Making cowardice a capital offense strikes us as a kind of barbaric survival from a rougher age, a time, that is, when few doubted that courage ranked higher than pity or prudence in the scale of virtues. And if many of us today believe that capital punishment cannot be justified even for the sadistic torturer, what a shock to discover that, as an official matter at least, Congress reserves it for the person who cannot kill at all.
Miller, William I. "Weak Legs: Misbehavior before the Enemy." Representations 70 (2000): 27-48.