ICCS seminar series podcast: US medical assistance and smart power strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan

Posted on Monday 2nd December 2013

ICCS Seminar Series: 'Health for Health's Sake, Winning for God's Sake: US medical assistance and smart power strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan'

Military medics have long provided medical aid to local populations during armed conflict. In recent years, however, the US (and its allies) have made unprecedented attempts to integrate health assistance into a ‘smart power’ strategy as a means of ‘winning hearts and minds’ and furthering other politico-military goals.

This paper, co-authored with Colin McInnes, considers both the health and wider strategic benefits of such a strategy, as well as some of the ethical challenges raised. Based on the record of such activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, we argue for extreme caution in future attempts to leverage health for strategic ends on four key grounds: there is considerable doubt over the quality of health services provided in such circumstances; individual military medics are put in an invidious position in attempting to reconcile strategic goals and medical ethics; there are legitimate concerns over the wider effects of politicizing health aid; and there is little proof that the claimed strategic benefits actually materialize in practice.

Speaker: Simon Rushton is a Faculty Research Fellow in Department of Politics at the University of Sheffield. His work focuses on the global politics of health, in particular international responses to HIV/AIDS and other diseases, the links between health and security, the changing architecture of global health governance, and issues surrounding health, conflict and post-conflict reconstruction. He is an Associate Fellow of the Centre on Global Health Security at Chatham House and co-editor of the journal Medicine, Conflict and Survival.

View the full list of the ICCS seminar series 2013