I should start this with a bit of a disclaimer. Being of Northern Irish descent, I have a great dislike of bombings. Go figure.
With the two suspects, and no one has been convicted yet so “suspects” is the appropriate word, dealt with in one way or another, we now wait to get the important questions answered. The first of these is, “Why?”
Terrorism is a political tool. It serves to compel people to alter their way of life enough that governments will give in to the political aim or aims of the terrorists.
While religious extremism is often given as a “cause” of terrorist activity, there are not many examples of terrorism being based on strictly religious grounds. Northern Ireland, for example, is often shown as an example of Catholic vs. Protestant terrorism, yet the main aim of terrorist acts on either side was to aid or prevent the separation of Northern Ireland from Britain. To this you can add the fact that there were Catholic Loyalists and Protestant Republicans. The actions of the Palestine Liberation Organization were presented as “Islamic terrorism,” yet the aim of the PLO was the destabilization and destruction of the state of Israel, a political rather than religious aim.
What is not immediately obvious in this case is what they hoped to accomplish. While the suspects were originally Chechans, both of whom lived for some time in their early lives in Dagostan, it seems that the US makes an odd target. Russia would have been a more logical target, if Checan separatism was their cause. Hopefully, the remaining suspect can provide some insight on the reason for the attack. Note that there is no guarantee that the reason he provides will be the actual one, although I suspect that anyone willing enough to make such a public statement as bombing the Boston Marathon will be equally willing to have the chance to air his grievances in a public forum.
Perhaps the second most important question is, “Why terrorism at all?” Terrorism almost never achieves its end. There are very few examples of terror resulting as the sole cause of its stated aims.
Only two from the last century come to mind, and terrorism itself was not the main cause of the success of the movements in question. The eventual withdrawal of Britain from Palestine and the formation of the state of Israel was aided by terrorist bombings, but the weakness of the British armed forces after World War II and the guilt of failure to act to end the Holocaust were probably far greater factors.
The separation of the Irish Republic from the UK was a foregone conclusion. The first attempt by Britain to divest itself of a troubling colony was the first Home Rule Act in 1886 (which fell in the Commons), followed by the Second Home Rule Act of 1893 (passed the Commons but defeated in the House of Lords), and the Third in 1914, which passed and received Royal Assent, but was not implemented due to the beginning of World War I. Efforts to give Ireland Home Rule predate the formation of the Irish Volunteers in 1913, who later became the Irish Republican Army in 1917, so they were not the only factor in the formation of the Republic of Ireland.
Will we learn anything from this? That remains to be seen, and, hopefully, what we do learn will eventually reduce the chances of it happening again. I don’t hold much hope, since it is obvious is that the negligible chances of success for terrorism seems to have no deterrent for those willing to employ it…
“And those who give the orders they are not the ones who die…” – Tommy Sands