Cohen: Obama Unserious in the Face of Magic-Wielding Supervillains


Eliot Cohen is one of the more respected neoconservatives currently working. A professor at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies and a veteran, he has solid intellectual credentials and a more personal connection to foreign policy than most hawks, and indeed was a critic of the conduct of the war in Iraq prior to being brought into the Bush administration in 2007. This is a thing he actually wrote:

Neither Mr. Obama nor the predecessor he still complains of have been able to get beyond the trope of “extremists who have perverted a great religion.” J. K. Rowling has given her readers a more thorough understanding of Lord Voldemort than the West’s leaders have given their populations of whom we fight, what really animates them, and what the challenges that lie ahead will be.

Yes, Cohen is really complaining that Obama and Bush talked about terrorism with a greater sense of nuance than Rowling described a fictional villain. If ever there were a better example of the right’s Manichean and naive treatment of national security challenges, I have not seen it.

3 thoughts on “Cohen: Obama Unserious in the Face of Magic-Wielding Supervillains

  1. Actually, it appears that Cohen is complaining that Bush and Obama have described Islamism with less nuance than Rowling has used to describe Voldemort, which seems like a rare accurate criticism from a neoconservative, not to mention the opposite of what you took him to mean.

  2. “It appears”? Cohen is explicitly rejecting the notion that we should view Islamic terrorism as a perversion of Islam. In the context of his work, it’s hard to believe he holds a more nuanced view than that.

  3. No, in context he’s clearly objecting to that description as overly simplistic rather than as factually incorrect. Hence “have been able to get beyond the trope”. Hence also the Rowling/Voldemort reference, which as I will point out again, is a comparison in the sense exactly opposite to that in which you’re reading it.
    It seems to me that you’re jumping to overly-hasty conclusions. I suppose the reading you ascribe is barely plausible, but it seems highly unlikely that it’s the reading he intended.

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