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Thoughts on the Boston bombing developments

We need to be extremely humble about our ability to understand this, at least for now.

SWAT teams enter a Watertown neighborhood to search for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Friday morning.
REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Thoughts on Boston/Cambridge/Watertown (based on nothing more than the amazing live TV coverage, mostly by CNN, which seems to have sent their whole organization to Boston):

We need to be extremely humble about our ability to understand this, at least for now.

For the moment, there seems no reason to assume that the two brothers were part of any larger plot or network. (Is that reassuring or the opposite of reassuring?) The two bombs that exploded at the Boston Marathon were so low-tech that it’s easy to believe that they could have been made by the brothers without assistance. Perhaps we will eventually learn that they had help.

In the aftermath of 9/11 we are naturally inclined to look for larger, more organized forces, bent on attacking America. For moment, this appears to be an act of two brothers who decided to do it for reasons about which we can, at the moment, only speculate from ignorance. They never made a claim of responsibility for the bombing.

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They seem to have had no plan for the aftermath, including no getaway plan. (IF they had had one, they might have been long gone by now). They apparently had no money for a getaway. After their pictures were broadcast Thursday, they allegedly committed a triple crime, robbing a convenience store on the MIT campus, carjacking a vehicle (during which, for no apparent reason, they decided to announce to the car’s owner that they were the marathon bombers), then killing a university policeman during the getaway.

The police found them two hours later in Watertown. A gunfight ensued in which explosives were thrown by the brothers. Somehow (I haven’t seen details) the younger brother ran over the older brother in the car, killing him, with the younger brother getting away. At the moment, police are searching for the younger brother.

If they capture him without killing him, perhaps he will explain the deeper mysteries. Based on interviews with those who knew them at school and at work, the brothers (especially the younger brother) were on their way to a classic immigrant success story. They had escaped from danger and oppression (in some combination of Chechnya and perhaps Kirghizstan), had settled in the “Cradle of Liberty” and were getting an education and a start toward a life of affluence, compared to those in their homeland. Most Chechens are Muslims, but I haven’t heard any reporting these brothers were devout nor radical.

At this instant, police have cleared out a block in Watertown and are running around with guns drawn. It is likely, but not confirmed, that they believe they have the surviving brother surrounded…