The only particularly efficient use of fusion energy, at this point in history, has been the particularly terrifying Hydrogen Bomb. The biggest reason for this fact is that, in the form of the weapon, there is exactly zero need for a containment field.
The problem comes down to one sticking point, and that is essentially getting the thing to safely boil water. There are other hopes for low temperature solutions that boil something more volatile (like refrigerant or ammonia) to spin a turbine, but boiling still needs to happen.
...which means we have to be able to control not only when fusion occurs, but where it occurs, and how fast it occurs. Which is a bugger of a problem - that has already been solved.
Well, sort of, anyway. The remaining problem is that the magnetic containment methods that we know to work consume so much energy that you don't have any power left to sell. Magnetism being reasonably well understood in the engineering field, some very smart people did the math and noticed that what was needed was a bigger lump of burning plasma - the output scales faster than the needed input.
But, what ITER is attempting, years from now, is still experimental. For all the science we can throw at it, no one has any experimental data on how to effectively build something that spews that much intense neutron radiation at its core. ITER in many ways is an experiment in materials science just as much as power production and plasma physics. They are almost literally attempting to put the sun in a jar.
So you ask what is smarter? Well, it depends ultimately on the outcome of ITER. It has already tripled its budget, with no signs of stopping there, but if it can answer a few questions effectively it may be worth it. But objectively, scientifically, economically and without equivocation, I can say that the same number of dollars spent on existing power technology could have already been turning a profit on some major national grid somewhere, and probably reducing emissions at the same time. The answer to your question ultimately comes down to what risks the taxpayers are willing to take - in science, even failure is a success when you learn something from it.