Thursday, March 16, 2017

Hard power vs Soft power

The MSM is trashing the Trump budget for cutting money for the State Dept and foreign aid.  The implication is that State Dept cookie pushers somehow increase the power and influence of the United States.  Not true.  State Dept personnel draw their salaries.  Few of them actually do anything constructive.  US power and influence comes from our robust economy, Hollywood, pop music, superb universities, the internet, our inventors and entrepreneurs, our amusing and vibrant domestic politics, our rock solid currency, our ideals as set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the warm and generous welcome we offer to foreign immigrants and tourists.   These things, and some others I have missed,  create US soft power.  The State Dept has little to do with it. 
   We pay some 15000 bureaucrats at State to handle relations with less than 200 countries worldwide.  That is some 85 bureaucrats per country.  That's far too many.  All they have to do is take care of US citizens in trouble abroad, operate an embassy, and do some straight forward legal intelligence gathering.  I think State could manage with a lot fewer useless mouths.
   Foreign aid is harder to assess.  Clearly a few Yankee dollars passed to the right person can accomplish wonders overseas.  Just how many dollars, and who we give them to, are matters of pure judgement.  Loyal and experienced US diplomats can get the balance right, some of the time, perhaps even more often than not.  We should leave the foreign aid debate to the very few people, like Henry Kissinger, who really know what's going on. 

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