- Two of the baddest bullies at school suddenly start fighting because one of them loses his temper and becomes the aggressor, while the other has no choice but to defend himself (legitimate defense). In this case there is nobody to cheer for because both boys are bullies at the school (Assad regime versus Al-Qaeda rebels).
- The two bullies, while fighting, begin to inflict harm on the innocent bystanders, and things start blowing out of control (Syrian civilian deaths start mounting).
- In order to protect the innocent bystanders from harm, several children start shouting for help, hoping their teachers will come running to protect them, and to stop the fight. The teachers take notice of the fight from their classroom windows, and hope that the fight will stop naturally with minimal harm to the other students (the world watches Syria and instinctively looks to America, the world's police, capable of intervening).
- Things get worse when one of the bullies suddenly pulls out a knife. Now several teachers start running out of the school to stop the bully with the knife, but facing a bully with a knife now puts a brave teacher's life at risk (Assad's use of chemical weapons prompts America to strike).
- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
- there must be serious prospects of success;
- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
If we apply the four conditions above within Syria alone, it seems that points #3 and #4 fail because there seems to be no prospects of a peaceful outcome, and the Assad government has been accused of using chemical weapons. I'm not certain about point #2, but we're beyond that now anyway. If the Assad regime and Al-Qaeda understood that they weren't fighting a just war, then they could have ended the violence by now.The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.
The last statement about evaluating these four conditions concerns the international community. It has a responsibility for the common good, and therefore, has been contemplating military intervention. In the last few weeks though, the Prime Minister of Canada indicated that there were no prospects for a successful outcome, and if that's true, then condition #3 does not pass, and going to war with Syria would not be just.
American President Obama, on the other hand, threatened that it would strike Syria if chemical weapons were used. The world now waits to see what America will do.
Pope Francis has stated that he is against military intervention in Syria. Cardinal Dolan then followed his lead and said, "The Pope and Middle Eastern Bishops have made it clear that a military attack will be counterproductive, will exacerbate an already deadly situation, and will have unintended negative consequences.” (Time, September 5th, 2013)
It seems to me that there is literally no prospect for success if the western world intervenes. Unlike the teacher who would be capable of stopping the two school yard bullies from seriously hurting themselves and the innocent bystanders, in the case of the Syrian civilian war, western military intervention would only make things worse. For now it seems the international community can only continue to help Syrian refugees with humanitarian aid, and to continue to apply pressure towards reaching a diplomatic solution.