This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.
Anyone who thinks the war on terror is something less than a war should take a better look at the images out of Boston on Monday.
Innocent runners and spectators — not soldiers — deliberately targeted. An 8-year-old among the dead; many survivors gravely injured. Limbs blown off. Streams of blood on the pavement.
Most sobering of all is the certainty that many rejoiced at the carnage. Hatred of the United States — of the entire West — is endemic in parts of the world. Some in this country share the sentiment.
As of this writing, little is known about these attacks. It’s reasonable to suspect a group or individual who shares the ideology of al-Qaida. Or someone in the mold of Timothy McVeigh. Or some other breed of terrorist entirely. It may not have been a coincidence that the bombings occurred on the anniversary of the start of the Revolution at Lexington and Concord.
That this was an act of terror was clear almost immediately. Yet it was a kind of terrorism this country has seen little of.
McVeigh attacked the Murrah Building in Oklahoma — a symbol of the federal government he hated. The al-Qaida operatives of 9/11 attacked the World Trade Center, a symbol of American economic dominance, and the Pentagon, a symbol of American military dominance.
The terrorists aboard United Airlines Flight 93, whose passengers forced a crash in Pennsylvania, were believed bent on destroying the Capitol or White House — other symbols of American empire.
Nidel Malik Hasan, who killed 13 at Fort Hood in 2009, was targeting uniformed (if unarmed) American combatants.
While those were atrocities, there was a twisted logic behind them.
But the Boston Marathon is a symbol of — what? Running? Fitness? Ordinary people cheering on other ordinary people?
The event lacks a symbolic or even tangential connection with the sins of the U.S. government. This was random in a way most earlier acts of terror on American soil were not. It appears to have been an attack on Americans solely for the crime of being American.
The United States has actually had a long run of good luck, for the most part, since 9/11. There are people out there who would gladly topple a skyscraper every week in this country — yet nothing remotely of that magnitude, including Monday’s bombings, has been repeated in the last 12 years.
But what happened in Boston was plenty horrific in its own right. It was a reminder, many years into this struggle against terrorism, that defending this country will be a marathon, not a sprint.