The commentators who argued over whether Chechens are “white” were engaging in academic babble that put medieval scholastics to shame. The civil libertarians who falsely said terrorists have continued to talk to authorities after being read Miranda rights were shown to be dupes when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev shut up as soon he was charged. The self-congratulatory bureaucrats who insisted everything was under control found it difficult to explain why the name Tamerlan Tsarnaev was present in two government databases prior to the attack, or what made the Russians so worried enough to alert the FBI and CIA, or how Tamerlan could be interviewed once by the FBI and then disappear into a cloud of militant religious fervor. The media that so fastidiously examined every aspect of Dzhokhar’s life and personality, interviewing acquaintances who pronounced his goodness and in a preposterous search for what American society might have done to provoke his jihad, insulted the men and women whose lives have been irrevocably altered by this Millennial barbarian. And those who, before all the facts are known, so desperately denied that the Tsarnaevs may have had additional accomplices or overseas connections were openly evading the global aspect of brothers’ origin and ideology.

The response to Boston on the part of so many intellectuals, inside and outside government, was a sign of perplexity. They had been concussed when mugged by reality. Doing the opposite of what Bush had done did not, in the end, improve the global situation or make America safer. On the contrary, it may have made the situation worse. The plots against America continue. The ideology that motivates them has not died. Indeed, the space in which that ideology’s adherents operate is expanding: From Mali, to Libya, to Sinai, to Somalia, to Yemen, to Syria, to Iraq, to Afghanistan, to Pakistan, those who act in the name of al Qaeda have more room to maneuver. Presidential outreach has not mattered. It has been dismissed. The Muslim world is growing more violent, and it is exporting that violence and conflict overseas.

What Boston showed was that some problems defy the easy answers proffered by American politicians, and that some problems cannot be hid from for long.