How A Plot Hole in “Captain America: Civil War” Inadvertently Critiqued the UN

Disclaimer: There are spoilers of Captain America: Civil War in what follows. I also realize I’m being a huge nerd about this, and it is necessary to suspend belief to watch superhero movies. Also, I’m a philosopher, not a political scientist, so my understanding of U.N. procedures is rudimentary.


The fictional UN session in Vienna gone awry.

It was curious to me that in Captain America: Civil War the writers decided to use an existing organization–the United Nations–instead of continuing to use fictional groups like the World Security Council, S.H.I.E.L.D., etc.

As I understand it, the purpose of the UN is to do things like mediate and maintain world peace, promote human rights, and protect the environment. So, ideally they are in the business of promoting humanitarianism.

The UN isn’t the world police, and there’s no such thing as a world army. The UN Security Council can use armed coalition forces to maintain peace and security, but those forces are voluntarily provided by nation-states (and the UN can’t force a nation to send troops). The UN also has an International Court of Justice, but it only looks at cases brought about by nation-states against other nation-states (and it doesn’t even really have jurisdiction over them).

So, to have a UN panel that would determine when a group of superheroes would–what? be used as a “peacekeepers”?–is dubious to begin with.

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Is there no place for them today?

Why do people do such horrible things to each other? When will people stop fighting? When will the threat of terrorism no longer exist?

I see the laments every time a terrorist attack happens in a Western nation, and my own response is–why are these the questions we ask?

What follows isn’t criticism, it isn’t an argument, it’s just a reflection. It’s just another way to ask why.

(Would love to credit this properly.)

(Would love to credit this properly.)

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It Costs Folks Like You and Me

[1]When I first started seeing previews for American Sniper, I wanted to see it. Without knowing much about Chris Kyle, what I saw was a soldier dealing with the psychological effects and complex of emotions that resulted from being in combat. For me, that’s an important issue to expose and an important story to tell, because we, as a country, fail soldiers upon re-entry.

I’ve never been in a war. I’m not a soldier. I only know what people who have served in war have told me and what I have read. I had a student once who had done two tours in Iraq. We were talking about morality in class one day, and he said very plainly and matter-of-factly, “I’ve killed people. I shot them and saw them die, and I have to live with that.”

Of course, soldiers have vastly different experiences depending on who they are, where they serve, and what their job is. There’s this interview with Edward Tick about the work he has done counseling veterans since the Vietnam War in which he says:

“We don’t even think we have a warrior class, and we don’t teach our service people to think of themselves as warriors, even though societies throughout history have almost all had warrior classes and reciprocal relationships between warriors and civilians. Soldiers have a responsibility to defend their country, and it is our responsibility as citizens to heal those who have put their lives on the line for us, even if they fought a war for the wrong reasons or for lies. And we’re not doing that.”

Unless you believe that human beings can kill without feeling any consequence, can see their friends and comrades die, and can live on edge with the threat of death around the corner without that fundamentally changing something inside of them, then feel free to ignore me.

I want to see the story told not of war itself, but the effects of war on the people fighting it.

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