After a 45-minute walk Friday night, President Barack Obama made a fateful decision that none of his top national security advisers saw coming: To seek congressional authorization before taking military action in Syria.
The stunning about-face after a week of U.S. saber rattling risked not only igniting a protracted congressional fight, which could end with a vote against strikes, but a backlash from allies in the Middle East who had warned the White House that inaction would embolden not only Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but his closest allies, Iran and Hezbollah.
Aides said the decision was made by Mr. Obama and Mr. Obama alone. It shows the primacy the president places on protecting his hoped-for legacy as a commander in chief who did everything in his power to disentangle the U.S. from overseas wars. Until Friday night, Mr. Obama’s national-security team didn’t even have an option on the table to seek a congressional authorization.