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.

Disaster in Tacloban, Philippines: Chasers document “ghastly” scene from typhoon

More than 1,000 people are feared dead in the city of Tacloban in the central Philippines in the wake of a devastating storm surge and destructive winds from super typhoon Haiyan.

A team of three storm chasers, Josh Morgerman, James Reynolds, and Mark Thomas , under the moniker “iCyclone”, rode out the violent storm in Tacloban.

Thomas sustained a leg injury from storm debris.

via Disaster in Tacloban, Philippines: Chasers document “ghastly” scene from typhoon.

From what I’m hearing, we can expect those numbers to go up considerably.

And don’t forget, there’s a zillion small villages in the area, many of which the government still hasn’t established contact with.

Imagine if the city of Boise, or Spokane, or Rochester were simply wiped off the map.

I haven’t seen any announcements yet, but I expect the USS George Washington and its escorts may very well be sent to the Philippines for humanitarian operations.