is execution the most effective punishment for the boston bomber?

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The death sentence is tricky ground, and for ill-informed, loud-mouthed bloggers like myself it can be particularly treacherous. Therefore, I am largely avoiding the moral quagmire which surrounds the matter, and instead, will merely consider the effectiveness of the punishment recently handed out to ‘Boston Bomber’, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Given the nature, and scale of the terrorist attack perpetrated by Tsarnaev and his accomplice, there is no shortage of American citizens baying for his execution. They see it as the ultimate punishment, the ultimate deterrent.

But American society is in flux. With the recent spate of botched executions, its proponents are facing tougher questions than ever from the more liberally inclined elements of US society. Despite a CNN poll claiming that 53% of the US population believe Tsarnaev should face the death penalty, a Boston Globe poll suggested that as little as 15% of Boston residents feel the same.

This discrepancy may be down to a realisation that in some ways, capital punishment is not the catch all, fix all solution is claims to be.

From a practical point of view, not only is execution (and finding a method of execution), a tricky business, but pursuing it will result in years of appeals. Families of those affected will be forced to continually dig up their past, whilst the state will spend a small fortune on legal fees. Then there is the ideology behind the tragic events and their aftermath. If Tsarnaev was genuinely inspired by religious zeal and cultural warfare, and not his brothers ill-advised designs as his lawyers claim, then martyrdom would not be the devastating finality that it represents to those less religiously inclined. If you are trying to punish someone with this kind of mindset, then surely incarcerating and subjecting them to an unglamourous existence would be far more successful?

If he genuinely was the victim of a perverse psychological campaign from his elder brother, then, skipping the moral dilemma of supposedly Christian forgiveness, what will the radical Islamist publicists make of things? Will they trumpet his renouncing of the twisted, pseudo-religious thinking which prompted the Boston bombings? Of course not. Tsarnaev will be lauded as a martyr, killed by the oppressive Western infidels, yet another poster boy for the bitter world of extremism.

But what if he’s just left to rot – would that make such a good headline for the likes of ISIS and co.? “US shows mercy to the perpetrator of one of worst terrorist attacks on its soil”; “Bomber will be detained for life in humane conditions”, the answer is obviously no. Whilst some would see it as a sign of weakness on the part of America, it is important to distinguish between prudence and weakness.

Tsarnaev’s crimes are inexcusable, and I am the first to say he will probably never be fit to walk the streets as a free man. But if there’s one thing you shouldn’t fight a fire with, it’s more fire.