Agents of SHIELD has ventured into a new legal realm: Foreign Policy. As one could expect, this results in a war.
There are MANY things wrong with the actions taken in “Scars,” both legally and politically. The outcome highlights that foreign policy is best left to the Secretary of State, opposed to spies with aircraft carriers.
SHIELD Acted as a Nation-State
Phil Coulson’s SHIELD and Robert Gonzales’ SHIELD merged into one organization. Coulson would act as the Director and Gonzales’ team as an Executive Board.
Problem: they are accountable to no one. There is a rogue spy agency with a nuclear powered Nimitz aircraft carrier and an underground base that is 1) Not taking orders from the President; 2) Totally ignores the military chain of command; and 3) Has zero Congressional oversight.
This is not acceptable legally. There cannot be a faction of an American military/espionage agency with nuclear weapons roaming the seas. The United States would be on a heighten anti-HYDRA policy after Captain America The Winter Soldier and would have no tolerance of rogue spies who could start a war.
SHIELD acted as if they were a separate nation-state in setting up negotiations with the Inhumans, thus establishing their own foreign policy. There is a substantial problem with this, because the Logan Act prohibits US citizens from directly or indirectly commencing correspondence with a foreign government with the “intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States…” 18 USCS § 953.
Worse yet, if Afterlife is in the People’s Republic of China, the PRC will be less than thrilled with 1) super-powered individuals acting like they are a separate country; and 2) Americans entering China to negotiate with the separatists (and in some cases, foreigners illegally living in China without visas). This would be like the United States deciding to enact a trade agreement with Tibet.
The US State Department’s “mission is to shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.”
SHIELD sending four Quintjets to Afterlife was a strange mix of Commodore Matthew Perry’s gunboat diplomacy in “opening” trade with Japan, seasoned with the San Pebbles meets The Bedford Incident. This gunboat diplomacy without Presidential orders or Congressional approval runs totally against the basic tenants of foreign policy to promote peace, prosperity, and stability in a democratic world.
What could possibly go wrong?
How Not to Start a War
It does not take a William Seward, John Quincy Adams, or Henry Kissinger (or Hank McCoy for that matter) to identify the mistakes SHIELD made in their negotiations with the Inhumans. Here is an outline for how SHIELD could have avoided a war:
- Send a letter requesting a neutral meeting place between leaders (Rajkovic, Yalta, Vienna, etc);
- Letter should outline SHIELD’s proposal focused on the Inhuman’s concerns, opposed to outright Indexing all of them;
- Create Memorandum of Agreement to Protect Afterlife from being discovered;
- Ask Inhumans to document all of their people, to be maintained solely by them (hereinafter Inhuman Census);
- Inhuman Census to be maintained on paper and never created digitally to protect against hacking and cybersecurity threats;
- Inhumans will communicate to SHIELD if one of their members begins violating law;
- Inhumans would provide relevant information in order for SHIELD to capture rouge Inhumans;
- SHIELD to provide counter-espionage response to those seeking to locate the Inhumans;
- SHIELD to provide military response if Inhumans threatened by HYDRA, AIM, or other threats
There would be many other issues, but here is the thrust of the Inhuman’s fears: Jiaying was the victim of HYDRA (Nazi) experiments during World War 2. She is fully aware of the dangers of “indexing” people based on race. Gonzales tossing out “we want to Index all of you” had to sound like a nightmare.
How to Start a War
Jiaying murdered Robert Gonzales with Terrigen Crystal Mist. This singular act of murder would promise an ICBM to be launched at Afterlife with Jiaying’s name on it.
Why respond to murder with nuclear weapons? Because Jiaying proved Terrigen Crystals could be used to commit genocide of the human race by killing Robert Gonzales. The Inhumans demonstrated how to weaponize Terrigen Crystals that would both kill all humans within their range and transform anyone with Inhuman DNA into “monsters.”
Jiaying proved all the Inhumans are exactly that: inhuman. The rest of humanity would not respond well to the possibility of either being 1) killed, or 2) transformed into something Inhuman.
The threat of genocide does not bring out the best in people. The only response to a hegemonic threat is to destroy those threatening to wipe out your existence. In effect, Jiaying created the worst possible situation that would lead to her people being blown off the face of the Earth.
Now, would a President bother seeking a Declaration of War from Congress? Maybe if the Inhumans were actually their own country. Any Congressional authorization of force would likely be a “Force Bill,” similar to those issued to fight the Barbary Pirates or the Klan. China would either need to agree to the attack or the US would need to beg that China not demand immediate repayment of US debt. However, given the threat of extinction, a diplomatic solution likely could be reached if the United States acted unilaterally to prevent seven billion people from being exterminated.
An “Inhuman War” would make life at the United Nations complex in explaining why a small village in China was vaporized. The US Ambassador to the UN would likely employ a mix of Adlai Stevenson and James Baker in handling the response. The Ambassador would channel Stevenson with a Cuban Missile Crisis style presentation on how Terrigen Crystal Mist is a genocidal weapon AND Baker in rallying an international response similar to the Persian Gulf War.
None of this would end well. Inhumans would be hunted down because Jiaying decided to declare war on the human race after Robert Gonzales insulted her by comparing their HYDRA scars.
Fear is the Real Enemy
Wars start out of fear. Both SHIELD and the Inhumans had significant fear about each other. SHIELD absolutely should NOT have been attempting to craft their own foreign policy without the US Government. However, Jiaying’s murder of Gonzales would ignite a fuse that would end with Afterlife being a crater.
None of this is what SHIELD is supposed to be. SHIELD is supposed to be the good guys who save the day, not start a war through gunboat diplomacy.
Let’s get back to basics: Have a story arc about stopping The Leader, or Kree spies on Earth, or even AIM. Let’s have the heroes follow the Constitution and in the words of Captain America, “be what SHIELD is supposed to be.”