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(Spoilers for the below are for the first and subsequent books in the Dune series)

In the novel Dune and its first sequel (which is as far as I've read so far), the main objective of Paul-Muad'dib is

to prevent - or at least limit the extent of - a religious jihad, which sweeps across the universe killing countless billions in his name.

In Dune it's revealed that

Paul has a sure-fire way to permanently end all spice production, which could easily be carried out at any time. (See here for how.) In the story he uses this as a threat to the spacing guild, who can use their prescience to see that he'll go through with it if they don't cooperate.

However, my question is why he doesn't just do this anyway.

Some more details:

This would obviously be bad for Paul as a would-be emperor, since we're told his enemies have much bigger stockpiles than he does, and as a spice addict he (and most/all of the Fremen) would die without a personal supply. But on the other hand, as a way to stop the jihad it seems it should be quite effective. It would destroy the Guild and make space travel much more risky. (Without spice there is about a 1 in 10 chance of being destroyed on any interstellar journey.) This would clearly decrease the extent of the jihad, if not make it impossible in the first place. It would also destroy Shai-Hulud and the little makers, returning water to the surface of Arrakis and giving any surviving Fremen the green planet they always wanted. Even if it kills Paul that doesn't really matter, because he considers actions that would result in his death several times and only chooses not to do them because it would make him a martyr.

Of course, an obvious answer is

"Paul's prescience allows him to see the long-term consequences of that action, and they must be bad or he would have done it."

But I'm wondering if it's discussed more specifically than that.

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    "Being pre-born, Leto II inherited his father's prescient abilities. Whereas Paul had sought a way to save both the human species and his own humanity, Leto's prescience led him to decide that the path to surviving Kralizec needed a much more threatening predator of humans than the twelve-year Jihad which Paul had taken as his "terrible purpose". - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Path_(Dune) – Valorum Apr 17 '18 at 5:25
  • @Valorum that seems not immediately relevant, no? (The question is about Paul's actions and motives, not Leto II's) – Nathaniel Apr 17 '18 at 5:27
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    Both Paul and his son can see into the future. Their actions are motivated by something they've seen happen if they make a wrong move. One of those wrong moves is destroying the worms or Arrakis. – Valorum Apr 17 '18 at 5:32
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    Yes, but see my final paragraph. – Nathaniel Apr 17 '18 at 5:54
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    I should warn you that any solid answer (beyond what I've already said) is going to massively spoil the next books for you. – Valorum Apr 17 '18 at 6:07
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I will mark spoilers for further books (Children of Dune and onwards) but not Dune or Messiah.

In the novel Dune and its first sequel, the main objective of Paul-Muad'dib is to prevent - or at least limit the extent of - a religious jihad, which sweeps across the universe killing countless billions in his name.

This is not actually Paul's main objective, but a personal side objective because he is afraid or unwilling of his main objective - the Golden Path.

Indeed both Paul and Leto II can see the (same) future, and we do not learn what the Golden Path actually is until later.

The humans of the Galaxy must be brutally united, subjugated, bred for specific traits and then scattered, to break their reliance on the current systems of control (all ultimately rooted in Spice).

because

otherwise when a future threat arrives, there will be absolutely no survivors

So it turns out that the Jihad of Muad'dib was required, for the "greater good".

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There is one thing in my opinion that you have got wrong:

"Paul's prescience allows him to see the long-term consequences of that action, and they must be bad or he would have done it."

The problem with that interpretation is that Paul only saw the Jihad, and no farther than that. It was only Leto that saw beyond it and understood its necessity and significance. In the vision battle towards the end of Children of Dune:

"I cannot lie to you any more than I could lie to myself," Paul said. "I know this. Every man should have such an auditor. I will only ask this one thing: is the Typhoon Struggle necessary?"

"It's that or humans will be extinguished."

Paul heard the truth in Leto's words, spoke in a low voice which acknowledged the greater breadth of his son's vision. "I did not see that among the choices."

So actually you've asked a better question than you are giving yourself credit for. Paul only saw the Jihad and all the death that will happen in his name. He didn't see anything positive coming out of it - only Leto did. So why didn't he destroy the spice?

The answer, as best as I can tell, would be conscience. You can see he is deeply troubled by what goes on in his name. In Dune Messiah, he compares himself to Hitler:

"He didn't kill them himself, Stil. He killed the way I kill, by sending out his legions. There's another emperor I want you to note in passing -- a Hitler. He killed more than six million. Pretty good for those days."

And he knew that he couldn't stop it, no matter what:

"Oh, no. Even if I died now, my name would still lead them. When I think of the Atreides name tied to this religious butchery..."

Paul is deeply disturbed by what is going on under his name, and likely didn't wish to add to it.

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    I don't think you're getting it right. When Paul and Leto reconnect in Children, Leto is covered in his sand trout skin and Paul is disgusted. Leto asks, "didn't you see this alternative, this golden path?" Paul says yes, but chose not to follow it. The jihad was apparently more palatable. Paul could have been the wormy god emperor, but didn't go there. – fredsbend Mar 23 at 3:40

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