Typhoons and Soft Power

We’re not really a fan of the term “soft power.” It’s a rather vague term that often, rather than having a universally accepted meaning instead is whatever the user wishes to convey, with the exception of actual combat.

And absent a coherent strategy and policy for the use of hard power, soft power seems to bring little gain to the wielder of soft power.

Having said that, the US tends to be a fairly generous nation, and the services, the Navy in particular, have embraced the Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Response mission with some considerable enthusiasm.  After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, we recall political opponents mocking the Bush administration for sending nuclear powered aircraft carriers as a response.

But warships tend to actually be pretty good tools. They carry their own communications, logistics, and aviation facilities. Carriers, and even better, large amphibious warfare ships, have excellent hospital facilities, and the means to transport patients. Amphibs are great to move the first tranches of aid supplies to afflicted areas until such time as normal logistics can be restored.

And so it is, the US is leading the logistical response to assist the Philippines in the wake of the recent typhoon:

 The following is an incomplete list of assets various governments are sending or have already sent to support humanitarian assistance in response to Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda.
United States
USS George Washington (CVN 73)
USS Antietam (CG 54)
USS Cowpens (CG 63)
USS Mustin (DDG 89)
USS Lassen (DDG 82)
USS McCampbell (DDG 85)
USS Ashland (LSD 48)
USS Germantown (LSD 42)
USS Denver (LPD 9)
USS Emory S. Land (AS 39)
USNS Yukon (T-AO-202)
USNS Walter S. Diehl (T-AO 193)
USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62)
USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE-4)
USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE 10)
USNS Mercy (T-AH 19)

As Galrahn notes, the US Navy/Marine Corps response already has more helicopters on scene than the Philippine government has available.

3 thoughts on “Typhoons and Soft Power”

  1. It’s not fully altruistic. These are very good exercises. They work all the non-combat functions of the Navy. Deployment, communications, logistics, you name it. These things are a very good opportunity to look at how we move, scoot and communicate. It’s just leaves out the shoot.

    1. Agreed, although some folks over at Phib’s place don’t seem to.

      While I find the “global force for good” concept to be silly, these disaster projects are an excellent example of doing well while doing good. 🙂

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