I should begin what may be an unpopular entry with a reminder that I am a guest blogger here, not an officer of CJLF. What I say does not necessarily reflect CJLF's views.
Much -- almost surely too much -- will be said in coming days about the Boston Marathon bombings. A considerable portion of it will be self-congratulatory mush about how we "come together as a people" in the face of the "senseless loss," to use President Obama's exact phrase in his reaction yesterday.
This is so much nonsense. First, we will not come together. The same fundamental divisions about security, intelligence operations, interrogation and civil liberties about which the nation has been divided for years will re-surface almost immediately.
Second -- and this is the point I want to stress for now -- the bombings were not "senseless," and if Obama really thinks anything like that, he is deluded. They make plenty of sense.
It's clear beyond rational argument that the attacks were well planned and executed (apparently two more bombs were found near the finish line). It is equally clear that they were intended to produce exactly what they did -- death, grievous injury, suffering, disfigurement and horror. Whoever brought this off knew exactly what he (or they) were doing, and spent more than a little time doing it.
An enterprise like that is many things, but "senseless" is not one of them. Malevolent, yes; sinister, yes; calculated, yes; senseless, no.
I obviously don't know what brand of terrorist is behind this, but it has the hallmarks of Jihad -- coordinated bombings at a soft target with lots of civilians, directed at a sort of national icon. But terror it is, one way or the other. It's a tragedy, sure, but much more and much worse than that.
My objection to Obama's characterization of this as "senseless" is more than semantic. Both our tactics and our objectives in responding will be influenced by our view of the nature of the bombings. If the President really thinks we're dealing with people whose actions make no sense -- who just don't think -- our view of how to pursue and, eventually, punish them cannot help but be misshapen if not incoherent. If, on the other hand, we understand that we are up against purposeful people, people for whom murder is both the means to an end and an end in itself, our reaction will be more focused, and has a better chance of being anchored in strategic clarity and moral confidence.
My concern with the President's mushy language is heightened by the fact that the Administration has used it repeatedly before. Indeed it seems to be on the White House word processor as a substitute for hard thinking. For example, the Administration used the same phrase to characterize the terrorist attack at Ft. Hood three and a half years ago. And even though the identity of the killer was known immediately, nothing approaching the "full weight of justice" has been done or is about to be done (again contrary to Obama's bluster both in that case and yesterday). To the exact contrary, in reacting to Ft. Hood's stone-face murders, the Administration has indulged legal process run amok, as years go by litigating whether the killer can or cannot wear a beard in court.
As long as we are so foolish as to think we are dealing with people who engage in mere "senseless" murder, that is the kind of silliness we can expect.
It won't do. When confronting those who challenge the fundamentals of civilized life, who murder little children and blow the limbs off people watching a race, silliness is more than maddening. It's dangerous. We have not seen the last of it, and we had best get a grasp on what we're dealing with.
Yesterday's acts were not senseless. The first thing Obama needs to understand in reacting to them is that they made lots of sense.