Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Spring 2005
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 19A


Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber

"Humanitarian Intervention"

Drawing on the reading and your own considered opinion and good judgment, make a case for or against humanitarian intervention to put an end to the human rights abuse in the hpothetical cases in Amazonia and "Kosovo" described on the following pages, think of several strong objections to your case, and respond to them.

In making your case, offer what you believe are the most principled arguments you can make.

In thinking of objections, think of the best possible objections that someone on the other side might be able to come up with, i. e., give yourself a hard time. If you can respond to the other side at its strongest rather than at its weakest point, that can only help to strengthen your own argument and make it that much more persuasive.

During the week of Februuary 28th through March 4th several "extra" discussion sessions will be scheduled as well as extra office hours to discuss ways to tackle the question and at least one class will be devoted to a discussion of the issues raised by Paper Topic I.

The paper should be about six (6) to seven (7) pages in length or longer if you think that it is necessary. Please hand in two copies, marked "COPY ONE" and "COPY TWO." The paper is due on Wednesday, March 9th, in class.

I. Slavery in Amazonia

An anthropological expedition, operating in remote and seldom visited regions in South America, in a country called Amazonia, discovers that immense coffee plantations in the North-Western area are being worked by tens of thousands of Indians held in what amounts to a state of slavery. These practices are apparently well known to the Amazonian Government, several of whose key officials own plantations in the region themselves. Amazonia is neither a member of the United Nations nor a party to any international human rights convention.

The United States, Denmark, Britain, and several other states introduce a resolution in the U. N. General Assembly requesting that the appropriate U. N. organs immediately establish a committee to conduct an on-the-spot investigation in Amazonia to see whether these practices are indeed taking place. Amazonia sends a communication to the United Nations indicating that it has no intention of permitting such a fact-finding commission to enter its territory, and that it considers the U. N. consideration of this question to be an interference in its, Amazonia's, own internal affairs.

A variety of independent reports are subsequently published in the newspapers making it evident that slavery is indeed present in Amazonia and practiced on a large scale. The states (The United States, Britain, Denmark, and the others) withdraw their resolution calling for an investigation and substitute it for a stronger one "condemning the state of Amazonia for its disregard of human rights of its people by permitting the universally condemned practice of slavery to persist within its territory" and recommend that all states "take appropriate action through suspension of diplomatic relations and through economic sanctions to persuade the Government of Amazonia to stop this reprehensible practice."

The resolution further states that if the Amazonian Government fails to respond within a year by taking steps to dismantle their system of slavery, a system whose form and continuation, it turns out, depends upon legislation adopted by the Amazonian Assembly, military intervention to alleviate the plight of the victims of the Amazonian system of slavery would not be foreclosed. The resolution states that such intervention, while not ruled out, would be a means of last resort. It calls such intervention "humanitarian intervention" and explains that "it is characteristic of such intervention that it does not aim at conquest."

It aims to bring about an end to the system of slavery within Amazonia, but acknowledges that Amazonia should and will remain independent; and in order to guard against the temptation of self-serving action by any one state, it calls for a "united front" of several states to join together in the carrying out of this action.

The Government of Amazonia sends a communication to the Secretary General of the United Nations stating, in no uncertain terms, that this whole subject is a matter of its own domestic jurisdiction, and that it considers the U. N. resolution to be a violation of its, Amazonia's, right to self-determination.

The communication further states that the U. N. resolution violates the United Nations' own principles, pointing out that in the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (adopted by the General Assembly in 1970) the principle is put forward that "no State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements, are in violation of international law" and this principle, this Principle of Non-Intervention exists among all States, whether they are members of the U. N. or not.

Former President Jimmy Carter holds a press conference at his home in Georgia, urging the Clinton administration not to back down, saying that the United States with its own past legacy of slavery has a special responsibility to bring about an end to the enslavement of peoples everywhere, reminding President Clinton of Carter's own remarks when he was President in March of 1977 when he said "All signatories of the U. N. Charter have pledged themselves to observe and respect basic human rights. Thus, no member of the United Nations can claim that mistreatment of its citizens is solely its own business. Equally, no member can avoid its responsibilities to review and to speak when torture or unwarranted deprivation of freedom occurs in any part of the world."

Carter announces his plans to visit Amazonia soon, saying he has an invitation from a former U. S. Ambassador to Amazonia who now calls Amazonia his home having retired there some years ago.

An editorial appears in the leading newspaper in the capital city of Amazonia, condemning Jimmy Carter's press conference as "meddlesome," saying he is not welcome in Amazonia and adding that "no country had to intervene to bring about an end to slavery in the United States and although the American Civil War was a bloody affair, the United States took care of its own business" and it (the United States) should now "let Amazonia take care of its business in its own way." The editorial concludes with a reminder to its readership that "Amazonia is not a member of the U. N."

A group of concerned American citizens take out a full page ad in The New York Times wherein they state, among other things, that "the U. N. resolution is an arrogant attempt by several Western European nations to impose their peculiar values and practices on another culture with different experiences and traditions." And in a direct reference to former President Jimmy Carter's remarks, the ad asks, somewhat rhetorically, the question: "What right does the United States with its own experience of slavery have to set itself up as a model, to be so righteous?"

The ad further notes that the only reason that countries like Denmark and Britain support the U. N. resolution is because major corporations from both these countries hope to expand into the markets that would be opened up by the dismantling of slavery in Amazonia. The ad ends with a reference to the "great American tradition of toleration, noting that "all Americans know the value of respecting differences and diversity," labeling the U. N. resolution "a thinly, an all too thinly, disguised form of cultural expansion, a form, of 'moral imperialism.'"

Assume that all steps laid out in the U. N. Resolution short of intervention are exhausted, but the U. N. does not intervene. Indeed a new resolution is introduced in the Security Council blocking intervention, declaring such intervention to be in violation of the U. N.'s own Charter, in particular Article 2(4) that states in part:

All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State . .. . "

Nonetheess, Great Britain, the United States and Denmark arrnounce that they will forcefully intervene in Amazonia to put an end to "the widespread and grave violations of the fundamental human rights of individuals that are taking place within the borders of that country." They repeat that this military action is done as a "last resort" and that it does not "aim at conquest." The coalition of three states (Great Britain, the United States and Denmark) further states that its plan is to "go in, liberate those who are subject to enslavement from slavery and get out."

For those individuals who fear for their lives, once liberated, the coaltion has made arrangements with other states, among them, Canada and Norway, to provide a "safe haven" for those who to seek asylum outside the borders of Amazonia.

Are you for or against "humanitarian intervention" in Amazonia?

State briefly and succinctly why you believe "humanitarian intervention" may or may not be justified in this case and then consider and respond to the following:

- - - - - - - -


Imagine that you are miraculously transported back in time. You pick up a New York Times. Reading the Times front-page from left to right, you read the headlines: "U. Conn Upsets Duke to Grab N.C.A.A. Title" and "Dow Finishes Day Over 10,000 Mark for the First Time" and then in bold, capital letters, the biggest headline of the top three stories of the day:"U. S. REPORTS 'SIGNS OF GENOCIDE'"

Further down the page, you read the remarks of James P. Rubin, spokesman for the State Department: "There are indicators that genocide is unfolding in Kosovo," and that there is "no reason to await further confirmation . . . because we can clearly say crimes against humanity are being committed, . . . that abhorrent and criminal actions, I mean on a massive scale, are occurring in Kosovo." You read further and notice reports of "whole towns being ordered to flee by Serbian policemen in paramilitary units, the people robbed along the way and stripped of identity documents down to their cars' license plates." You notice, too, that "accounts appeared to indicate that the Serbian campaign was methodic, organized and systematic."

Reading further still, you read of "other, sinister reports, more difficult to confirm, of killings by the Serbian forces and bodies left by the side of the road, as well as whole villages set afire. A hundred people were said to have been executed in the village of Celine." The refugees that were streaming across the borders into Macedonia and Albania and into the Yugoslav province of Montenegro, at a rate of 2,000 every hour according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, were telling "harrowing stories" of the places from which they had been forced to flee: "Isuf Morina, gray-haired and neatly dressed, described how Serbian forces had selected about 200 men from his village of Krushe and forced them to give the three-fingered Serbia salute before mowing them down with automatic weapons."

The day before you had heard Jamie Shea, the spokesman for NATO in Brussels say on CNN that "we are on the brink of a major humanitarian disaster in Kosovo, the likes of which have not been seen in Europe since the closing stages of World War II" and that NATO was in a "race against time."

You think it somewhat of a cruel irony that these events should be unfolding in Kosovo just now as a philosophy and legal studies course you are taking has begun to discuss under what circumstances, if any, humanitarian intervention by a group of states in the "internal affairs" of another state engaged in systematic human rights violations might be justified. You think to yourself that you are glad that you are not President Clinton, Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair or Gerhard Schroeder, leaders of the four primary states of the 19 member NATO coalition currently involved in a bombing campaign in the Balkans. You are glad, too, that you are not William Cohen, Secretary of Defense for the United States or, for that matter Madeline Albright, Secretary of State.

The reason you are glad that you are "none of the above" is your strong belief that they are all faced with some very difficult choices in the days ahead, choices that may, in no uncertain terms have consequence not only for the future of the NATO alliance but for the future of the international world order.

So you are glad you are a student at Brandeis, somewhat sheltered from the "messiness" of the world. Indeed, all this reading about events unfolding in the Balkans has made you a bit sleepy and although you have only been "up" for a few hours, you decide to return to your room to take a short nap. You lie down on your bed and before you can say "Human Rights Violations," you are asleep.

Suddenly you are rudely awakened by a commotion outside your room. You jump out of bed and rush to your window. There "outside" your window you see several limousines and what appear to be a plethora of secret service agents with walkie-talkies. Someone is getting out of the first limousine: it's President Clinton. Then out of the two other limousines both Madeline Albright and William Cohen emerge. Before you can wonder what these three officials might be doing under your window on a Tuesday, there's a knock on your door.

"[Your First Name] . Is that you?"

"[Your First Name]?" you say.

"[Your First Name and Your Last Name] ," says the voice, as if he was reading from a piece of paper or a student register.

"Yes," you say. And you open the door to find Sandy Berger standing on your doorstep, with the President directly behind him and Madeline Albright behind the President and William Cohen behind Madeline Albright.

"May we come in," Berger says.

And without waiting for your answer, he ushers himself, the President, Madeline Albright and William Cohen into your room and gestures to several secret service agents to move into position to stand "watch" at your door.

"Please," you say, "make yourselves comfortable," as each of these four seeks to find a place to sit down in your rather cramped space of a room.

"Well," you say, clapping your hands together and looking from one to the other after everyone seems to have become settled, "what can I do for you folks," or words to that effect, trying not to indicate the slightest "shock" that President Clinton, Madeline Albright, William Cohen and Sandy Berger are now sitting in your room.

After glancing quickly in the direction of Madeline Albright and William Cohen, President Clinton leans forward, looks you in the eye and says: "We need your advice."

"My advice?" you say, drawing in a quick breath. "Why would you want my advice?" "We understand," President Clinton continued, " that you are enrolled in a course on Human Rights."

"Philosophy 19A," says Madeline Albright.

"Yes, Philosophy 19A," says William Cohen.

"We understand," President Clinton continued without missing a beat, "that you have been giving considerable thought to the question of humanitarian intervention."

"Oh," you say, somewhat taken aback by this sudden turn of events, "I wouldn't say that."

"Oh," says President Clinton, turning to Sandy Berger. "Is there something wrong with our sources?"

"No, Mr. President," says Sandy Berger, "we have a pretty good information on this one."

"So," says the President, turning back in your direction, "is this true or is this not true."

"It's true," you confess, looking down at your feet. "But," you say, suddenly brightening up, "there are others in the class that have been doing a lot more thinking than I have, a lot, lot more. Perhaps you should talk with one of them."

"We do not have a lot of time," says William Cohen.

"You've read Michael Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars, no?" asks President Clinton.


"And you've had a chance to look at the readings in International Ethics edited by Charles Beitz, in particular David Luban's essay 'On Just War and Human Rights' as well as Michael Walzer's reply to his critics, 'The Moral Standing of States?'"

"Yes, more or less."

"And you've had a chance to look at the hand-outs from the class and to do some of the other reading on the "Ethics of Intervention," essays by such notable authors as Lauterpacht, Thomas Buergenthal, and Marc Wicclair no?"

"Yes," you say a bit tentatively, thinking to yourself, "Oh my G __ ! President Clinton has done all the reading for the course."

"Here's our problem," President Clinton says, again leaning forward and looking you in the eye. "My military advisors inform me that NATO cannot bring about an end to atrocities in Kosovo and the ethnic cleansing and slaughter of civilians that is reportedly occurring right now on the ground within that province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia so long as continue to wage this conflict from the air. We can re-direct our air power against the Serb forces in Kosovo but we are unlikely, or so I am now being told, to be able to make more than a One Per Cent (1%) dent per day in those forces. This has to do, I am told, with the problems we face, with the terrain and the fact that we are also having to deal with built-up areas and the problems we face due to poor weather in the region. We are therefore not able to do the kind of damage we had hoped to cause from the air that would lead to a call by Slobodan Milosevic for a cease-fire and a pull-back of the Serb military, coupled with an agreement to have a NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo. NATO and the United States is thus now faced with having to introduce ground troops into Kosovo to bring about an end to the human rights abuses that are now being reported."

"I see," you say, somewhat amazed that the President is confiding in you about these matters.

"Now," the President says as if he has read your mind, "everything I am telling you is top secret information. You are not to breathe a word of this to anyone. Nor are you to tell anyone that we were here. Is that clear?"

"Yes," you say, "very clear."

"Now," the President says, "we do not want your military advice nor do we want your opinion about whether or not ethnic cleansing is really taking place in Kosovo or whether or not there are systematic human rights violations on the order of crimes against humanity being committed. We want you to assume that we shall need to introduce ground troops if we have any hope of there being any Kosovo left to save. We have concluded that if we continue the bombing that we are now carrying out and even if we re-direct our targets, there will, in fact, be no Kosovo left to save, once the fighting is done.

"In any event" President Clinton continued, "we must prepare for every contingency, so we need your advice. We need your advice on the issue of humanitarian intervention. We want you to assume that ethnic cleansing is taking place in Kosovo and that systematic violations of human rights are occurring on a magnitude that calling them 'crimes against humanity' is not too strong a word. Is such an intervention in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia justified if it is carried out solely to bring about an end to the systematic violations of human rights that are taking place?

"Now you know, as we know, that The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has insisted that what is happening in Kosovo is a matter of its own domestic jurisdiction, and that it considers what NATO is doing to be a violation of its, Yugoslavia's, right to self-determination. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia also point out that NATO actions in the Balkans violate international law such as the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friedly Relations and Cooperation Among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (adopted by the General Assembly in 1970) which puts forward the principle that no State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements, are in violation of international law and this principle, this Principle of Non-Intervention exists among all States, whether they are members of the U. N. or NATO or what-have-you.

"We would like you to make an argument for or against humanitarian intervention in Kosovo, think of the most powerful objections that anyone, whether it be Slobodan Milosevic or a Professor from the Fletcher School at Tufts, might make against the argument, and respond to those arguments."

"Surely," you say to yourself, "this must be a dream."

But if it is, it also slowly dawns on you that you shall not wake from this dream until you answer the President's question.

At precisely this point President Clinton stood up, shook your hand and strode out your room with Albright, Cohen and Berger scurrying to keep up with him. When he reached the door he opened it and the secret service men outside stepped away from the entrance.

Albright, Cohen and Berger stepped out and Clinton, holding the door handle with one hand, leaned in and said, "Wednesday, then."

"Wednesday," you said, somewhat bewildered.

"Yes, Wednesday," Clinton said: "we'll be back on Wednesday, the 9th of March at which time we expect you to have an answer for us. You have until Wednesday to work out your reply."

And with that he stepped out into the hallway and pulled the door shut.




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