The start of the historic American retreat

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The president's strategy carries enormous risks to his credibility, which the administration has argued forcefully is on the line in Syria. Obama long ago said the use of chemical weapons was a "red line" that Assad would not be allowed to cross with impunity.

Obama's reluctance to take military action stems from his "sense of implicit defeat and the disappearance of his allies".

The president's decision to take this to Congress came as a surprise even to his own advisers.

"In other words, he wants to keep brandishing the sword of aggression on Syria without fully giving up the idea of an attack and even without setting a definite date for the aggression."

"The American people are opposed to it".