American academics are constantly on the look-out for the latest foreign policy slogan. A few years ago, Joe Nye had a big hit with the idea of "soft power". Now he and others are back with a new idea called "smart power", which the FT gave a cautious welcome to this morning.
But amidst all the arguments about the need for the US to re-build its influence, it is worth invoking that useful old principle – "Follow the money". If you do that, it suggests the argument is already over. America spends hugely more on missiles and the military than it does on diplomacy and all the paraphenelia of soft power. The State Department’s budget is $10 billion a year. The Department of Defence’s annual budget is $460 billion – plus, at the moment, a further $200 billion a year for the Iraqi and Afghan wars. The entire State Department costs less to maintain than just one of the US’s eight carrier battle groups.