On Thursday, The New York Times obtained a draft version of a State Department memo that sharply criticizes the Obama administration’s Syria policy and calls for limited military strikes against that country’s government. The memo, signed by 51 diplomats, was sent through an agency “dissent channel” that was established during the Vietnam War to air internal criticism.

Because the memo is written by and for government officials, its language can be difficult to parse. What follows is an annotation of 10 key lines, many of which were marked SBU, for “sensitive but unclassified” (U is unclassified).

Discussion of the memo has focused on the dissenters’ indictment of their own leader’s policy. Many of their points have been debated inside the administration for years, and there are complicated arguments on both sides.

While their proposed solution excludes some significant points, there is a core truth in this document: Current policy has little answer for how to break out of a status quo that is disastrous and steadily getting worse.

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