Shashank Joshi’s analysis of the U.S.-Russian deal on Syria is worth reading, but I suspect he’s wrong about this part:
If the cynics are right and this deal falls apart, the US will be well positioned to occupy the diplomatic high ground and renew its case for strikes. Congress will be more readily persuaded that the use of force is necessary, and even Britain – though the prospects are slim – may reconsider the issue in Parliament.
If the deal falls apart, it’s not clear why there would be more support in Congress for “limited” strikes than there was before it was offered. Likewise, the U.S. would have no more international backing for attacking Syria without authorization than it had earlier. As Joshi notes, any U.N. resolution related to this deal won’t authorize the use of force, so legally and politically the U.S. would be in much the same position as it was last week. Having been burned badly by the outcome of the vote in the House of Commons, Cameron won’t want to revisit the issue. However flawed it may be, the Russian deal was greeted as a desirable alternative by so many governments because the proposed military action had almost no supporters here or around the world. That should tell us just how unwelcome an American attack on Syria was and would be in the future.
While Syria hawks will pronounce the deal dead right away, it would probably take many months or even years before there is broad agreement that the inspections aren’t working. The public’s opposition to military action is more likely to grow during that time rather than the reverse. This is one reason why Syria hawks are so outraged by the deal, which has at least momentarily blocked even the smallest Western intervention in the conflict. The problem for Syria hawks isn’t just that the public is sick of unnecessary wars, but that the specific case for military action that the administration has made makes no sense regardless of which side of the debate one happens to take. That case won’t be any stronger six months or a year from now. That doesn’t guarantee that the U.S. won’t launch strikes at some point in the future, but only that it will still be extremely unpopular and illegal if it happens.