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The Soft Power Currencies of US Navy Hospital Ship Missions


  • I am pleased to acknowledge the help of Lynn Alberding, Robert Axelrod, Ivo Dobrev, Theresa Jackson, Katherine Lacasse, Solomon Major, and Albert Shimkus.
  • [Corrections added 27 February 2015, after original online publication: grammatical changes have been made to this article to improve clarity.]


The Tsunami in South-East Asia in 2004 prompted the largest military disaster response in history. Encouraged by the success, increasing attention has been paid to the various humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities conducted by US armed forces. Since 2006, the US Navy deploys one of its two large hospital ships in annual missions to either Central and South America or the Asia–Pacific region to provide people in need with free care. These missions offer many opportunities to increase the soft power capital of the United States by forging ties with host nation governments and improving the image of the United States within the local population. However, this article argues that we need more research on the impact of humanitarian assistance to justify a continuation in a fiscally constrained environment.

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