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Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson
#28 - JRL 2006-119 - JRL Home
Subject: RE: 2006-#118-Johnson's Russia List/ Hough [re: demographics, birth rates, life expectancy]
Date: Sun, 21 May 2006
From: "Thomas Nichols, CIV, NAVWARCOL" <thomas.nichols@nwc.navy.mil>

Regarding Jerry Hough's rather peculiar outburst over the problem of birth rates and life expectancy in Russia, in which he excoriates Americans "of both parties" for refusing to "raise the issue" and wonders why human interest organizations won't "speak up" :

The Russian health care system is a mess. This is not news. But for Hough to compare the problem of life expectancy (which is in many cases driven by choice, however ill-informed those choices may be) with the forcible extermination of millions of innocent people in the mad schemes of totalitarian dictators is simply obscene. it is the kind of facile comparison that rightly makes people possessed of any amount of common sense wary of the opinion of intellectuals, and only clouds an issue on which reasonable people might find themselves otherwise in substantial agreement.

What, exactly, would Hough have the United States--or for that matter, human rights groups--actually *do* about Russian life expectancy? Send troops to Russia to slap cigarettes and vodka bottles out of the hands of young men? Pass resolutions in the Security Council that Russians must buckle their seat belts and stop driving like maniacs? Embargo the Russian government until it makes its population sit up straight and eat its vegetables?

The life expectancy of Russian men (some of whom I count among my friends) is a genuine tragedy. But to invoke Hitler, Stalin, and Hannah Arendt in hyperventilation about how long Russians live--to say nothing of the wince-inducing comment that Sudan "at least has an excuse" for its appalling genocide--contributes nothing to the discussion. If I were a Russian (of any age), I would be deeply offended by Hough's breezy comparisons, to say nothing of his paternalism. As an American, I am embarrassed.

And if this is the "most incredible thing" Hough has seen in 50 years, one can say only that he's missed quite a lot.