|Don’t cry over these kids. They would have died anyway.|
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, DC on September 11th and was overseen by former Obama NSC and intelligence officer 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.”
The Museum’s exercise in counter-factual history, he suggested, was inherently absurd. “If I had the time I would gin up a parody version of this that will give us the computational-modeling algorithmic counterfactual analysis of John J McCloy’s decision not to bomb the Auschwitz ovens in 1944. I’m sure we could concoct the fucking algorithms for that, too.”…
So what gives? Well, besides the former Obama staffer overseeing the study, we have:
At least one of the architects of the Obama administration policy in Syria, former deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, was appointed to the museum’s Memorial Council during the closing days of the Obama administration. The Council also includes Obama NSC alumni Grant Harris and Daniel Benjamin. Other Obama NSC alumni, including Hudson and Anna Cave, have joined the Museum’s staff.
Some Jewish communal leaders suggested both privately to Tablet, and in conversations with board members and staff at the Holocaust Museum, that the Museum’s moral authority had been hijacked for a partisan re-writing of recent history, and alleged that the museum had absolved the Obama administration of any moral or political error in its response to mass atrocities in Syria.
It sure looks like it, doesn’t it?
To have the Holocaust Memorial Museum issue a study that justifies inaction in the face of mass atrocities is mind-boggling. This is outrageous politicization of the purpose of the memorial. Wieseltier summed it up perfectly – anyone can make an algorithm to put a pseudo-scientific cloak on a political issue. (Amnesty has an entire website dedicated to demonizing Israel with slick algorithms and disproven data, and stands by it.)
If indeed the former Obama officials have been heavily involved in conceiving and writing this, they should be fired from the Museum. They have done more damage to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s reputation than anyone can imagine and there is only one way to get it back.
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