A major United States Holocaust Memorial Museum study of the Obama Administration’s Syria policy was put on hold last night after portions of the study given to Tablet were greeted with shock and harsh criticism by prominent Jewish communal leaders and thinkers.
According to a publicity email sent by the Museum, the study was set to be launched at an event at the US Institute for Peace in Washington, D.C., on September 11 and was overseen by a former US intelligence and national security official under Obama, Cameron Hudson, now director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. The paper argued that “a variety of factors, which were more or less fixed, made it very difficult from the beginning for the US government to take effective action to prevent atrocities in Syria, even compared with other challenging policy contexts.” Using computational modeling and game theory methods, as well as interviews with experts and policymakers, the report asserted that greater support for the anti-Assad rebels and US strikes on the Assad regime after the August 2013 Ghouta chemical weapons attack would not have reduced atrocities in the country, and might conceivably have contributed to them.
The intervention of the Holocaust Museum in a hot-button political dispute—and the apparent excuse of official US government inaction in the face of large-scale mass murder, complete with the gassing of civilians and government-run crematoria—alarmed many Jewish communal figures. “The first thing I have to say is: Shame on the Holocaust Museum,” said Leon Wieseltier, the literary critic and fellow at the Brookings Institution, who slammed the Museum for “releasing an allegedly scientific study that justifies bystanderism.”
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