Sir, It is surely right to re-examine the case for Britain remaining a nuclear weapons state (letters from Jenny Clegg and H Cottrell, February 14). Both letters imply as alternatives nuclear weapons (bad) and soft power (good). They may be; but soft power will only be useful if we also retain a capability for hard power. Nuclear weapons are one option in the hard power armoury. It may be there are more effective ways of deploying hard power in place of nuclear weapons, before cashing them in for other social goods.

The assumption that soft power is all about aid and morally superior positioning in the world is misleading. Joe Nye, who developed the idea of soft power, was clear that soft power did not necessarily carry moral superiority over hard. Neither soft nor hard power would suffice without the other. Each, wrongly used, could undermine the other. And, for sure, economic inducements were aspects of hard power. Soft power lies in the charisma, the persuasive and exemplary qualities of a society to persuade others to want to adopt their attractive model (of democracy, peace, diversity, rights and freedoms, vibrant culture and so on, as we see them, plus economic success).

Giving financial aid or support is not a soft option that alone will make us safer or more respected. Economic assistance is tough, for givers and recipients. Ask the Greeks. Or ask, on the other hand, those pacific but successful people of the past 70 years, the Germans, with their attractive society comprising admired values and an envied economic model.

Sir Edward Clay

Epsom, Surrey, UK

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