Regardless of whether or not you think the Avengers should be completely self-governing without any oversight, the events of Civil War prove again and again that the Sokovia Accords are a bad idea.
Note: This is one half of a dueling column. Read “In Defense of Team Iron Man” here.
And you know who had been saying that from the very beginning? Steve Rogers. You know, Captain America. The star-spangled man with a plan, as the song states.
This post contains spoilers from Captain America: Civil War.
At what point did Steve Rogers (or even Captain America) demonstrate an ineffectiveness as a leader or an apathy toward human life and casualties?
Oh, that’s right. At no point. And yet the Sokovia Accords (and those campaigning for them) imply otherwise. Yes, in theory, the accords are a good idea to help keep civilians safe from the affairs of superhumans. But, in practice, they’re anything but.
Why is that? Because of the part about government oversight. Governing bodies cause destruction and widespread casualties on a weekly (if not daily) basis, and yet it’s the Avengers, under Captain America’s leadership, that are out of control.
Steve Rogers doesn’t like bullies, no matter where they’re from or what level of government they operate out of. Over the last five years, we’ve watched Steve Rogers struggle against the constraints of the government and rise above. We’ve seen him use his own judgement and follow his own moral compass (rather than any government body’s plans) in order to keep people safe. Even Steve admits that he’s made some compromises, good and bad, but all for the sake of safety and freedom. And all without the government determining his every move.
Captain America has had to go against the government to do what’s right on multiple occasions, so it comes as no surprise that he doesn’t trust their judgement, effectiveness, or even motivations. Steve Rogers’ whole experience as Captain America has pretty much been “Cap vs. The Government.”
So far, in every movie that has featured Captain America, he has been a tool of the government. He’s been manipulated and drawn into wars he had previously tried to stop (on not one but two separate occasions). He’s not even allowed some personal freedoms, such as privacy from S.H.I.E.L.D. or even time to process the fact that he had been asleep for 70 years. And yet, he obeys like a good soldier until the fight gets to be too much and the system can’t guarantee safety or freedom. It’s at this point that Captain America takes the situation into his own hands and saves the day.
If the military and politicians had their way, he’d have never stopped performing on-stage with pretty USO girls instead of saving all of those men from the HYDRA compound, or saving all of the men that he did on his countless missions. Steve Rogers doing Steve Rogers is what helped bring this universe’s World War II to a quicker end, sparing countless lives. (Just ask the families of the men he saved or the Smithsonian curators.) After proving himself in his rescue of the 107th, the SSR followed his lead and allowed him to call the shots and lead his own team. Apart from government oversight.
That trust and level of agency is wiped away the moment Steve crashes into the ice. From there, he’s grouped in with the Avengers and given orders by S.H.I.E.L.D. As expected, things go south and only start improving after he investigates Fury’s secret weaponry and calls his own shots. But then, after the events of New York, Steve aligns himself with S.H.I.E.L.D. (in the hopes of protecting people) but ends up being manipulated all over again. He’s expected to follow orders blindly, which he does until he realizes that, once again, a government branch is working against the best interest of civilians.
By taking matters into his own hands once more, he exposes HYDRA’s infiltration and prevents millions of people from being murdered. If he didn’t, S.H.I.E.L.D. would still be around and would most likely still be infiltrated or affected by HYDRA somehow. They’d also still be doing shady shit. (Shadier shit than what the Avengers have done, that’s for sure.)
Steve Rogers has proven time and again that his instincts and values are usually spot on. And yet, his motivations and decisions are still constantly questioned. Though he’s proven over and over that he has the public’s safety at heart (not risking an army to extract the 107th from the HYDRA lair, trying to maintain a perimeter in New York, working tirelessly to always evacuate civilians, etc.), officials still have a hard time trusting him.
Steve looks at all situations from as many angles as he can. He notices little details that make all of the difference. It’s just that the details with Bucky are a little fuzzier. Hidden. For instance, the fact that Bucky has changed. At this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all of the Avengers and top government officials know of Steve’s connection with the Winter Solider. It’s referenced multiple times in the opening of Civil War. Hell, even Crossbones knows. And yet, nobody thinks to consult Steve on him, whether to understand this assassin or try to bring him in. Steve’s on his own.
Then, when Steve expresses doubt as to Bucky’s culpability in the bombing in Vienna, nobody listens. Nobody even bothers to ask. Sure, when it comes to Bucky, Steve can be a bit rash and make flawed decisions, but his heart is always in the right place. Instead of pursuing Bucky with the intention of “shoot to kill,” which always has a habit of being dangerous for surrounding civilians mind you, he pursues with the intent to understand and extract.
Yes, the extraction goes south, but the powers that be are so wrapped up in their man hunt and agendas that they don’t even notice the fact that an on-the-run assassin didn’t kill any of the CIA agents in his getaway. Hurt, yes. Kill, no. Had the CIA and governmental powers pushed aside their vengeance and political agendas and opened their eyes to what was really going on, events might have unfolded differently. But they didn’t, so the events didn’t and more people were hurt than necessary.
Once Original Team Cap (Captain America, The Winter Solider, and Falcon; OTC for short) is taken into custody, all of Steve Rogers’ previous deeds and track record for decision making flies out the window. He’s treated as over-emotional, cast aside and ignored. His emotions and personal connection to Bucky are viewed as a weakness instead of an asset. Steve is alienated to the point where he’s forced to work outside the law to bring the true “mastermind” (I use that term very loosely because Baron Zemo was just “ehhh”) to justice and face the larger issue at hand.
This is the danger of the government running the Avengers in a nutshell. They can be easily blinded as to what’s really going on because they have so many protocols and chains of command to pay attention to (aspects that are put in place because these officials can’t be presumed to have the same moral compass as Steve Rogers). It seems to me that one of the main reasons why they’re all calling for the oversight of the Avengers isn’t in order to protect human lives but actually because they currently have no control over their actions and therefore can’t use them to further political agendas.
Captain America (and, by extension, the Avengers when following his lead) is best equipped to handle otherworldly and incomprehensible events and catastrophes. He’s faced more abnormal foes than normal foes at this point and recognizes that as his burden to bear. He’s skilled at what he does and has given up the hope of leading a normal life because he can help in ways others can’t. For lack of a better term, he is burdened with glorious purpose. He can neutralize these threats. That’s all he’s been doing since he became Captain America (at the hands of a branch of the U.S. government, no less).
Steve Rogers/Captain America’s track record, character, and accountability aside, the Sokovia Accords would’ve never worked in the first place because they call for governmental oversight.
The government can’t tell the threats from the heroes. They’re afraid of everyone, so they can’t tell who they should actually fear. The government’s fears and inability to judge harmful from harmless are best represented by their giant superhuman prison and the newest inmates they hold there. They can’t tell who to fear, so they fear everyone the same. (At least, those they can actually capture.)
There was no reason to send the entirety of #TeamCap (minus Steve and Bucky) to that harsh underwater prison. Even Tony admits that he had no idea the authorities would lock them up there simply because that prison is for highly dangerous threats. If governmental authorities (American or otherwise) can’t discern threats from well-meaning heroes, what good could come from them controlling the Avengers and hand-picking their missions?
But fear is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of why the Sokovia Accords are such a bad idea. There’s also the fact that everyone in a governmental or sovereign role has their own agenda, political or otherwise. As Steve mentions during the Avengers’ discussion of the Sokovia Accords, political agendas get in the way of action. What if, as a result of the accords, the Avengers are sent out on a misguided mission or held back from involving themselves in a situation that calls for their help? The governing body could easily use the Avengers to serve their own purposes rather than the benefit of the masses.
Take T’Challa for example. As the new ruler of Wakanda, he’s just as much a part of the governing body overseeing the Sokovia Accords (and, by extension, the Avengers) as General Ross. And yet, he’s fueled by vengeance for his father’s murder. That’s his agenda. So he takes it upon himself to exact his revenge (and then isn’t at all punished for it). How can we trust a governing body to control the Avengers when people like T’Challa (who is so clearly biased and motivated by personal feelings) are the ones making the decisions?
Oh, and then there’s the small detail of the government’s track record for being highly untrustworthy as well as easily penetrable. On multiple occasions, we’ve seen government organizations and governing bodies like S.H.I.E.L.D. and even congress being consumed by dark forces. Dark forces that were invited in through secret-keeping and sketchy political moves. The Avengers, on the other hand, have yet to be infiltrated and tricked to such an extreme extent. How can the people overseeing the movements of the Avengers be trusted when they’re so easily corruptible?
Plus, after everything that has happened in the eight years since Iron Man, the government still (relatively) blindly trusts Tony Stark and puts power into his hands. Tony Stark. The man who has had his hand in quite a few of the messes and disasters that the Avengers have had to clean up. They trust Tony, a man who is always motivated by selfishness and emotions (like crippling guilt), over Steve, a man who has some emotional weaknesses but has a track record of good decision making. Sure, Iron Man may be a part of the Avengers, but the Avengers at least know to be wary of him and watch him. (They’d never turn a blind eye to Tony bringing in an untrained vigilante from Queens to engage in a dangerous battle, for example.)
The Avengers, led by Captain America, are more equipped to analyze threats, as well as fight them. It’s as simple as that. They’re on a more equal playing field than the average humans in governing bodies. Yes, as Vision states, there is definitely a correlation between the rise of powered people and the increasing number of dangerous threats facing the world, but there’s no going back now. The best people to make these decisions are the ones who fully understand the situation. Oversight by people who don’t know what they’re talking about or what to expect would cost lives, not save them.
Steve Rogers is right to be wary of the Sokovia accords. History has shown that, while they’re by no means perfect, the safest hands are truly his own.
Note: This is one half of a dueling column. Read “In Defense of Team Iron Man” here.