The Times reached out to all 63 museum board members who are presidential appointees or members of Congress, as well as other museum officials. Interviews show that the museum was caught off guard by the impact and furor that its own report would have, and at least some board members were unaware that the museum was wading into a debate about atrocities in Syria.
Leon Wieseltier, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the former literary editor of The New Republic, is among the critics of both the study’s findings and its publication. He said the museum did the right thing by pulling it — a move that was first reported by Tablet magazine.
“The Holocaust museum, if it stands for anything, stands for the idea that we should always act against genocide and that there’s something forever wrong and unsatisfying about the idea that we can do nothing to alleviate radical evil,” Mr. Wieseltier said in an interview. “This paper basically whitewashes the Obama administration’s inaction on Syria and says that there’s nothing we can do.”
That characterization, echoed by other critics, incorrectly describes the report, according to several academics and Syria-watchers. They also said the study’s removal sets a troubling precedent for suppressing independent research.
“It’s absolutely shocking that they would pull a report simply because their supporters didn’t like the conclusions, which is the only way to interpret what they did,” said Marc Lynch, an international affairs professor at George Washington University and one of several experts interviewed by the study’s authors.
The museum, which opened in Washington in 1993 and operates with a mix of federal funding and private donations, has not explained its decision beyond a brief statement on its website citing “concerns” from “a number of people with whom we have worked closely on Syria.”
The study was commissioned a year ago by a think tank within the museum, the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. The think tank is overseen by the museum’s Committee on Conscience and undertakes research to help guide policy makers “to prevent — or, if necessary, halt — genocide and related crimes against humanity.”
The center’s director, Cameron Hudson, a National Security Council official under President George W. Bush who also worked on Sudan policy under Mr. Obama, said in a statement that the center had…