Mindless violence again has America's attention.
The bomb blasts Monday that shattered the festive atmosphere at the Boston Marathon demonstrate once again how easy it is to kill and maim innocent people if that is the sole intent.
In our open society, soft targets are too numerous to count. No security could ever be enough to consistently prevent a determined individual or group from identifying and carrying out a random attack of this nature.
The question for investigators to resolve now is not whether this was another terrorist attack. Attacks aimed at innocents can only be described as terroristic in nature.
Who did it and why are completely different matters. Most people's first thought is that this was another 9/11-style attack by al-Qaida.
But this kind of mindless mayhem comes in many forms and for many reasons.
Fugitive Eric Rudolph was responsible for a series of bombings, including one at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He was an extremist who dedicated his life to fighting abortion. Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 as a means of expressing opposition to a perceived loss of liberty at the hands of soul-crushing government agencies. These lone wolves are hard to identify and stop.
Then there are the more sophisticated conspiracies carried out by like-minded extremists. Since 9/11, law enforcement has been able to fend off these attacks through good investigative work or good luck. The "underwear bomber," who tried to blow up a jetliner, comes to mind, as does the attempted Times Square car bombing. There have been many others.
Unfortunately, the odds are on the side of those who wish to cause harm. Law enforcement must stop these predators every time, but attacks only need to succeed from time to time to leave a deep scar on this country.
So, once again, we are staggered and shocked by cowardly cruelty. At least three people are dead, more than 170 injured, some severely. A major American city is essentially on lockdown while people across the United States and the world watch in sorrow, anguish and rage.
Whoever did this has won this round. But they will be caught and pay a fearsome price.