Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2013
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 119A


Professor Andreas Teuber
Andreas Teuber


Should the United States
Intervene in Amazonia?


President Obama places his elbows on the table, clasps his hands together, in that characteristic way of his, looks you in the eye and says "well. well, what do you think?"

"Do we intervene or don't we? If so, why? On what grounds? For what reasons? Is humanitarian intervention in Amazonia justified? Yes or no? On what basis?"

You notice your palms are beginning to sweat.

"Now?" you say, "you want an answer now?"

You gulp.

"I may need a little time."

"How about October, the 22nd?" Obama says, "what do you say we meet you back here on October the 22nd? Same time: 12:30 PM. Same place: The Holocaust Museum Cafe."

"O.K." you say, "o.k.," suddenly feeling as if you might be coming down with something. You feel your glands. They appear to be a little swollen.

President Obama gets up from his chair. Power, Kerry and Hagel also get up. They look down at you. You notice they are looking at you. You look up at them.

"My," you think to yourself, "Kerry is tall!"

You get up.

Chuck Hagel shakes your hand, then Kerry, then Power.

Obama pats you on the shoulder.

"The 22nd then," Obama says, smiling and moving towards the door of the Cafe.

When he reaches the doorway, he stops, turns around and points his right forefinger at you. "Tuesday," he says pointing directly at you, "Tuesday, the 22nd, at 12:30 PM."

You wave.

You look at your feet and up again, and when you do, Obama, Kerry, Power and Hagel are gone.

You sit down again.

"What a bunch," you say to yourself.

You realize you have work to do.

Some reading too.

"There's time," you say to yourself, trying to look on the bright side of things, "there's still time, no need to panic."

You look at your wrist, even though you do not wear a watch.

"It won't be all that difficult," you say yourself, "all I need to do is make an argument for intervening, for intervening in Amazonia and justify it. That shouldn't be too hard. All I need to do is make a case for or against intervening, think of several powerful objections, and respond to them, answer the question if the United States were to intervene, either unilaterally or as a member of a coalition of states, with or without UN approval, would such an intervention be justified?"

There is not a lot of time to reflect. Your "answer" has to be ready in little more than ten days. You decide to knuckle under.

You wonder what others think. Do they believe intervention to stop the human rights abuse in Amazonia is Justified?

You could consult with friends, with your parents, relatives and brothers and sisters. You could. You could brainstorm with them. That might help

In the end, however, you realize will have to take a position and make an argument one way or the other of your own. After all, President Obama, Samantha Power, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel want to know what you think.

To paraphrase what one, very good contemporary philosopher, J. R. Lucas, has said:

"Philosophy has to be self-thought, if it is to be thought at all. It is an activity rather than a set of positions. You need to think out the problems and solutions for yourself, and although another person's [thinking] may help you in your own, you cannot accept their conclusions, or even understand their arguments, until you have already argued a lot with yourself."

You remember Obama's having given you a pat on the shoulder and you think to yourself "that shows he has confidence in me" and you think, if Obama has confidence in me, why shouldn't I have, at least, a little confidence too?


Still, to be on the safe side, you decide to wish yourself "good luck" as you are leaving the Museum and you say, a little too loudly perhaps . . .


and people look up.









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