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I'm looking for an idiom or a synonym for a situation when someone has taken a heavy handed measure that achieves the desired effect, but also goes above this, affecting things that aren't a problem.

For example:

If one tree is diseased, but the surrounding ones are fine, chopping down all of the trees.

I'm sure there's a phrase for this. I thought of "using a sledgehammer to crack a nut" but I'm sure there's something specific.

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"use a sledgehammer to crack a nut" is appropriate to use.

to do something with more force than is necessary to achieve the result you want


overkill can be used also.

An excess of what is necessary or appropriate for a particular end

  • the sledgehammer doesn't really apply any disagreeable collateral damage. – Oldcat May 6 '14 at 21:29
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The word blunderbuss can be used figuratively to describe such an imprecise, indiscriminate or heavy-handed approach. Oxforddictionaries.com provides the following definition of this usage:

An action or way of doing something regarded as lacking in subtlety and precision: economists resort too quickly to the blunderbuss of regulation

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Try going over the top.

I also like ermanen's suggestion of overkill for needlessly cutting down trees, because that works both figuratively and literally.

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There is the old unattributed and contested pseudo-quote by reporter Peter Arnett in the Vietnam War

"We had to destory the village in order to save it"

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Casting a broad net. Addresses the "taking too wide an approach" part.

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Consider the expression not do things by half measures.

half measure: a partial, halfhearted, or weak line of actio

  • That doesn't fit very well. Going the extra mile is a positive thing, meaning to go above and beyond the call of duty. Felling a whole area of trees because one of them is diseased is hardly positive. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 9 '14 at 8:22
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I like "Draconian" if overly harsh measures were taken.

Taking the "Nuclear Option" if you want to ruin everything to get rid of some things also works.

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Consider The cure is worse than the desease, i.e. the solution or proposed solution to a problem produces a worse net result than the problem does.

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Consider The cure is worse than the desease, i.e. the solution or proposed solution to a problem produces a worse net result than the problem does.

This idiom may fit if the collateral dammages are too high compared to desired effect(s).

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