With the growing carnage inflicted on the civilian population by Assad’s government, Syria’s twenty-one-month old political and humanitarian crisis does not seem to show any sign of progress. Hundreds of people, including women and children, are slaughtered every week in what the international community describes as a «massacre» of the syrian population.
The establishment of human rights as a key component of international politics has allowed external actors to scrutinize and judge Assad regime’s poor treatment of its own people. Assad’s response has been one of inflexible negation, refusing any sort of cooperation with the international community whatsoever. Thus, the dilemma of the Syrian conflict is how much longer the international community and the United States can sit by and observe as manifestation of the regime’s flagrant disrespect for human rights continues to escalate. As the choice between intervention and non-intervention requires careful strategic and political consideration, we are left to wonder: is a morally-justified intervention right in Syria’s case? Criteria like right intention, competent authority, last resort and proportionality could provide the international community with a legitimate basis for intervention, but, as we have seen in the last months, the obstacles to a just solution in Syria are abundant and the answers are far from easy.
1. Might makes right?
Morally, Syria, like Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s, can be seen as a classic case of just war. As Michael Walzer argues in his work on ethical warfare, Just and Unjust Wars, humanitarian interventions can be just when the survival of populations and entire ethnic groups are seriously compromised. For that, it needs a just cause (jus ad bellum), to be fought justly (jus in bello) and jus post bellum, a guarantee of just peace once fighting ceases. A military intervention in Syria may be justified, but not without abiding by the rigorous guidelines laid...