Did Boston overreact?

Now that the surviving Marathon bomber is in custody, it’s possible to start thinking about what lessons have been learned from the awful tragedy. One is obvious: the FBI should have found a way to track Tamarlan Tsarnaev more closely after getting tips from Moscow that he was becoming a devotee of radical Islam.

But something else struck me when I was sitting in my brother’s home last Saturday, in Arlington, MA, one town over from Cambridge (where the brothers had been living) heeding the directives of local officials not to go outside:

If this is the new normal, where lone-wolf terrorists can upend an entire city and its suburbs, it becomes terribly easy to paralyze the entire country. Can we really afford to let them bring the daily lives of a half a million people to a total halt?

We all know that the Boston police feared that Dzhokar Tsarnaev might have more explosives with him and didn’t know if he might have accomplices. But something tells me that when the post mortems for this tragic episode are conducted, it will become clear that the closure of the entire city of Boston in order to catch one murderous teen-ager was an overreaction.

As was rightly noted by the well-known Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea (who lost a son to terrorists), the massive shutdown sends “a dangerous message to every tormented teenager who is gathering information from the Internet on how to assemble bombs…The road to fame is short, and it does not take too much effort,” just a pressure cooker and some shrapnel and ball bearings.

That is a message this country cannot afford to send.

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