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Iraqi protestors burn a U.S. flag during a demonstration in Baghdad, opposing the joint Western air strikes against Syria's regime. Photo: Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

A Republican foreign policy expert, who asked for anonymity so he could speak with brutal candor, describes the big picture American involvement in Syria — from Obama through Trump — as "a succession of failures divorced from reality."

What we're hearing: The source, who has decades of experience analyzing the region, emails Axios a devastating indictment of the U.S. Syria "strategy" — or lack thereof — under successive administrations: "The inevitable result was failure."

  • "Syria is a microcosm of U.S. foreign policy in general. We never had a coherent strategy beyond simplistic generalities, childishly selecting our goals based on what we wanted, not what was necessary, or even possible. The inevitable result was failure. Wobbly Assad won, powerful us lost. Rust-bucket Russia accomplished its goals, triumphant us achieved none."
  • "The Obama Administration bears the principal responsibility for Syria and Libya but not for Iraq and Afghanistan or the succession of failures elsewhere. Timid intervention did not work for the former; full-scale intervention did not work for the latter. "
  • "But the military are not miracle-workers. These failures sprang from cobbled-together strategies based on comforting illusions that have repeatedly proven not to be true, with objectives shaped not by the constraints of reality but the indulgent selection from an a la carte menu. There is little evidence that repeated failure has had a significant impact on policymakers or specialists."
  • "There is a price to be paid for incompetence. Few now fear us; fewer respect us. As our opponents increase in number and strength, the prospect of defeat at their hands will grow. But the more immediate result will be irrelevance."

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 6 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.