The Corner

Because They’re Losers

So far today, the only person who’s said something unarguably true is the uncle of the bombers. When asked why his nephews had committed such a crime, he said: Because they’re “losers.” It’s too early to say if this event represents the arrival of the Chechnya war in America, or whether there’s a radical jihadi cell among Boston’s Chechens, or any of the other theories that are flying around with absolutely no substantiation. (I imagine that answering some of those questions is among the many reasons the FBI would prefer to take the remaining bomber alive.) But these kinds of young males, who drift though life with grandiose dreams of boxing victories, picking up a random night-college course here and there, and never growing up in any way, are the perfect foot soldiers for terrorist appeals that promise glory.

In this, they’re not that different from school shooters, who kill for the glory of being remembered, while avenging childish hurts and resentments they themselves barely understand. This could be part of a bigger plot; it could also be a freak occurrence, a tragedy hatched by two dysfunctional brothers. Either way, the soft muck of a culture of perpetual adolescence and of low expectations — including the collapse of any expectation that immigrants assimilate — is the perfect breeding ground for dim young men who will walk into crowds with bombs in the hope of being remembered for something other than failure.

— Thomas Nichols is a professor at the Naval War College in Rhode Island.

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