While this story continues to unfold in front of us, we have enough information to pose a few questions.
A popular theme on the Left (Rev. Wright, etc.) but also among a few on the libertarian Right, is that Islamic terrorism against the U.S. and its allies is “blowback” for our support of Israel, the Iraq War, and so forth. But just what beef do Chechnyans have with America? To the contrary, the U.S. tried, within the obvious limits, to push back against Russian aggression against Chechnya. Shouldn’t Chechnyan terrorists target Russian outposts in the West? The conclusion we may draw–not for the first time–is that a dominant strain of Islamic terrorism is categorical hatred of the West, not specific Middle Eastern policy.
But the main aspect to be considered is that beyond radical Islam is nihilism. A few observers–Roger Simon, for example–have already drawn a comparison to Leopold and Loeb, while others have drawn a parallel to Klebold and Harris (of Columbine). Here is where it gets more complicated. One of the suspects is a student at UMass; like the Unabomber at Harvard many years ago, is his radical Islam a reaction to the nihilism taught in higher ed today? This question is especially salient since the two suspects were otherwise “fully Americanized,” rather than being alienated immigrants. Embracing radical Islamic nihilism is one (obviously twisted) answer to the aimless nihilism taught in our universities.
The next worry is whether Al Quada, looking at this spectacle from afar, will abandon its strategy of seeking large, 9/11-style strikes in favor of smaller-scale strikes against soft targets like this.
UPDATE: The leader of Chechnya kinda, sorta makes my point: “Seek the roots of evil in America.”