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If Widmore wants to protect the candidates, and if he needs Desmond so wildly to send his dear Zoe to send a message to the monster, then why does he have the brilliant idea of throwing mortars onto "Locke"'s camp? Doesn't he know that the monster can not be hurt that way? Doesn't he know the monster wants exactly to kill the candidates? So?
His version of the sonic fence is also a joke. Even if the monster could not touch it, he could throw something (a rock, a person, a tree) on it and have a breach. Or it could have Sayid turn the power off...
So, is Widmore such an idiot, or is he just pretending? Does he want the monster to underestimate him and his possibilities? Or, he is not "in Jacob's side", but on his own side, so it doesn't matter to him what happens to the candidates? A bit unlikely, considering what he told Desmond.