In Watchmen, Ozymandias plans to avert global war and bring about some level of world peace

by faking an alien attack on New York.

The only potential obstacle to his plan is Dr. Manhattan. So he creates a tachyon generator to obscure Dr. Manhattan's perception of time. Then, Ozymandias lures Dr. Manhattan into a trap and removes his "intrinsic field," disintegrating him.

However, it was an accident involving intrinsic fields that turned Jon Osterman into Dr. Manhattan in the first place, and he quickly reassembles himself and confronts Ozymandias.

Reassembling myself was the first trick I learned. It didn't kill Osterman... did you really think it would kill me? ...The world's smartest man poses no more threat to me than does its smartest termite.

We've also seen that Doctor Manhattan can modify his body at will, teleport, and even create duplicate bodies for himself, so it seems pretty obvious that this trick won't stop him. Why did Ozymandias, the world's smartest man, think that it would?

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    Probably because he was unaware of the extent of John's power. – Valorum Jan 12 '15 at 20:13
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    I don't have the comic handy to provide a reference, but I thought Ozymandias didn't plan on killing Manhattan, he just wanted to slow him down for a minute, to allow the plan to kick off. – Liesmith Jan 12 '15 at 20:13
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    @Liesmith Wasn't the plan already in place/motion though? I think it was more to give him more time to convince them of the morality of his plan. – user1027 Jan 12 '15 at 20:18
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    @Richard My point is that it seems clear, or at least plausible, that this is within Jon's abilities. If Adrian didn't know about Doctor Manhattan's origin or abilities, then it would be understandable, but I don't think it would be in-character for him to hinge his entire plan on a guess. – KSmarts Jan 12 '15 at 20:20
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    It was a delaying tactic at best; Veidt wasn't sure it would work at all. But it bought him a few minutes, long enough for the TV feeds to start coming in and convince the rest to keep the secret (except Rorschach, of course). I only hope Bubastis figured out how to put herself back together and haunt his ass. – John Bode Jan 12 '15 at 21:06
up vote 15 down vote accepted

In short, the subtractor was Adrian's last-ditch weapon against a being that has almost godlike powers. He's smart enough to have built an open sided Intrinsic Field Subtractor and there's at least a (very) slim chance that it might work and that the fields research that gave John his powers might also have the power to destroy him.

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When it doesn't work, Adrian isn't especially surprised, nor does he have a backup plan. John does at least give him an 'A' for effort, while pointing out that his "ultimate weapon" is actually a bit crap.

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In Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #4, we see that Dr Manhattan had an earlier conversation with Veidt about his abilities. Note he states that he tries to avoid taking himself apart as that would...

"...constitute the destruction of the body"

enter image description here

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    "...at least, to you" – ths Jan 12 '15 at 22:15
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    As a side note, I kinda hate that Before Watchmen exists. I think the original work was intended to be ambiguous in a number of ways, and the newer series by different creators without the original creator's blessings should not be considered canonical. – Fhnuzoag Feb 5 '15 at 11:22
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    @fhnuzoag - Canonicity is a matter of opinion. – Valorum Feb 5 '15 at 12:26
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    @Richard But debating canonicity has been a part of things since the very beginning. – KSmarts Feb 6 '15 at 14:49

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