Chris Albon’s post over at War & Health sure does ask an interesting question. Click here for the full post and the report which prompted this discussion.

What do you think? Should the United States deploy a hospital ship to Gaza?

On a separate note, if you are interested in medical diplomacy, War & Health is one of the best blogs out there on the subject. I strongly recommend you add it to your blogreader after adding USNI Blog.

Posted by Jim Dolbow in Foreign Policy, Hard Power

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  • Max

    I would expect a hospital ship to be attacked by Hamas.

  • RickWilmes

    I welcome a correction on the following if I am incorrect. It is my understanding, that the people of Gaza have either voted for or allowed for Hamas to take power of their region. Just as Germany voted Hitler into power prior to WWII.

    Perhaps, this is an opportunity to bring up an issue that is high on my list of mis-conceptions. There are no “innocent civilians”. The people of Gaza should be treated the same way the people of Germany and Japan were treated during WWII. If the “civilians” of Gaza require medical treatment than my response to them is the following,

    “Earn it by recognizing that your current leaders are thugs that need to be taken out of power. Until than, Israel, bomb away you have my support. Hopefully, someday, those in charge of my government and military will also hold the same view.”

  • RickWilmes

    One other comment to get the discussion going.

    “War and Health” ???

    The oxymoron, “military intelligence,” came to mind. When I have more time, I’ll read more about “War and Health.” My initial reaction is that “War and Health” is a package-deal that should be dealt with accordingly. By its very nature, there is nothing healthy about war.

  • Dee Illuminati

    If we rendered aid, would it be aiding and abeiting the enemy if non-uniformed combatants received aid? And if so, would that be because Israel said so or that was official US policy?

    Really this is the whole damn mess with fighting wars against ideology. And I think that this must have been some rarified sort of victory for Israel in the PR area, where many more such victories such as the recent in Gaza demonstrates, will surely lead to ruin.

    Can you imagine a scenario where similar to the UN where US personnel came under Israeli fire? What would have happened if the HMS Cynthia McKinney had sunk with loss of life?

    Perception is reality, the US is perceived as ‘behind’ Israel.

    This was a political question, not a policy question. At my blog I attributed the whole conflict to politics at it’s worse and really an act for internal public consumption in Israel and their elections.

    I also predicted that it would wind down as Obama took office.

    The Nepalm reports and civilian burns, deaths to children on both sides, are the only thing that prevents me from saying honestly I couldn’t care what those people do over there and personally advocating a policy of staying out of the issue.

    A hospital boat for children from both sides is reasonable.

  • RickWilmes

    Hamas, is responsible for those children and not the U.S. or Israel. If Hamas continues to send rockets into Israel, killing innocent children, than Israel has every right to retaliate. I am of the opinion they should retaliate with overwhelming force. Should they do it indiscriminately? No, but any civilian casualties that are the inevitable result of such actions is the result of Hamas’ actions not Israel’s.

  • leesea

    all mute points since a) it would take 2 to 3 wks for Comfort to get there (emergency over), b) hospital ship mission depend on host nation acceptance (something I suspect is not going to happen), and c) if Hamas wants to spend it money on restorationa and medical infrastructure (vice weapons) – let them. When they build medical treatment facilities it is easy to send medical aid.

  • RickWilmes

    Ieesea, I don’t accept the broad generalization that all the points that have been expressed are mute. It you have an issue with a particular point than I would like to hear your views on each particular point that you think are not valid. Sweeping generalizations have no cognitive value, unless you can identify the error specific to the particular point.

    As an example, I have taken issue with the fact that somehow the Untited States or Israel is responsible for the children that are adversely affected by this conflict.

    Do you agree or disagree with my position?

  • RickWilmes

    Instead of “fact”, I should have used “notion” in my previous comment. Sorry, for the confusion.

  • One issue, it would be impossible to protect the ship and crew, even with a Hamas promise of protection, and even with an Obama Administration promising change to the People of Gaza. Hamas does not have total control over the people in the area and to some degree Hamas takes instructions from other players in the region who also can’t be trusted.

    Second issue, the US does not recognize Hamas other than as a terrorist organization. (The US State Department has them listed as a foreign terrorist organization.) It is their responsibility to change first to get off the list, or for others to neutralize them…

    Also, as listed above, the new Administration’s call for more responsibility should also extend abroad. Governments should be held responsible for the care of it’s citizens. All of these NGOs and aid groups that go to poorly-run countries basically relieve these bad governments of the responsibility for caring for the poor, leaving them to spend their money on causing trouble instead.

  • leesea

    you all are arguing politics and diplomacy, I am trying to bring real world ship operations and logictics into this thread. I do not intend to discuss what or who. Not something for USNI – navy blog.

  • RickWilmes


    The topic being discussed is “medical diplomacy.” How can you not discuss politics and diplomacy when in fact that is the topic?
    And how is this “not something for the USNI-navy blog” to discuss?

  • Operationally related, how do you protect a US Navy hospital ship and crew docked in Gaza?

    Your point points above are good. concerning: “a) it would take 2 to 3 wks for Comfort to get there (emergency over)” makes me wonder what other assets could be sent to perform this task that are closer than the comfort? The answer might not be a Navy response but an Army one delivered via air.

  • thanks for all your comments everyone. We have some wise readers with unique perspectives.

  • Given that the Israelis are taking in wounded Gazans, both civilian and Hamas fighters, and yet are still taking rocket fire, I can’t really see what the upside would be to assisting Hamas.

  • While maintaining a policy of neutrality when it comes to foreign policy as affirmed in my standing orders and recognizing the pre-eminence of the Secretary of State,It is well taken that our presence should not be perceived as aiding a potential enemy of the U.S.A.or Israel,I know there are provisions that would allow such humanitarian aid for innocent children in a war zone with UN guidelines(these procedures can be so exacting that the State Department should provide guidance and direction).That being said every sovereign nation has an obligation under various regulations to advance human rights and a hospital ship could be removed from the involvement in hostilities if international protocols are met.Humanatarian aid limited and controlled is always an option for all branches of the US Military!—–ARMY LTC,HOSPITAL MEDIC,retired US COAST GUARD,ordained affiliate USNR Chaplain Corps KNIGHTS OF MALTA,considered and hopefully helpful personal opinion and not the Official opinion of the Soverign”STATE”of Malta and RHOADES

  • RickWilmes

    The Economist has an article where Israel claims that Hamas is using hospitals as protection. What would stop Hamas from using a Naval Hospital ship as protection?

    A thousand tragedies. But is it a crime? .

    “A British government manual on the laws of war admits that, for example, the principle of proportionality “is not always straightforward”, not least because attempting to reduce the danger to civilians may increase the risk to one’s own forces. Moreover, if the enemy puts civilians at risk by deliberately placing military targets near them, “this is a factor to be taken into account in favour of the attackers”.

    Israel makes precisely such arguments. Its aggressive tactics, it says, are justified by the need to protect Israeli forces, and Hamas is to blame for civilian deaths by hiding rockets and other weapons in mosques. According to Israeli officials, Hamas’s top leaders are hiding in a bunker under the overstretched Shifa hospital (which, however, has not been attacked).”

    Hamas needs to be held responsible for their actions.

  • This is a grave matter,involving human life and limb,and it seems to me that every comment here reflects the truth.I do not however believe for one half of a second that former President Bush ever displayed a reckless indifference to human life but I will concede that that depends on who was down range and when!I think that we can all see that these matters are decided far above our pay grade.I can also see how in wartime certain comments even in a USNI BLOG could lead to grumbling in the ranks,or foment hostilities against the blogger or even his country.Remember the outrage against those who are accused of religious bias(whether Christian,Jewish or Muslim).I for one don’t want an international death warrant on me in this time of global war on terrorism.Nonetheless these blogs can exchange professional advice and much naval/military experience.When prpoerly moderated I am led to believe these blogs can save American and other lives.Can this ship even tie up any where near Gaza?How much water does she draw?How long can she stay on station with a full complement of crew and wounded?Depending on her location can she be safely replenished(e.g.USS COLE—even though she is a USNS Vessel)?I hope all of our comments make sailors and others think clearly and not just argue passionately.When preparing for duty a foreign military Instructor would sometimes quote”uneasy rests the head that wears the crown”It is my personal belief that we should respect this maxim when we criticize our highest superiors,still no one should be afraid to speak up if they are sincere and convinced of the pertinentce of their comments,for the common good and the good of the NAVY.

  • Should we send the Mercy? Probably not. Should the Navy take this idea and shake it up until something works? Yes.

    One commenter mentioned the problem of Hamas militants using hospitals to hide in. I don’t see this as a problem. No one aboard an American vessel is going to help an enemy combatant and such plans don’t work without some inside help.

    I really don’t see Hamas attacking an American vessel rendering aid. They might try to exploit the “spin” value in the press, but with Israel also helping the wounded, I don’t see it having much effect.

    All the most successful peace programs in that conflict have to do with presenting the average Palestinian with the image of ourselves as we really are and not how Hamas wishes to portray us.

    Are we a great and powerful nation that cares about the suffering of the Palestinians? Are we the people who will help ease that suffering while calmly maintaining an alliance with Israel?

    Some medical diplomacy effort would be a good way to show that we are not the bloodthirsty infidels that their leaders make us out to be.

    As far as the safety of the ship…..isn’t that what NCW is for?

  • RickWilmes

    Anyone want to rethink their position on whether or not sending a hospital ship to Gaza is a good idea?

    UN says Hamas seized Gaza food aid and blankets .

  • Rick,

    thanks for sharing the article about Hamas’ seizing the food aid and blankets. For the record, I support sending hospital ships to a lot of places around the globe but not to Gaza at this time. I wrote this post to generate some good discussion: mission accomplished. Thanks for your comments

  • RickWilmes


    I am glad I could contribute. If you are still interested I have some more to say concerning this topic. The other hot topics of the day have taken my time and focus away from this post, but I am willing to continue the discussion.

    One issue I have with the original authors argument is from the following quote,

    “One of the most powerful and visible symbols of American empathy with those in disaster-hit areas is the USNS Mercy, the leading hospital ship in the U.S. Navy. As a ship committed to emergency medical care, it is one of America’s most notable tools of medical diplomacy, having gained attention for its humanitarian contributions in tsunami-hit Asia in 2006. It would provide more capacity for health care and make a more prominent public diplomacy statement to the Arab world.”

    He is equating the Hamas caused disaster(manmade) with a natural disaster(tsunamis, hurricanes, etc.). This is an error where he is attempting to equate two fundamentally different causes and then offering the same solution to resolve the tradegy. What this does is absolve Hamas of any responsibility for their actions.

    When time allows, I will offer more.