In Russia, too, the fallout is pernicious. The Tsarnaevs’ alleged attack superficially appears to justify Putin’s nationalist politics in the North Caucasus, and to lend credence to his argument that Russia’s two wars against Chechen independence — from 1994 to 1996 and in 1999 — were waged in the name of national security. In this sense, the Boston bombings have been a diplomatic gift to him.
However, just about the only thing that seems clear about this murderous affair is that utterly alienated young men of any religion or ethnicity might suddenly rebel violently. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s reluctant rejection of the materialistic American life — even after the bombing, he continued to tweet, attend campus parties, and go to the gym — appears to have been consolidated by what indeed could have been his older brother’s resentment of Putin’s brutal reassertion of control in the North Caucasus.
However, in that case the Boston bombings appear to present a paradox. While the Tsarnaev brothers may have objected to the supposed vanity of the secular state, there is another sense in which they might be right that Russia and the West are not so different from each other. Just as Russia must deal with a growing wave of fundamentalism that its own policies have fueled, the summary condemnation of Muslims in the US will breed more alienation and retribution from within.
After all, the attacks on the Madrid train system in 2004 and on London’s public transport system in 2005 were not carried out by Saudi or Taliban immigrants, but by young men born and raised in Spain and the UK. For years afterward, the US was held out as an exception — a country in which young men, whatever their background, felt truly at home. The Boston Marathon bombings, like so many acts of mass violence in the US, should retire that view once and for all.
Nina Khrushcheva teaches international affairs at The New School and is a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York.
Copyright: Project Syndicate