Was the Boston marathon bombing an act of terrorism? That is to say, was it violence or intimidation perpetrated for political aims? Or was it an attempt at mass murder more akin to the attack on Columbine High School or the Aurora, Colorado, shooting? It's possible that the prime motive of the perpetrators will turn out to be political or religious, Glenn Greenwald writes in The Guardian, adding that it's also possible that their motives will turn out to be something unexpected.
Andrew Sullivan vehemently disagrees. In "Yes, Of Course It Was Jihad," he labels Greenwald's agnosticism "left liberal self-parody." As Sullivan sees it, dismissing "the overwhelming evidence" that the attack was religiously motivated "is to be blind to an almost text-book case of Jihadist radicalization." He proceeds to lay out his reasons for reaching that conclusion.
Some of his observations are compelling.
Forced to bet right now on this case, I'd put my money on the jihadist explanation too. But here's the thing: None of us is forced to bet or speculate or parse incomplete evidence right now.
So why do it? Or if we just can't resist, why mock those with stronger willpower? As Kevin Drum puts it:
What we know about Tamerlan Tsarnaev is that he was (a) Muslim and (b) enraged about something. Was he enraged, a la Sayyid Qutb, about the sexual libertinism of American culture? Was he enraged about perceived American support for Russia against Chechen rebels? Was he enraged about American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Was he acting on orders from a foreign terrorist group? We don't know yet. Yes, there's plainly evidence of his growing Islamic extremism over the past three years. But if there's anything we've learned over the last week, it's that jumping to conclusions on this stuff is foolish. Our natural curiosity isn't a good enough reason to rush to judgment about Tsarnaev's motivations. Just wait.
There's no harm in it. We'll find out soon enough.
That's the part of Drum's post that I wish everyone in America would internalize, myself included: "Just wait. There's no harm in it." It's true. There really isn't any harm in waiting for more facts to emerge. Whereas much mischief is the result of weighing in too soon and getting things wrong.