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May 6, 2016


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I honestly don't understand Cap's perspective on the Accords.

In the comic story, it's the Superhuman Registration Act. It forced ALL superhumans to 1. Register with the U.S. government; 2) Reveal their identities to said government; and 3) Effectively become US soldiers, or at least law enforcement. Cap doesn't sign in the comics either because, as he puts it "If we sign this thing, then Washington starts telling us who the bad guys are." With Trump a serious threat to become President, that's a great point. ;)

None of those concerns are present in the film, however. It's not the US government, but the United Nations asking the Avengers (makes no mention of other superhumans, or did I miss it?) to become a UN Peacekeeping Force. It's not the whim of one nation, but rather supervision under the world. As Rhodes says "This isn't the US government, or the World Security Council, or Hydra...this is the United Nations."

I honestly don't understand why that's an issue in Cap's eyes.

Furthermore, all Cap's worries about the deal are "What If's". That's fine, but a "what if" is not a certainty. Shouldn't someone have told Steve "Hey, IF what you're worried about ever happens, we'll just still do the right thing and go rogue THEN; why jump the gun and do it now?"

Doesn't the world have a right to some sort of supervision over these incredibly powerful beings, somehow? Instead, they should just hope Steve never makes a mistake (even though we've seen him make plenty?) Rhodes is right; Steve is just being arrogant.

(Tony is too, but for different reasons)

I get there are lots of reasons for Steve to mistrust the US government after the events of Winter Soldier, but this is just bizarre to me.

At least when Bruce went after Clark, we knew it's because Luthor had apparently been manipulating him for years, but what's Steve's issue?

What am I missing here? What is the case for Steve?

Mark D. White

I think Cap's point in the movie is just that he doesn't want any governmental body tying his or the other Avengers' hands when people need their help. And I think this is even more of an issue in the context of the UN than any national government, given the way the UN is run. (Ironically, the Avengers served under the UN for decades in the comics, with only a few incidents -- but in the comics, the UN never tied their hands in any way even close to what Ross said in the movie.)


So does Cap think no oversight is necessary then? In a comic book world, maybe, but does that make any ethical sense in a more realistic world?

Mark D. White

That's hard to answer -- there aren't superpowered beings in the real world. But if they were, I think we should trust them to do the right thing until they violated that trust, and then decide what to do. Oversight and accountability can exist without the extreme version in the Sokovia Accords, where the UN tells them when thy can act and when they can't. They could be regulated more like police than military, so they can act on their own and account for it afterwards.


I guess I never got the sense that that was how the Accords actually were...we have Steve's fears, but nobody actually says how they work.

As a movie viewer, we have a unique perspective on how they deal with the trust of the people. As a person living in the MCU, however, would one still trust the Avengers? Zemo's story can hardly be unique...wouldn't the Sokovia Accords be a logical outcome?

(I love how Black Panther puts it when asked about it: "The Accords, yes. The politics, no." Seems like a classic Virtue Ethics answer to me. As did his conversation with Zemo.

Mark D. White

With all due respect to the king, the Accords are a political document and can only be implemented politically -- there's no way to separate them.

I'd have to watch again to hear exactly what Ross says, but I was pretty sure he said the Avengers could only operate when given permission by the UN committee implementing it.

As Ross does say before he lists their most catastrophic exploits (this I do remember), the Avengers saved the world numerous times -- surely, if people thought about it, that would outweigh any relatively minor collateral damage (as cold as that sounds). (Unless you buy Vision's argument that they attract the threats they're forced to fight, which I'm not comfortable with.)


I don't buy Vision's argument at all, even when it's applied to Batman and his enemies coming to Gotham.

It -does- sound cold, though, even if (because) it makes a sort of utilitarian sense. I also wonder just how much of the population knows that the world was saved. New York, certainly. Sokovia? Seems less likely, but possible, I suppose.

Certainly, the footage of Hulk rampaging through the streets fighting Iron Man got a lot of Youtube hits...maybe if people think about it (already not a guarantee, but), they might conclude the Avengers make sense under a utilitarian perspective. That wouldn't preclude them from having oversight, however.

I can't recall Ross' exact words either, unfortunately. It raises the question, however: Is Steve automatically more right/ethical than whatever UN committee would make the decision about operation? That's not clear to me.

Another question: Do you have any insight as to why Tony never faced any legal consequences for creating Ultron? I was sort of expecting his participation in the Accords would be in exchange for not being brought in front of the Hague for his role in creating Ultron, but it never came up.

Aside: I'm a college ethics teacher in Montreal, and I use comic book mythology to teach my course. Just came from a 2nd viewing of CW with some of my students and these were some of the questions that came up. If this is a nuisance, please let me know.

Mark D. White

Oh, cool (last part) -- no, not a nuisance at all.

I know, I'm the same way about utilitarianism, but with Sokovia in particular, anyone who died in the aftermath would certainly have died had Ultron succeeded, no real costs to the Avengers' intervention (once Ultron began his plan).

Never thought about Tony and Ultron, though -- maybe no one in authority knew?

C'mon, man -- it's the UN. Wherever the Avengers want to go, some country is going to have problems with it, and if they don't have direct say, they would find a way to influence the committee. I can't even imagine how such a committee would be formed (when known human rights violators get on human rights committees).

Like I said, oversight is fine, but only after the fact (accountability) -- I think the public would have no other choice than to trust the Avengers to do the right thing ex ante.


I share your suspicions about the UN...but there -have- been UN-based peacekeeping forces in the past, yes? So, is it impossible? And certainly, if aliens attack, no country is stopping the Avengers from repelling the invasion, right?

I guess I just feel Steve could have given it a chance; if it ends up not working, he just ends up rogue, anyway, right? If there's to be -any- oversight, it would have to come from the UN, yes?

I sort of feel Rhodes had his number here...and not just because I feel Cheadle is the better actor! Steve's judgement is not perfect, but he just states "the best hands are ours." His? Maybe. But if he means the team, well...three of them agreed to sign.

Assuming Cap means his own, in the same film, those hands could have handed Bucky over to Tony at the airport (Bucky only escaped because of Zemo, and certainly Cap isn't ok with that, right?), in exchange for the lot of them going to stop (what they thought was) Zemo's plan and Bucky getting psychiatric help.

I know that means no fight...:) And it was a great fight! Some of my students found there was -too much- fighting in the film and wanted more dialogue; the fights were "too commercial" to put it in one young woman's words. I found myself agreeing...

Mark D. White

Yes, the UN peacekeeping forces are only sent out when the UN can agree to -- and that's what Steve doesn't want (whether or not that's what Ross meant).

Yeah, Steve could have done signed on and saw what happened -- if he were that pragmatic. ;) But he disagreed in principle, so he couldn't sign, simple as that.

No one's judgment is perfect, but someone has to make the decision, and Steve feels he's better suited and placed to make that decision that UN political bureaucrats.

Sure, I would have liked more talking too (as I said in my post), but the fight were terrific! :)


Thank you for the back-and-forth, Professor White. I'll be sure to pass along your answers and perspective to my students. Some other time, if it's all right, I would like to ask you a question about your article on why Batman doesn't kill the Joker. :)

Mark D. White

My pleasure, and sure thing -- my email is [email protected] if it's easier.

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