Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Boston Marathon Bombing meets Institutional Analysis

Even though this blog is about real economics, the temptation to apply Institutional Analysis to the explosions at the Boston Marathon is just overwhelming.  So forgive this diversion.

That fact that the perpetrators are Chechens from Dagestan explains a lot.  Put simply, the Chechens are a people that many Russians want to eliminate from the face of the earth.  Stalin hated them.  Putin basically leveled the Chechen capital of Grozny.  Chechens in Moscow can be subject to physical attacks.  Whether the Chechens are "freedom fighters" (USA State Department) or "terrorists" (Putin's government), growing up Chechen is NOT for the weak or faint of heart.  The fact the Tsarnaev brothers grew up in Dagestan means they started life as economically precarious refugees.

The older brother was named for one of history's more brutal conquerers who has been estimated to have butchered almost 5% of the world's then known population.  So we do not have a child named for a poet.  Folks like that were cast out of the Chechen culture AND gene pool LONG ago.  What's left is pretty ferocious.

So the brothers Tsarnaev come to the USA in time to watch the country invade two countries from their neighborhood on the nakedly fraudulent pretext of fighting terrorism.  In spite of the fact that his economic situation is still very precarious, Tamerlan gets married and has a kid.  As the bills mount up, his uncle determines he is a "loser."  Of course, the uncle fails to mention that in Tamerlan's age group, at least half the earth's population are "losers."  So we have someone who is a stranger in a strange land who cannot figure out any path out of "loserhood."  He is probably furious that no one he knows in USA has any idea what it means to be bombed—as they casually justify the use of drones in countries that they could not locate on a map.

The point here is that those bigots running around the land screaming that this is another example of Muslim "extremism" are barking up the wrong tree.  Tamerlan did not need to fall under the spell of a magical guru, he had overwhelming reasons to be furious by the facts he could see and feel on a daily basis.

Of course, merely being angry does not a bomber make.  He needs the means to get his hands on a bomb.  And here we encounter a major theme in Institutional Analysis—technological diffusion.  The fact that your desktop computer or iPad has far more capabilities and power than all the computers combined at my university when I still a student in the early 1970s is the most obvious example of diffusion.  But technology diffuses in many areas and the massive innovation in cheap, but very effective, Improvised Explosive Devices during the USA occupation of Iraq proves that weapons are just another area.  Turns out cell phones make excellent remote explosive triggers—who cudda known?  Tamerlan did not need a terrorist infrastructure to arm himself—he could build those simple bombs in a garage out of parts he could buy at Wal-Mart.

Welcome to the brave new world—where free-lancers can actually wage war on a primitive level.  One thing is absolutely certain—chasing Muslim "extremism" and cutting off links between terrorist organizations will not stop a Tamerlan Tsarnaev.  And though I don't claim to be an expert in these matters, might I suggest that the best way to stop the Tamerlans of this world from blowing things up is to ensure they have a clear route out of "loserhood."  We simply must give young people meaningful work opportunities.  Otherwise, they will spend their idle time and ingenuity figuring out how to make bombs out of pressure cookers.

Boston suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev blames dead brother Tamerlan

jr/rc (AFP, dpa, AP)  23 APR 13

The surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has reportedly told investigators they were the work of his brother, now dead. Authorities are seeking a motive for the attacks, which killed three and injured 200.

Dzhokhar Tsarnev, 19, was charged on Monday at a bedside hearing in hospital, where he was recovering from gunshot wounds, with using a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death. He faces life in prison or the death penalty if found guilty.

His 26-year-old brother Tamerlan was killed last Friday in an exchange of gunfire with police, after days on the run with Dzhokar, who fled on foot but was captured later that day following a massive manhunt.

The younger brother reportedly told investigators Tamerlan Tsarnev was the leader of the attacks, according to the broadcaster CNN, and that Tamerlan was a self-styled radical motivated by jihadist ideas.

Counter-terrorism experts are still seeking a motive, and want to find out if more attacks were planned. According to an unnamed government source quoted by CNN, "preliminary interviews with Tsarnaev indicate the two brothers fit the classification of self-radicalized jihadists," and that international groups were not involved.

Top investigators were to brief the US House of Representatives on Tuesday about a possible failure to act on advice from Russia, which raised concerns about Tamerlan Tsarnaev two years ago and flagged him as a possible Islamist radical. It is understood the FBI interviewed him in 2011.

The Tsarnaev brothers emigrated to the United States a decade ago from Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim region in Russia's Caucasus.

Lawyers for the wife of Tamerlan Tsarnaev say she is doing everthing she can to assist authorities. According to a statement from attorneys Amato DeLuca and Miriam Weizenbaum, Katherine Tsarnaeva is "trying to come to terms with these events," and is in deep mourning.  Their mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, and aunt, Patimat Suleimanova, told the Reuters news agency on Monday that Tamerlan Tsarnaev visited relatives in Chechnya for two days last year, during a six-month trip out of the United States. Investigators are looking into whether the elder brother was trained or radicalized while he was away.

"The report of involvement by her husband and brother-in-law came as an absolute shock to them all," said the statement. more

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