I believe that it depends upon your perspective and how much information that you have. From Widmore’s perspective he lived on the island and was the top dog for awhile. All his ideas seem to have stemmed from what he was told through Richard and him and Eloise’s collusion whether that was on or off island or both. He said himself he didn’t know the true nature of Smokey as it was all shrouded in legend as it were. He does however look like he believes he is on the side of right.
From Richards’s perspective he was brought to the island. He had just lost his wife. He saw her as a ghost and then she was taken from him again. He is a deeply religious man. I believe that Jacob and the MIB use each others words verbatim but for their own ends. Take for instance the conversation about using the knife and thrusting it through the chest and not allowing him to speak a word. If we believe the guys at the temple were with Jacob then the same thing was told to both sides by both entities. Going that route remember the conversation that Flocke had with Kate. He told her that he told Claire that the people from the temple took her baby to give her something to hate and thus something to fight for. Also this was a way for her to be manipulated by him. I took that one step further and say that I believe that Jacob was in full control of Smokey (his actions) when the Black Rock landed on the island. I think he used Isabella and her being taken or killed apparently by Smokey from Richards’s perspective to give him something to hate (i.e. Smokey). I do believe that Smokey used Richard all along from their first encounter to start the process of the loophole. I don’t know how Smokey knew what Richard was going to say to Jacob that would prompt Jacob to use him as his representative but I do believe that that was his intention. So from Richards’s perspective he believed that he was doing the right thing through Jacob. He lost his faith when Jacob died but the ghost of his dead wife brought him back around to Jacobs’s side.
The rest of the candidates are split. They haven’t had a long exposure time was as have a lot of the other characters (i.e. Ben, Charles Widmore, Eloise etc) to make up their minds and they are all flying by the seat of their pants. Like the Key to Time series though it’s an all or nothing scenario to make it work though. It would seem that if a candidate is removed from the game his power seems to shift to the remaining candidates so as not to upset the balance and the game continues. Flocke seems to be playing the game from the perspective of the kid who is taking his ball home with him thus ending the game. The only problem is that he doesn’t own the ball and must convince the owners (i.e. the six candidates to do it for him).
How would Widmore or Eloise know that if the MIB escaped the island that everything would simple cease to be? If all he knows about him were based upon myths he is taking a very large leap of faith to jump to such a conclusion.
I see it from the point of view of a sports recruiter. The recruiter will tell the athlete whatever it is he needs to tell the athlete to get him to come to his school to play for his/her team. The athlete has to weigh what all the recruiters have told him and make his/her decision. The problem with the scenario here is that in most instances you don’t get the perspective of both Jacob and Smokey. It would be like a recruiter from one school telling you all the good points about coming to his/her school and then turning around and trying to sell you on going to another school. He or she to me would only have his/her interests in mind and would put the other school in a bad light.
I do believe he is implying that to Claire but sticking to my point of me believing he isn’t the bad guy I believe the following:
I think he knows if he wins the game he will be able to undo all the bad things that have been done to begin with. So if he gets the candidates to voluntarily leave the island then he wins and their lives revert back to a point where the island doesn’t come into play in regards to their lives. I don’t however believe that the island would simple go away quietly. I believe you will see a scene life from a horror movie where the evil that has been defeated shows us something and will lead us to believe that the whole scenario could start up again with new people/candidates.