness, such as price gouging life-saving medicine or keeping someone imprisoned just because they might break the rule.
  • In Front Mission Evolved, the main enemy is revealed to be a terrorist group known as the Sword of Damocles, and they plan to use an orbital laser to keep the nations of the world under their thumb.
  • In Halo 5: Guardians, it turns out this is the exact purpose of the titular Guardians, massive Forerunner war machines. A single Guardian has enough firepower to keep an entire solar system under control. At the end of the game, we see one of their weapons is an EMP burst strong enough to overwhelm an entire planet.
  • At the end of the Imperial China chapter in Live A Live, Ou Di Wan Lee reveals he always has a pair of assassins living behind his throne, with standing orders to attack him whenever they see fit. They're strong enough to kill him, and thus he must always remain on guard — this is how he stays strong enough to be a powerful martial artist. They also serve as a last line of defense when the Earthen Heart master wipes out Lee's inner circle.
  • The infamous Spiny Shell (also known as the Blue Shell) in the Mario Kart series serves this purpose, or rather, the threat of one. It is a weapon that seeks out the racer in 1st place and slams into them, causing an explosion that stops them cold for several seconds and, with a few exceptions, cannot be avoided. Everyone who has played Mario Kart games for long enough will feel on edge whenever they're ahead in case someone obtains a Spiny Shell. And in the games where other players' items are visible, such as Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart 8, you can sometimes see people in the lead slam on the brakes and let people overtake them when they see someone get one, or spot the notification that one is barreling up the course to them. And this mechanic works very well — so well that most other kart racers have adopted similar weapons: the Ghost in Snowboard Kids, the Swarm in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, the Blue Pac-Bomb in Pac-Man World Rally, the Warp Orb in Crash Team Racing, etc.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker pretty much runs on this trope; set during the Cold War, the game's villain creates a series of bi-pedal nuclear tanks that, following an initial nuclear attack to prove its capabilities, grants the closest thing to peace through Mutually Assured Destruction. It turns out that while the average human cannot bring themselves launch a nuclear weapon, an assembly can convince its members to push the button on someone else's orders, especially if the Sword of Damocles becomes actively visible.
    • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain creates a pair of Damocles swords on language, which would effectively prevent war and peace; Skull Face created Mini-Mecha Metal Gears that can equip nuclear missiles, which he'd sell to anyone displaying cult behavior, while remote-disabling any of their nukes if they were used by an Omnicidal Maniac. The other sword, the vocal cord parasites, can kill off anyone who tries to talk it out with their neighbors, and then spreads to kill their local friends and family. The end result would be that the entire world would fragment into independent states which are technically a united humanity, because they're unable to war against each other and are all similar by design; they would all be Cults who internationally speak Nuclear, cannot speak anything else, and cannot invade or cooperate with other cults.
  • In Planet Alcatraz, the Penal Colony planet has a space station hovering in orbit, equipped with weapons capable of wiping out anything more technologically advanced then allowed. Wanna build guns to kill each other? Go ahead. Hey, what's that down there? It looks like a spaceship. Better scorch it, to be sure.
  • Ryse: Son of Rome has this in the form of a dagger, one that's standardly issued to every Roman officer. It has the picture of the titular Damocles on it, though in contrast to the actual legend Damocles was a Roman officer who was betrayed by his commanders in the middle of a battle. He came back to life after being killed, donned black armor and a white face mask stained with blood, and killed them. Roman officers keep the daggers on them as a reminder to treat their legionaries well and to be brave in battle, should the Black Centurion come to kill them as well.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, the Eclipse Cannon was intended to serve as this. This is why it was only fired as an example. No point in Dr. Eggman ruling an empty planet, is there?
  • Soulcalibur IV features "Critical Finishes", One-Hit Kill Finishing Moves that can only be used when your opponent's Soul meter is empty and yours is full. Since the Soul meter empties through blocking, they are clearly meant to discourage excessive blocking and are not meant to be seriously used.
  • Star Wars: Rebellion has the Death Star act as this, as per the "Tarkin Doctrine." A Death Star's mere presence in a system causes a sector-wide boost to Imperial loyalty, and can quell uprisings just by orbiting the unruly planet in question. Actually blowing up a planet with it, however, is treated as crossing the Moral Event Horizon in-universe, costing the Empire support across the galaxy.
  • In Tyranny, Kyros' Empire is maintained in part by the threat posed by their Edicts. The Edict of Execution in Act I is perhaps the best example. Its entire purpose is to force the Disfavored and the Scarlet Chorus to get their act together or die, with an eight day time limit or a 363 day time limit, since Kyros' Edict only mentioned that they needed to be done on the Day of Swords, but not necessarily that year's Day of Swords. It's a sign of just how bad things are between the Disfavored and the Scarlet Chorus (the armies and their respective Archons just hate each other that much) that even the looming threat of being wiped out in a matter of days isn't enough to stop them from infighting. You have a vested interest in figuring out a solution since you're stuck in the valley too, meaning the Edict will kill you as well.


    Western Animation 
  • The The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes villain Kang the Conqueror travels from the future in his ship, which, in his bid to conquer present-day Earth, is referred to as Damocles Base, and is shaped like a giant sword. After the Avengers have Kang arrested, Damocles finds use as a base for the intergalactic peacekeeping organization, SWORD.
  • Justice League:
    • In "Maid of Honor", Vandal Savage attempts to use a space-based rail gun to aid his world domination.
    • Project Cadmus employs "Damocles Class Missiles", which were used to fire directly into the space-based Watchtower of the League to preemptively start a war between superhumans. The use of them is explicitly because Cadmus felt they could not trust the league to continue to protect the people of the world.note .
  • In the Transformers: Prime episode "The Human Factor", Silas (who at the time is a cyborg called CYLAS) and Megatron pull a Villain Team-Up. Their Evil Plan is to use a Kill Sat called Damocles to kill the Token Humans. Earlier, it is revealed that Silas was discharged from the military for creating Damocles.

    Real Life 
  • The Trope Namer is the myth of Damocles and King Dionysius from ancient Greece. Damocles, a low commoner, held King Dionysios in high regard and was very supportive of his rule and life, thinking his life as a king and ruler must be the grandest of all. Hearing about this, Dionysios invited Damocles to dine with him as an equal. But when Damocles arrived, Dionysios had installed a sword just above Damocles' place in the room, hanging by a hair of a horse's mane. Despite being with his idol as an equal and surrounded by opulence on all sides, Damocles couldn't enjoy any of it, being so nervous about the sword hanging above his head that he couldn't eat, drink, or talk. At the end of the night, Dionysios asked Damocles if he enjoyed their meal, and Damocles answered that, in truth, it had been horrible and paranoia-inducing. To that, the king had one answer: "Now you know how a king and tyrant feels every second of his life. Go home, and cherish your freedom." The moral of the story was that being a king isn't all glamour and prestige; it's hard work, and you'll make many enemies on your way to the top. At any moment, it could all come to a bloody end. This was the last story in a set of them, intended to convey another Aesop that "having power doesn't make you happy; being virtuous does."
  • The trope is also deployed in a more metaphorical sense during the annual state opening of Parliament in the United Kingdom. At Westminster, the British Monarch puts on his/her royal regalia in a room where the execution warrant of Charles I is prominently displayed — just to remind His or Her Majesty who's the boss around here.
  • This trope is the reason why the phrase of "Mutually Assured Destruction" exists. Advances in weapons technology, such as nuclear weapons, were supposed to bring about an end to armed conflict in the traditional sense. It.... well... kinda worked....
    • International relations studies term this the stability-instability paradox. Both sides having the ability to utterly annihilate one other severely limits the plausible range of actions both sides can take in international diplomacy. On one hand, it means no World War III because the big powers won't make moves with the intent to go to war (it is assumed that both sides value their own survival more than they do the destruction of the other). On the other hand, this same system means both sides find less direct ways to fight the other side (i.e., via proxy wars with third and fourth parties), in addition to all the smaller pre-existing grudges that otherwise-irrelevant parties have with one another which neither superpower can fully stop because the amount of power needed to get one side or the other to heel cannot be used without threat from the other superpower, who by and large cannot risk letting the first have its way.
    • In short, every country with a nuclear weapon can get away with a lot, especially against countries without nuclear weapons, but it would be too costly to publicly bully anyone. Testing the weapon on innocents in private, however, is a constant issue. And still, everyone is afraid that one day a mad tyrant will arise, one who cannot see the nuclear sword as an Artifact of Doom but as a staff to swing around.
  • The inventor of the Gatling gun, Richard Gatling, thought his invention would serve this purpose, hoping that such a terrible weapon would prevent wars. Or at least end them quicker; in those days, soldiers in prolonged conflicts tended to die from disease. He partially succeeded — a smaller percentage of soldiers died from disease.
  • The closed-shop structure of North American sports leagues (no promotion/relegation system, so generally the same teams compete year to year; mutually-recognized territorial rights, so most cities, save really big ones like New York, only have one team in the local market) means that the only way a city without a team can get one is either get the league to grant an expansion franchise or entice a currently-existing team to relocate. With the Big Four leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) already having at least 30 teams each, relocation is generally considered the more likely path. This means that team owners have a large bargaining advantage when it comes to negotiating with the host city regarding stadium leases and especially public funding for new ones — the sword over the city's head is the chance that the team may pack up and move. A particularly prominent example is the NFL between 1995 and 2015, when there were no teams at all in Los Angeles — the second-largest city in the nation — after the Rams moved to St. Louis and the Raiders moved back to Oakland. This time period was marked by varying degrees of subtlety about SoCal in public funding negotiations for stadium renovations or even entire new ones.note