The Avengers: S.H.I.E.L.D.

Last weekend, Marvel’s blockbuster for 2012 came out in North America. The Avengers appears to be on track to shatter box office records both domestically and internationally, and with good reason: it’s an awesome movie.

In the next few posts, we’re going to discuss some of the legal background of various aspects of the movie. We’re going to start with how exactly S.H.I.E.L.D. could work, but there will be more to come in successive posts. There are spoilers to follow, though if you haven’t seen the movie by now, what are you waiting for? We discussed the basics of S.H.I.E.L.D. and international law over a year ago, so it might be worth taking a look at that before jumping in here.

There are two basic questions. First, what exactly is S.H.I.E.L.D.? In the comics the acronym has stood for a variety of things, and over time it’s been portrayed as both a national and an international force. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe— the continuity formed by Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and now The Avengers, it stands for “Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division,” which Agent Phil Coulson admits is a terrible name and is quickly abandoned from common use in favor of the acronym itself. The implication in the movies leading up to The Avengers is that S.H.I.E.L.D. is some kind of U.S. paramilitary force. The word “Homeland” suggests some connection with the Department of Homeland Security, and it would be somewhat weird for an international organization to have that word in title.

But it’s not really made clear, and in The Avengers, Samuel L. Jackson Director Fury is seen conversing with “The Council,” his superiors in the organization or perhaps simply the body that calls the shots. If it were a U.S. national organization, this might be something like the National Security Council, which does have certain powers already such as the authorization of what amount to assassination missions, unlike the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which has no operational authority. But the problem with that theory is that judging from their accents, The Council seems to be composed of members from several different countries, though their faces are obscured and no information about their identities is revealed on screen. So really, it could go either way, and the details of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s operations in the movie cut both ways.

Certain things would just work better if S.H.I.E.L.D. were a domestic force. For one thing, as we’ve discussed in the past, Congress’s draft authority is pretty broad. So broad that unlike, say, the Commerce Power, the Supreme Court has yet to find a limit on it. This is good for S.H.I.E.L.D., because neither Captain America (Steve Rogers) nor The Hulk (Bruce Banner) are given much in the way of options about their attendance. Rogers isn’t exactly shanghaied, as Banner is, but unlike Stark, who is basically coaxed into participating, when Fury comes to Rogers with a mission, he acts like he has the authority to compel Rogers to play ball. Given that S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t seem to be permanently conscripting these guys, in that they’re basically allowed to go their separate ways at the end of the movie, the fact that S.H.I.E.L.D. is “drafting” specific individuals isn’t as much of a problem. Again, there’s no obvious reason Congress couldn’t do this, and it’s being done in the least offensive way possible, so that’s good. Exactly how S.H.I.E.L.D. would do this if it were an international organization is entirely unclear. They’re all American citizens with the possible exception of the Black Widow (Romanov), but she says she was Russian, so who knows? The idea that an international organization can start drafting U.S. citizens is… problematic at best. The U.N. has no such authority, and it seems beyond all possibility that the Senate and President would authorize any treaty to that effect. So this would be an area where it would be better if S.H.I.E.L.D. were domestic.

Also, there’s the issue of the nuclear strike on Manhattan. There is no way on Earth that the U.S.—or any other country for that matter—is going to consent to the creation of any international body that can order a nuclear strike on its territory. Just not gonna happen. Especially since there are something like nine countries which we’re pretty sure have nukes, and one of them is Israel, which is even less likely to be okay with the idea of other people being able to nuke them than the U.S. is. So given that S.H.I.E.L.D. can authorize a nuclear strike at all, it seems like it ought to be a domestic force.

But there are a few things which go the other way. For instance, the group seems to have jurisdiction just about everywhere. They pick up Banner in India, and Fury authorizes an op in Stuttgart (apparently) without even bothering to let the Germans know they’re coming. This is to say nothing about interfacing with air traffic control, but nations are usually kind of prickly about foreign military aircraft just sort of jetting around in their airspace, much less special forces groups conducting operations in their territory. If S.H.I.E.L.D. is an American entity, not an international one, this is starting to look a lot like an act of war. So on this point, it would be more convenient for S.H.I.E.L.D. to be an international group.

Clearly there’s some inconsistency here, and it’s not just us saying so.  Not even the real-world Department of Defense could figure out exactly what kind of organization S.H.I.E.L.D.’s role was supposed to be (thanks to andrew in the comments for that link).

On balance, from a legal perspective and making allowances for artistic license, it would be better if S.H.I.E.L.D. were an American organization. Movies pretty consistently ignore what would be acts of war in the real world, even in non-speculative/comic book political and military thrillers. So if we give them a pass on that bit, the way S.H.I.E.L.D. acts a lot of the time really looks like a domestic military force. There’s still a problem though, given that The Council does appear to have members from multiple nations, but there might actually be a way of fixing that. There isn’t actually any obvious reason the U.S. couldn’t start a military force completely under domestic authority but, in a spirit of international cooperation, permit representatives from select foreign nations to participate in its operations. Given that S.H.I.E.L.D. is involved in some pretty hairy and advanced weapons R&D, this might actually be a decent way of convincing our allies to support the project, as they could exercise some control over the organization, trying to keep it focused on extra-terrestrial threats. This is, of course, not discussed in the movie at all, but there isn’t any obvious reason it couldn’t work.

We’ll be writing about The Avengers all week. In the meanwhile, go see it!

51 responses to “The Avengers: S.H.I.E.L.D.

  1. Of course, it’s also possible that the members of the council just happen to be U.S. citizens with prominent accents, either natural or assumed. Foreign citizens can become U.S. citizens, and I’ve known several engineers who wound up in very sensitive positions with clearances mere months after they gained their citizenry. Too, accents are sometimes assumed or acquired even among natural-born citizens. Everyone in my family has a vague Scots-Irish burr that wars with a European set of pronunciation despite us all having been born in Kentucky. It’s a combination of family heritage (my grandmother always spoke with a Scots burr despite having grown up in Pennsylvania), affectation (as kids, we weren’t discouraged from picking up all variety of vocabulary and accents from movies and TV shows), and vocal training (we’re all singers and most of us had our early training from the same teacher who emphasized an almost Received British approach to shaping our vowels). *wry grin* In my case, doing theatre work had caused me to randomly slip between multiple accents depending on the situation, stress level, and who I’ve talked to recently.

    • Ryan Davidson

      This is technically all true, but I thought one of the Council members sounded Russian.

      • Derek Lyons

        A high school classmate of mine is third generation American, (all four sets of his grandparents were Russian who emigrated to the US in the wake of the Revolution), and even at nearly fifty years old has a faint Russian accent. (He speaks and reads Russian, which may contribute to that.)

        Which is not nearly as odd sounding as my brother-in-law, an Englishman who has lived in the South for over twenty years. He retains a mildly strong accent, but has adopted Southern speech patterns and vocabulary…

    • Among recent high-ranking US security officials with foreign accents we have Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski. And Madeline Albright–though accentless–is also of eastern European descent.

  2. As I recall, the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” version of SHIELD has Fury reporting to a “World Security Council”, yes? Their way of getting around any reluctance that the United Nations has to being depicted in fictional works, such as they developed re: the “UNIT” acronym when Doctor Who was revived.

    However…both SHIELD and UNIT, regardless of which fictional world they hail from, were created as responses to the kinds of threats that cross international borders that so often pop up in shows, comics, and movies of this genre. One thing’s for certain: the negotiations over how to structure and regulate their operations were bound to have been interesting!

  3. John Ringo’s “Posleen War” novels involve the Earth being invaded by a race of nomadic aliens who, somewhat like the aliens in Independence Day, find habitable planets, land on them, colonize them (in the process eating most if not all of the inhabitants, sapient or no) and then when their out-of-control breeding makes the place uninhabitable, have a big fight and the survivors move on to the next planet.

    For reasons reasonably well explained (but obviously designed to give humanity a fighting chance) the aliens do not use their superior technology to its best advantage, and the invasion turns in to a protracted ground war. This war is fought by national armies, and the authorization to use nuclear weapons is little changed from the protocols we have in place now.

    The author does this to make political points, but behind that is the idea that if you do not use all the weapons you have when necessary, you will lose, and then your superior morality will be destroyed. (The denouement of the the series involves a big fight about using more or less ALL of the nuclear weapons remaining on Earth along with some antimatter devices. Any book that contains the sentence, “This is what happens when you let rednecks play with antimatter, boss,” is hard to dismiss no matter your politics.)

    In any event, the point is, if we were faced with external threats as dangerous and as little concerned with national (or even dimensional) borders as Loki, the Posleen, or the Bugs, we would have NO CHOICE but to very rapidly lose a lot of our institutions dealing with national territorial/legal sovereignty. Most mainstream comics make it very clear that while rich countries get a lot of verbal deference to their “sovereignty,” when push comes to shove and the Skrull battlefleet is inside Jupiter’s orbit and closing rapidly, some international actor takes over and if you don’t like it, tough.

    • Ryan Davidson

      In any event, the point is, if we were faced with external threats as dangerous and as little concerned with national (or even dimensional) borders as Loki, the Posleen, or the Bugs, we would have NO CHOICE but to very rapidly lose a lot of our institutions dealing with national territorial/legal sovereignty.

      The problem with that mentality is that assuming we win, what then? It’s tempting to say that we can temporarily ignore certain niceties during periods of necessity, but what happens when the necessity goes away? Do those niceties stay ignored? And if not, what are the consequences? There are enough people committed enough to the status quo that things like national sovereignty will likely assert themselves pretty quickly in the aftermath, and the diplomatic and even military consequences have the potential to be significant, particularly if there wasn’t unanimous consent for whatever it was that happened. “Tough” it may be, but states have ways of expressing their displeasure, and even minor players can’t really be ignored entirely.

    • While a near-defeat by an extraterrestrial threat might diminish a nation’s insistence on handling its own affairs, I’m not sure even a continued threat of another attack would really lead to an end of national sovereignty. Nationalism is probably the most powerful ideology of all, more so than Communism, Conservatism, Liberalism* any political form of Christianity or Islam. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if the victor nations instantly started plotting against each other once the extraterrestrial threat was gone.

      In any case the Marvel movies (with the possible exception of the X-Men movies) haven’t shown consistent threats that would convince the international community to create anything like S.H.I.E.L.D. One threat that doesn’t last long doesn’t spur international agreement.

      *And all the different things that can be called ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’.

      • James Pollock

        S.H.I.E.L.D. was created to counter H.Y.D.R.A. If getting Saddam out of Kuwait could put together a multinational coalition, then surely challenging Red Skull’s designs for a Fourth Reich could as well (particularly if it were in the immediate wake of WWII).

        Note that “international” does not necessarily mean “of ALL nations”.

        S.W.O.R.D. is considerably more problemmatic.

  4. James Pollock

    In the original formulation, the I in S.H.I.E.L.D. stood for “International”, and SHIELD was a paramilitary organization tasked with major threats to humanity that crossed national borders (notably terrorist organizations like H.Y.D.R.A.) “Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD” was Marvel’s response to the popularity of James Bond, and agents of SHIELD got cool gadgets because, well, the obvious reason.

  5. James Pollock

    I saw the movie, too, and I didn’t think either Steve Rogers or Bruce Banner were “drafted” or anything like it. Rogers, in particular, was easy to recruit because he really didn’t have anything better to do, and his personality is the type that volunteers to serve (did you see the opening of Captain America? Where he keeps trying to enlist even though he’s clearly not wanted? Steve’s not the type to sit at home waiting to be drafted…)
    Tony got different treatment because his ego doesn’t fit well into a team, is all.

  6. What about the Bin Laden assassination? I don’t see SHIELD doing anything the US wouldn’t do today in the real world without asking the countries involved. I’d say the fact that SHIELD doesn’t bother asking speaks in favor of it being a purely US organization. An international organization with that kind of power is unthinkable.

    • Ryan Davidson

      That’s a different sort of case. The US has been militarily active in the region for quite some time and has the tacit approval of the Pakistani government for those sorts of ops. Further, sending in a special forces team to take out a known international terrorist is a little different than sending in a nuclear missile to take out Manhattan.

      But yes, I think on balance the thing does work better as a US organization. Dropping “international” from the title was a good move.

  7. It’s entirely possible that The Coucil is such a national secret that the members use voice modulators to further disguise their identities. Therefore despite what seems like a continuity error, all the members could easily be American. On the issue of SHIELD picking up Banner and Rogers out of country, I think the precedent set with the Osama mission showed us the US can do as it pleases with regards to extraterritorial military missions. Besides, the precedent was set before that in the Marvel cinema world in The Incredible Hulk movie when a black ops team was sent to retrieve Banner from Brazil.

    • One doesn’t need the assassination of Bin Laden as a precedent for recovering Roger’s body. Though inconsistently enforced over the centuries, the US has long had a policy of coming to the aid of it’s citizens, wherever they may be.

      This goes double for service members – which is why the issue of POW/MIA/KIA’s in the Korean and Vietnam wars still simmers. If the US had (as soon as the ink was dry) presented proof to the appropriate government that a US warplane and the remains of a US service member had been located under the ice – permission to recover the same would very likely have been granted as swiftly as the bureaucratic wheels could turn. Other than Russia, all of the Arctic nations are more-or-less friendly and cooperative with the US, and virtually all nations are internationally cooperative on the issue of war graves. (Along with slavery and piracy it’s one of the very few matters that virtually all civilized nations agree on.)

      • James Pollock

        Rogers wasn’t on a US warplane, and the true goal of the recovery mission was to locate HYDRA artifacts. Recovering Rogers’ body was a total surprise.

  8. “when Fury comes to Rogers with a mission, he acts like he has the authority to compel Rogers to play ball”

    Arguably that might be because he feels that’s the best way to approach Cap, who views himself as a soldier first and foremost. As you point out, we’re shown on screen that each member is handled/recruited differently. Even Banner, who is more-or-less shanghaied, is given at least a veneer of a reason, allowing him the illusion that it’s Banner they want rather than The Other Guy.

    On the other hand, if SHIELD is a supranational organization (like the UN), the DoD could simply second Cap to SHIELD the same way they’d do with any other military unit or service member. (On the theory that since he turned out to be MIA rather than KIA, he remained under military discipline and authority.) Thus Fury would have the legal authority. (However sketchy.)

    But even if they’re a domestic organization, Black Widow poses no problems… Foreign soldiers are routinely seconded to US authority and serve under US command.

    • At the point where he comes into the plot, so far as anyone in SHIELD expected, SHIELD was in need of Banner’s specific physics expertise, rather than the capabilities of “the Other Guy”. Things going pear-shaped as they did when they did changed the situation.

      And in Cap’s case, secondment works.

  9. Apparently the DoD is also concerned with their relationship with SHIELD, and they decided not to support the film makers for that reason:

    “We couldn’t reconcile the unreality of this international organization and our place in it,” Phil Strub, the Defense Department’s Hollywood liaison, tells Danger Room. “To whom did S.H.I.E.L.D. answer? Did we work for S.H.I.E.L.D.? We hit that roadblock and decided we couldn’t do anything” with the film.

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/05/avengers-military/

  10. I think I said this back last year, but isn’t it possible that SHIELD is a international agency, but one essentially run by Americans? Similar to how the World Bank is always run by an American?

    • Even if it was de facto controlled by Americans no president would ever consider allowing an international organization to carry out nuclear strikes on American soil. Additionally S.H.I.E.L.D. probably wouldn’t be able to work with local authorities outside of North America and Western Europe.

    • James Pollock

      I always assumed it was “international” in much the same way that the coalition forces in Desert Storm were “multinational”. Yes, many nations contributed forces (or, in the case of Japan, which has constitutional limits on its use of force against other countries, money), but the forces acted under American control to achieve American goals. We used the same structure in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya (that last one arguably in defiance of Congress’ Constitutional war powers)

  11. No reason it can’t be a domestic force given quasi-international jurisdiction by other countries through treaty or status-of-forces agreements in exchange for oversight in general (i.e., a seat on The Council) and limited control (more specifically, operational command when the organization is executing mission within their jurisdiction).

    Also, a good argument can be made that counteracting Loki in Stuttgart could be justified under necessity in international law.

  12. I read elsewhere that when the Pentagon was asked for consulting cooperation with Marvel Studio’s production department the result was cold at best. Apparently they didn’t take kindly to a Hollywood movie about international espionage & intergalactic threats in which they ain’t top dog.

    The easy explanation is that the Marvel Universe AIN’T real, but where’s the fun in that. More specifically, it’s an alternate reality, in which events are different from our own, and decisions may have been made along the way (decisions that aren’t important to the immediate storytelling so don’t get mentioned in the movie) that would cause technicalities in the law to be slightly different than in real life. We don’t have people just flying around w/o the need for a passport. I mean if Iron Man decides to fly from New York to Cancun to have lunch and then flies to Tokyo on a whim, does he need his passport? He doesn’t even need an airport, but legally would he be shot down for violating someone’s airspace along the way?

    The laws in our world and the laws in Marvel’s world have to differ in many little ways, most of which are wholly unimportant when watching the film. We know from the X-Men comics & films that the Mutant Registration Act makes the existence of unlicensed genetic humanoids illegal. So far as I know we don’t have anything like that in our books; at least not yet!

    So I challenge everyone to a No-Prize. Rather than just point out how this wouldn’t be realistic in our world (something we all already know), I’d rather read an article about what Marvel would need to do or say in a future film to establish what does work legally, and how. Preferably in as simple and brief a way as possible, so it doesn’t get in the way of requisite explosions, chases, witty dialogue, and people saving the world from other people.

    • “Apparently they didn’t take kindly to a Hollywood movie about international espionage & intergalactic threats in which they [the DoD] ain’t top dog. ”

      Yeah, over the last decade the DoD has become very picky about what movies it will lend it’s support to.

      • They may have become picki-ER, but they’ve always been picky. They declined to provide any assistance to the makers of “The Day After” unless it was made clear that the USSR shot first. The movie is purposefully noninformative on the matter, other than that the exchange comes as a complete shock to the ordinary citizens in the story and thus was can assume that it was a surprise first-strike scenario (or an accident.) It certainly doesn’t imply that we fired first, but that wasn’t anything like good enough.

      • James Pollock

        Or consider the movie “Heartbreak Ridge”, which the army declined to support, but the Marines were OK with. So Clint Eastwood’s character left the army and joined the Marines.

    • James Pollock

      The obvious answer is that SHIELD is not a governmental authority at all, but an entirely private enterprise. It’s actions are tolerated by governments (the U.S. and others) because it is a nuclear power; the American government (and others) attempt to influence SHIELD’S action by detailing agents to work with them much they way they would with a foreign sovereignty (a flying invisible aircraft carrier would require coordination with international air traffic control, at a minimum). This would explain why they use their own military hardware and uniforms and not stock, “off-the-shelf” equipment.

  13. Mister Andersen

    It’s entirely possible that the Council comprises those countries with similar organisations. I can easily picture one of the people on the council is involved with the UK’s (UNIT-shout out) Wierd Happenings Organisation which was always shown as a distinct counterpart to SHIELD in the comics

  14. *Wow* is the new format bad… we’re going to have to start quoting, because the threading appears to have gone away.

    • Ryan Davidson

      There’s no new formatting, and threading works just like it always has.

    • Could you explain what you mean or maybe send us a screenshot and browser information? Everything seems to be working fine on our end. We have a couple of weeks of tech support for the switchover, so if something was misconfigured we’d like to get it fixed.

  15. Okay, so Batman: The Long Halloween check, Batman: Dark Victory in the pipe, so that only leaves the mother of them all… Batman: Year One!

  16. I don’t think Fury actually acted as though Captain America was actually required to join. My read of the scene is that Fury knew that he could count of Captain America’s patriotism, militarism, sense of duty and general do-goodyness to recruit him.

    I also don’t see the blatant violation of national sovereignty as an obstacle to SHIELD being a US government agency. The United States as the world’s hegemony pretty much gets to do what it wants. And let’s be honest, while Germany might grumble about the US violating its sovereignty, pointing out an interplanetary threat seems like the sort of thing that would improve relations.

    On the nuclear strike, I am much more interested in the hypothesis that SHIELD is a US agency. In practice, if SHIELD is an international agency, that would significantly improve the chances they would order a nuclear strike against New York. (Even without US authorization) US commanders would probably be much more reluctant. But I am wondering about the legality of the US detonating a nuclear weapon on its own soil.

    • James Pollock

      The legality of the U.S. launching a nuclear strike against Manhattan (in the circumstances depicted in the movie)? Simple: Necessity. Almost a textbook case, in fact. Now, in the case of the movie “Fail-Safe”? Trickier. In the case of the dozens of cases under the desert in Nevada? National Security.

      • The issue seems somewhat irrelevant in comparison, but let’s imagine that the US fires the nuke on Manhattan, wiping out countless buildings, and other property. Is that a taking requiring just compensations?

      • James Pollock

        The short answer is no.
        The logic goes something like this: If the government does nothing at all when the portal full of aliens opens, they capture the entire city (and, eventually, the planet!). Either way, the building’s owner is deprived of his ownership interest, so the government hasn’t actually deprived the owner of anything.
        The case actually used in textbooks involved the city dynamiting buildings to create a firebreak during the San Francisco fire. If you’re still interested, search for “doctrine of public necessity” or just “public necessity”.

      • I’m far from being an expert here. I merely know what I know from following your advice and googling. But the impression I got is that there is a public policy issue here which results in cases either coming out the way you described them as in Surocco v. Geary or the opposite way as in Wegner v. Milwaukee Mutual Ins. Co.

        That actually makes a lot of sense. Sure, preventing the alien invasion is a public good that will be beneficial to many many people. But the flip side is that since this will benefit so many people, it only makes sense that New Yorkers not be alone in bearing the cost of the prevention of the alien invasion. After all, people in Ohio would have been just as affected as New Yorkers by the invasion and so they benefit from its prevention just as much.

        Am I reading that wrong?

        Also, somewhat morbidly, if you assume that the public necessity rational does not prevent the necessity for just compensation, what of the loss of life?

      • James Pollock

        Wegner was a state case that was decided based on the state constitution, and thus inapplicable to cases outside the state. Surocco, as I said, is the case used in law textbooks to describe the general rule.

        As for spreading the cost beyond just the building’s owner, that’s what insurance is for.

        Finally, for the loss of life, the United States (and usually, officers acting on its behalf) is immune from suit unless Congress explicitly permits the United States government to be sued. My guess is that Congress would authorize funds to be dispersed to the families of people killed during the alien incursion, whether by alien hands or by the nuclear weapon (it would be hard to tell the difference), which would work like the 9/11 fund did.

        The United States DOES have contingency plans for nuking its own territory in the case of invasion. For example, between the time the Russians developed their own atomic bomb and the time their intercontinental missiles got reliably accurate, it was assumed that IF they attacked the United States, it would be by sending massive waves of bombers over the north pole. A single nuclear detonation can shoot down a LOT of airplanes. So if the military commanders had to choose between setting off a nuke over Alaska or allowing those bombers to continue down the west coast to population centers, well, we have LOTS of Alaska to spare. I’m not 100% certain how Canada feels about it’s frozen northlands, but they were part of NORAD, too, so I’m fairly sure their concerns were addressed in meetings. Fortunately, the Soviet Union never decided to put the question to the test.

  17. Martin Phipps

    History is different in the Marvel Universe. After the second world war, Hydra remained a viable threat so it may be that the United Nations wasn’t formed as a diplomatic organization but as continuation of the allied fight. SHIELD was originally known as Supreme Headquarters International Espionage, Law Enforcement Division and was changed to Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division after a restructuring. In either case, it would appear as though SHIELD is part of a larger organization (SHIE?) because they are referred to as a “division”.

    I suppose the obvious comparisons to make would be with the Korean War or the first Gulf War. The Korean War was basically an intervention by the United Nations against North Korea. Likewise, the U.S. and Britain was able to form an international coalition supported by a UN resolution. To a lesser extent the U.S. formed an international coalition to fight in Afghanistan. In Iraq in the 90s? Not so much. I think the lesson here is that SHIELD has to be a reactive force: if the international community feels that the U.S. is using SHIELD to invade countries that they suspect of having oil weapons of mass destruction then the international community would withdraw support for SHIELD.

    Another analogy would be with the International Space Station or with CERN (European Center for Nuclear Research). If SHIELD could somehow be described as a research operation rather than as a military one then it would be a lot easier for it to operate in different countries around the world. The problem is that it is supposed to be a secret organization: presumably ordinary people don’t even know that SHIELD exists.

    Perhaps the best analogy may be with the Los Alamos National Laboratory. According to Wikipedia it is “one of the largest science and technology institutions in the world” and it is involved in both classified and published research projects. Given that in Iron Man 2 Fury referred to Tony Stark as a “founder of SHIELD” it certainly sounds as though it started as a research organization. The SHIELD base at the beginning of the movie did look a lot like a research facility.

    Anyway, I sent a message on Facebook to Larry Hama, author of 155 issues of the GI Joe series, asking him “What is SHIELD?” with a link to this site. He also wrote an eight issue Avengers arc which had them asking for UN support and the right to operate on foreign soil. As the Avengers had previously been portrayed as answering to the American government, the question of how that would work would be related.

    • James Pollock

      ” To a lesser extent the U.S. formed an international coalition to fight in Afghanistan. In Iraq in the 90s? Not so much.”

      Ahem. First paragraph of the Wikipedia article on Desert Storm:
      “The Persian Gulf War (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991), codenamed Operation Desert Storm (17 January 1991 – 28 February 1991) commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a UN-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq’s invasion and annexation of Kuwait.”

      Speaking of which, there is an extensive article on S.H.I.E.L.D. on wikipedia.

  18. Pingback: The Avengers: Who’s Gonna Pay for That? | Law and the Multiverse

  19. Hello they are the Illuminati.

  20. Pingback: nick fury’s ambiguous civilian protection approach « Securing Rights

  21. The accents of the Council members kinda gave me the impression S.H.I.E.L.D. was a multi-national organization similar to Tom Clancy’s Rainbow team.

  22. Joshua Morrow is right.

    They are the Illuminati.

    Don’t bother confusing yourselves.

  23. I had always seen SHIELD as an espionage/special operations arm of NATO, with the majority of funding and personnel supplied by the US.

  24. This doesn’t take into account that there are already powerful entities in the world comprised of people from many nations with the ability and financial resources necessary to build an organization like shield. The idea of a “new world order” has nothing to do with a US based government, and it is likely, minus the super powers, that there are already real life equivalents present in the world today.

    Governments do not run the world, money does. With enough capital, it doesn’t matter what nationality the members are, just that they share a common purpose.

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