Boston’s celebration last Friday evening was pleasant to watch. Crowds in Watertown rightfully applauded the police who captured alive bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. But now that a weekend has gone by, we need to appraise the bittersweet result. Let’s remember what Winston Churchill told the British Parliament on June 4, 1940, after most of the British army managed its Dunkirk escape from Hitler’s triumphant forces: “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuation.”
Nor are wars won by arresting individual killers. President Barack Obama said on Saturday,“Americans refuse to be terrorized. Ultimately, that’s what we’ll remember from this week.” Maybe, but would-be terrorists will remember that the Tsarnaev brothers did terrorize Americans. They murdered and maimed many on a city’s holiday. They captured the attention of tens of millions for a week. They caused the lockdown of a major metropolitan area for a day, at a cost to businesses of a third of a billion dollars. Nine thousand police of various sorts chased them. That enormous disruption is a terrorist victory.
The result for the terrorists themselves will lead some Islamists to think they can pick their poison. If they’re ready to die and supposedly receive Allah’s thanks and gifts, they don’t have to blow themselves up, but can follow the example of brother No. 1 and go down “heroically” amid gunfire. If they want to live, and use American law and freedoms to put their Islamist perspective before millions of people, and be treated as a hero by some on the left, that door is open, and we’ll see if brother No. 2 steps through it.
If some Islamists are fanatical enough, and if the rest of us tie the hands of anti-terrorist squads by telling them they can’t target Muslim groups, we’ll have more Bostons. The next one will also get rapt national attention, although not as much, but what about the fifth? Pray for God’s protection from terrorists and our own illusions.