Saturday, April 20, 2013

An Answer to Liberals’ Prayers. By Kevin D. Williamson.

An Answer to Liberals’ Prayers. By Kevin D. Williamson. National Review Online, April 19, 2013.

NPR Journalist: Boston Terrorist Attack Likely Right-Wingers Celebrating Columbine or Hitler’s Birthday. By Rusty Weiss. The Mental Recession, April 18, 2013.

NPR commentator implies Boston bombing was domestic terrorism from “right-wing individuals.” By Katie LaPotin. Red Alert Politics, April 18, 2013. YouTube.

Hunt for the elusive Tea Party murderer continues. By John Hayward. RedState, April 20, 2013.

We Are All Bostonians Now. By Maria Konnikova.

We are all Bostonians now. By Maria Konnikova. The Boston Globe, April 21, 2013.

Boston: A Place in History. By George Packer. The New Yorker, April 29, 2013.

Maria Konnikova website and blog.

Literally Psyched blog. By Maria Konnikova at Scientific American.

Maria Konnikova

Who Are the Tsarnaev Brothers?

The Culprits. By David Remnick. The New Yorker, April 29, 2013.

Boston’s Terror and the Children of the Fault Lines. By Fouad Ajami. Bloomberg, April 19, 2013.

In Boston, Echoes of the Home Grown Terror That Struck Madrid and London. By Sebastian Rotella. Real Clear World, April 20, 2013. Also at ProPublica.

Are the Tsarnaev Brothers Russian? By Michael Idov. The New Yorker, April 19, 2013.

Were the Tsarnaev Brothers Like Columbine Killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold? By Dave Cullen. Slate, April 19, 2013.

Please, Listen to Ruslan. By William Saletan. Slate, April 19, 2013.

Second Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect in Custody. By Jay Lindsay and Eileen Sullivan. AP. Real Clear Politics, April 20, 2013.

Gunfire in Watertown: Bob Glatz’s eyewitness account. By Scott Farmer. Los Angeles Times, April 20, 2013. Video, Fox News. YouTube.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were refugees from brutal Chechen conflict. By Peter Finn, Carol D. Leonning, and Will Englund. Washington Post, April 19, 2013. Also find it here.

Brothers in Marathon bombings too two paths into infamy. By Jenna Russell, Jenn Abelson, Patricia Wen, Michael Rezendes, and David Filipov. The Boston Globe, April 19, 2013. Also find it here.

Suspects With Foot in 2 Worlds, Perhaps Echoing Plots of Past. By Scott Shane. New York Times, April 20, 2013.

Boston suspects: Immigrant dream to American nightmare. By Wayne Drash, Moni Drasu, and Tom Watkins. CNN, April 21, 2013.

Bombing Inquiry Shifts to Motive and Russian Trip. By Eric Schmitt, Michael S. Schmidt, and Ellen Barry. New York Times, April 20, 2013.

The Mystery Of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s Trip To Dagestan. By Adam Taylor. Business Insider, April 20, 2013.

Cheers and jubilation follow apprehension of second suspect. By Zachary T. Sampson and Jaclyn Reiss. The Boston Globe, April 20, 2013. Also find it here.

As Boston reeled, younger bombing suspect partied. By Ann O’Neill and Melissa Gray. CNN, April 21, 2013.

How The Media Chose Its Boston “Suspects.” By Maysoon Zayid. The Daily Beast, April 22, 2013.

Boston Commons Celebration. Video, 8 parts. BigbysHand, April 20, 2013. YouTube.

Boston Commons Celebrations. Video. Christopher Barnett, April 20, 2013. YouTube.

Religious and Sacred Imperatives in Human Conflict. By Scott Atran and Jeremy Ginges.

Religious and Sacred Imperatives in Human Conflict. By Scott Atran and Jeremy Ginges. Science, Vol. 336, May 18, 2012.


Religion, in promoting outlandish beliefs and costly rituals, increases ingroup trust but also may increase mistrust and conflict with outgroups. Moralizing gods emerged over the last few millennia, enabling large-scale cooperation, and sociopolitical conquest even without war. Whether for cooperation or conflict, sacred values, like devotion to God or a collective cause, signal group identity and operate as moral imperatives that inspire nonrational exertions independent of likely outcomes. In conflict situations, otherwise mundane sociopolitical preferences may become sacred values, acquiring immunity to material incentives. Sacred values sustain intractable conflicts that defy “business-like” negotiation, but also provide surprising opportunities for resolution.

Social Warfare. By Scott Atran. Foreign Policy, March 15, 2013.

Psychology Out of the Laboratory. By Jeremy Ginges, Scott Atran, Sonya Sachdeva, and Douglas Medin. American Psychologist, Vol. 66, No. 6 (September 2011).

Scott Atran: “US foreign policy is set by people who’ve almost no insight into human welfare, education, labour, desires or hopes” – video. Posted by David Shariatmadari and Christian Bennett. The Guardian, October 31, 2011.

Talking to the Enemy. By Scott Atran. Video. theRSAorg, November 18, 2010. YouTube.

Scott Atran: Reacting to Terror. Video. AgendaStevePaikin, April 27, 2010. YouTube.

Why China Is Paranoid About America. By Ely Ratner.

China’s Victim Complex. By Ely Ratner. Foreign Policy, April 19, 2013.

Why are Chinese leaders so paranoid about the United States?

Why We Should Be P.C. After An Attack. By Isaac Chotiner.

Why We Should Be P.C. After An Attack. By Isaac Chotiner. The New Republic, April 20, 2013.

After the Boston Attack: The Terrible Truth About Terrorism. By Carlo Strenger.

After the Boston Attack: The Terrible Truth about Terrorism. By Carlo Strenger. The Huffington Post, April 17, 2013.


The Boston attack should remind us that terrorism is there to stay. If we don’t keep a cool mind, we let the terrorists win.

First my heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of the Boston marathon terror attack, and my best wishes for convalescence to the wounded. As many commentators have written already, unfortunately in Israel we have had so much experience with terror attacks that we have developed many ways to cope with it psychologically, practically, in terms of security measures and medically. But the US has already shown its resilience in the face of terror, and I am sure that Boston, a city I cherish, will recover its spirits quickly.

For the time being, nobody knows whether international (presumably jihadist) or domestic (presumably white supremacist) individuals or group perpetrated the Boston attack, even though first indications seem to favor the hypothesis of a domestic attack.

Whatever the final truth will turn out to be, it is time to realize a simple, and terrible truth about terrorism: it is there to stay.

This statement is neither meant to be defeatist, nor to argue that we should not do everything in our power to prevent it. It is to say that in the era of global communication networks there will always be individuals or groups who have some grievance they try to address by dramatic acts of destruction that sow fear, confusion, or, in brief: terror. Legal scholar and strategist Philip Bobbit has argued convincingly that terrorism is the form of war that will be prevalent in the twenty first century. If we do not realize that terrorism will never be eradicated completely, we are bound to make terrible mistakes in fighting it; mistakes that undermine the freedom of our societies, and will do little to actually lower the danger of further terrorism.

Let me summarize a few lessons I have learned in almost a decade of cooperating with leading terrorism researchers in the World Federation of Scientists. First and foremost I learned that terrorism comes in many shapes and variations. Some forms of terrorism are asymmetrical warfare trying to achieve specific goals like self-determination for the Basques, Chechnya or Palestine.

Others have much less clearly defined goals, and are governed by what historian and psychoanalyst Charles Strozier has called the apocalyptic mindset: the Baader-Meinhoff group in Germany wanted nothing less but to destabilize the German state. White supremacists in the US want nothing less but to turn the US into a “pure,” white society. Some Islamists want nothing but less but the revival of the caliphate and Islamic Domination of either the whole Middle East or the world as a whole. And some Jewish Messianic groups want nothing less than building the Third Temple in Jerusalem, and an Israel ruled by Biblical Law.

Because terrorism is motivated and generated by very different factors, there is no such thing as a “war on terror” any more than there is such a thing as “the war on illnesses.” AIDS needs very different cures and preventions than Cancer or flu-pandemics. Similarly each form of terrorism needs to be studied and fought on its own terms.

The second thing I learned is that there are two basic knee-jerk reactions to terrorism, and that both are wrong in their exclusive emphasis on one element.

Conservatives say, “Terrorists are evil. Never talk to them, only punishment and superior force will defeat terrorism.” Liberals say, “Terrorists are human beings. You need to understand their motivations, mostly born out of frustration, perceived injustice and humiliation, and to address their grievances.”

Both these knee-jerk reactions have very partial truth and effectiveness. The conservative reaction embodied in George W. Bush's conception of the War on Terror does not realize that most of today’s global terror networks cannot as such be defeated, because, unlike armies, they are often not organized as hierarchical chains of commands. Al Qaeda is an organization; but most of all it is a state of mind that pulsates through the Islamic world, primarily in the Internet. The groups that perpetrated 9/11, 7/7 in London and the Madrid bombings were not recruited and trained by a central organization, but organized spontaneously without connection to a central command. This is why killing terrorist leaders will always have limited effectiveness: as long as the jihadist state of mind is growing in the Islamic world, new terror groups will emerge time and again, as former CIA officer and psychiatrist Marc Sageman has shown.

The liberal reaction assumes that the source of all terrorism is to be found in wrongdoings by the West ranging from Colonialism to US interference in many areas of the world. But it does not take into account that, in many cases, the grievances, perceived humiliations and injustices cannot be addressed directly. Many of the youngsters who gravitate towards terror networks are incensed by the humiliating fact that much of the Islamic world is way behind the developed world economically, militarily and culturally. Their frustration is aggravated by an enormous youth-bulge in much of the Islamic world. Without any viable hope for a fruitful life, they try to regain dignity and the sense of living a meaningful life by committing to the jihadist cause – a process documented in detail by anthropologist Scott Atran.

The problem with the liberal response is that no form of global social work can address all of these grievances. Islamic societies often experience well-meaning interventions trying to help them to modernize as just another humiliation, and these attempts often cannot cope with these societies’ enormous internal complexities. The colossal failures of the US in promoting state building in Afghanistan and Iraq show that the West. And the liberal position does not take into account that certain grievances cannot be addressed by any realistic policies: America will not become purely white; the Caliphate will not be reinstated; and the Third Temple will not come from heaven in the Messianic age.

The conclusion from all this is that none of us will ever have a final solution for terrorism. Conservatives are right in saying that we must be vigilant and that, in many cases, there is no way around using violence in combating terrorism. But they are wrong if they think that if you just use enough power, you’ll get rid of it. Liberals are right that if we don’t try to understand and address the root-causes of terrorism, the War on Terror is bound to generate even more terrorist organizations and acts. But they are wrong in thinking that if we just show enough empathy for terrorists’ motivations, they will all become law-abiding citizens.

We would all like terrorism to disappear, but this is wishful thinking. There is no alternative to keeping a clear and cool mind, even in the face of the horror perpetrated by terrorist acts. If we lose our minds, terrorism wins.

Why Are the Israelis So Damn Happy. By Tiffanie Wen.

Why are the Israelis so Damn Happy. By Tiffanie Wen. The Daily Beast, April 14, 2013.

Syria’s Six Simultaneous Conflicts. By Rami G. Khouri.

Syria’s six simultaneous conflicts. By Rami G. Khouri. The Daily Star (Lebanon), April 17, 2013.

Global Jihad in Syria: Disputes Amidst a Common Goal. By Yoram Schweitzer and Gal Toren. INSS. Insight No. 419, April 18, 2013.

Did Boston Bombing Suspect Post Al Qaeda Prophecy on YouTube? By Adam Serwer.

Did Boston Bombing Suspect Post Al Qaeda Prophecy on YouTube? By Adam Serwer. Mother Jones, April 19, 2013.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s YouTube Page Focused On Islam. By Scott Lamb. BuzzFeed, April 19, 2013.

A guide to Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s favorite YouTube videos. By Christian Caryl. Foreign Policy, April 19, 2013.

On social media, Tsarnaevs mixed religious fervor and youthful whimsy. By Robert Windrem and Konrad Jankowski. NBC News, April 19, 2013.

Who is Tamerlan Tsarnaev? By David Kenner. Foreign Policy, April 19, 2013.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev: Fighter with a hidden hatred. By Jennifer Bain, M.L. Nestel, Jennifer Gould Keil, and Kate Sheehy. New York Post, April 20, 2013.

Nothing tough about this boxer’s character. By Kevin Cullen. Boston Globe, April 20, 2013. Also find it here.

Boston bombs: Obama lulled America into false confidence over terror threat. By Peter Foster. The Telegraph, April 19, 2013.

The Radical Preacher Who May Have Influenced the Boston Marathon Bombers. By Noam Scheiber. The New Republic, April 20, 2013.

Feiz Mohammad: Radical Muslim Preacher Who Inspired Boston Marathon Bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. By Gareth Platt. International Business Times, April 19, 2013.

The Sheikh Who May Have Influenced Boston’s Tsarnaev Brothers. By Eli Lake. The Daily Beast, April 19, 2013.

Boston Marathon terrorism: The toxic brew of Islam and politics. By Eric Golub. Washington Times, April 19, 2013.

Fury at Australia cleric comments. BBC News, January 18, 2007.

Excerpt: “Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda.” By Ali H. Soufan and Daniel Freedman. The Soufan Group, September 13, 2011.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s YouTube Page.

Harry Potter (In For A Surprise): Sheikh Feiz. Video. quran sunnah, August 31, 2012. YouTube.

And They Say It’s Only Sunnah: Shaykh Feiz Mohammed. Video. QuranandSunnahYT, May 28, 2012. YouTube.

The Emergence of Prophecy: The Black Flags From Khorasan. Video. sam232690, July 4, 2012. YouTube.

Chechen Terrorism and the Vindication of Vladimir Putin. By Jacob Heilbrunn.

Chechen Terrorism and the Vindication of Vladimir Putin. By Jacob Heilbrunn. The National Interest, April 19, 2013.

How Vladimir Putin Could Help Boston. By Fred Kaplan. Slate, April 19, 2013.

Russia, US may face a shared threat. By Simon Saradzhyan. Boston Globe, April 20, 2013. Also find it here.

Jihad in Russia: the Caucasus Emirate. IISS, December 2012.

Investigators explore possible link between Boston bombing suspect and extremist group. By Catherine Herridge., April 20, 2013.

Northern Caucasus is an epicenter of Islamism. Interview with Uwe Halbach. Deutsche Welle, April 20, 2013.

Chechnya Casts a Long Shadow Over the Boston Marathon Bombings. By Cerwyn Moore. The Telegraph, April 20, 2013.

Chechnya and the Bombs in Boston. The Economist, April 20, 2013.

War-torn Caucasus may be at root of the brothers’ rage. By Dan Peleschuk. USA Today, April 20, 2013.

The Boston Bombing Suspects Were Reared by Both Chechnya and America. By Julia Ioffe. The New Republic, April 19, 2013.

Chechnya’s centuries-long bloody strife goes global. By Stephen Kinzer. The Guardian, April 19, 2013.

Chechens: Legendary tough guys. By Laura Miller. Salon, April 20, 2013.

Chechen war expert: “This is a big deal.” By Christopher Swift. Foreign Policy, April 19, 2013.

Boston Attacks Turn Spotlight on Troubled Region of Chechnya. By Peter Baker and C.J. Chivers. New York Times, April 21, 2013.

Russians, Chechens Worry About Boston Fallout. By Leonid Bershidsky. Bloomberg, April 19, 2013.

The Roots of Chechen Rage. By Oliver Bullough. Foreign Policy, April 21, 2013.

The Chechen Connection. By Anne Applebaum. Slate, April 19, 2013. Also at the Washington Post.


One or both of the brothers might well have been in touch with Chechen separatists, whose websites they were reportedly reading. They could even have been in touch with al-Qaida. But I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion. Chechen terrorists have in the past been more anti-Russian than pro-Islam. They were never anti-American.

Look, instead, at another possibility—one that is in some ways more disturbing than the convenient “foreigners who hate us” explanation. Although very little has been confirmed, the behavior of the Tsarnaev brothers looks less like that of hardened, trained terrorists and far more closely resembles the second-generation European Muslims who have staged bombings in Madrid, London, and other European cities. Educated and brought up in Europe, these young men nevertheless felt out of place in Europe. Unable to integrate, some turned toward a half-remembered, half-mythological homeland in search of a firmer, fiercer identity. Often they did so with the help of a radical cleric like the one the Tsarnaev brothers may have known. “I do not have a single American friend,” Tamerlan Tsarnaev reportedly said of himself. That’s the kind of statement that might have been made by a young Pakistani living in Coventry or a young Algerian living in Paris.

We don’t expect to hear it from someone who grew up in Boston, a city that has taught generations of foreigners to become Americans in a country that likes to think of itself as a melting pot. But now it might be time to change our expectations. These terrorists are a lot less like the 9/11 attackers and a lot more like the men known as the Tube bombers of London or the train bombers of Spain. Our response is going to have to be different—very different—as well.

Civilization and Barbarism. By William Kristol.

Civilization and Barbarism. By William Kristol. The Weekly Standard, April 29, 2013. Also find it here.

Irresponsible Speculation About Right-Wing Violence. By Philip Klein.

Why coverage of “right-wing” violence irritates conservatives. By Philip Klein. Washington Examiner, April 19, 2013.