Glenn Reynolds is nothing if not judicious. First he links, without comment, to a story that the Russians plan to wrap the corpses of the Chechen hostage-takers in pigskin to deny them the entry to paradise they might have thought they were entitled to as jihadi martyrs. Then he follows with a link to Aziz Poonawallah’s critique of the idea on Islamic doctrinal grounds. (They weren’t jihadis, they were engaging in harabah, which the Qur’an condemns. Therefore, it’s wrong to act as if they had earned a martyr’s entry to paradise by taking a symbolic step deprive them of it.) Reynolds adds, “This is probably right, though it assumes a degree of rationality not in evidence.”

Hold it a second. I’m all in favor of rational discourse, considering all the costs and benefits of alternative courses of action, etc., etc. That’s what I teach about. But this problem seems rather simple to me; I think I can analyze it thorougly in one sentence:

The Russians shouldn’t bury the Chechens wrapped in pigskin because decent human beings don’t desecrate corpses.

Actually, I think I can analyze it better in a shorter sentence:


This is not a contest we can win by being more disgusting than our enemies.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: