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America's MIA Syrian strategy

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."
Haley Britzky 9 hours ago
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The E.U. and U.K. want to be front and center on AI research

Theresa May visits an engineering facility.
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May visits an engineering training facility in Birmingham. Photo: Andrew Yates/AFP/Getty Images

The E.U. and U.K. both announced major investments in artificial intelligence research this week, with more than 50 tech companies contributing to a £1 billion deal in the U.K., and the European Commission announcing it would be allocating €1.5 billion to AI research until 2020.

The big picture: The U.K.'s deal, as detailed in a government press release, will include funding for "8,000 specialist computer science teachers, 1,000 government-funded AI PhDs by 2025," and development for a "prestigious global Turing Fellowship" program to attract top talent. Per the release, the U.K. will also be developing "a world-leading Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation," to emphasize ethical standards with AI research. The E.U.'s deal also includes laying out clear ethical guidelines by the end of 2018.

Mike Pompeo’s first foreign trip

Mike Pompeo
CIA Director Mike Pompeo testifies on worldwide threats. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

If he is confirmed as Secretary of State tomorrow, Mike Pompeo will embark on his first foreign trip as secretary to Brussels for the NATO Summit, Axios has learned. Bloomberg first reported the contingency planning for the potential trip.

The details: “The acting secretary John Sullivan is ready to go to the NATO summit in Brussels Thursday,” a senior administration official told Axios. “The secretary-designate Mike Pompeo is prepared to travel to the meeting of foreign ministers to reaffirm our commitment to NATO and coordinate the alliance’s response to Russian aggression.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the latest developments.