political revue


Year LVIII, 2016, Single Issue, Page 85






“Existing states are dust without substance”, said Einaudi and never as in April of this year in the wake of the events in the Mediterranean was Einaudi’s ruthless statement about European states truer. The Mediterranean crisis and Qaddafi’s absurd arrogance — the head of a country with three million inhabitants challenging, humiliating and creating all kinds of difficulties for all Europeans — have one precise cause: the European power vacuum. This vacuum has two consequences. One is factual and consists precisely in the fact that three million Libyans have put 320 million Europeans on the spot (a count which includes only the countries of the so-called Community). The second is mental and is demonstrated by the stupid and vile conviction that violence can be dealt with by negotiations and diplomacy.

It seems that, even in the country of Machiavelli, Europeans have suddenly forgotten that politics consists of power relationships and that international politics consists of power relationships unmitigated by legislative restraints i.e. based on military means. Pursuing the idea of negotiations with those who use violence in the most brutal way, these Europeans who display such decadence and resignation forget that negotiations, too, are based on power relationships. The outcome of negotiations is no nice hypothetical solution that suits everybody, but a solution in which the law of the strongest is the rule and everybody gets according to his might. Put bluntly, negotiations are simulated war. The rest (for example, words used at the UN or in so-called public international law) is merely repugnant make-up attempting to mask the unremittingly fierce face of politics or the sinking of reason into a dumb silence: the absurd pretence of renouncing the use of force though paying the full costs, moral costs included, to have one (compulsory military service, expenditure on arms etc.).

For anyone who manages to grasp a minimum of “effettuale” political understanding — that puts an end to the sophism about the effectiveness of the law (what law?) and morality in a world still governed by brute violence, including nuclear violence — three considerations are valid: one about the USA, one about Europe and one about peace. The mistake of the Americans is not retaliation. It is not using force (which does not necessarily mean shooting) against Israel too, to force it to recognise the rights of Palestinians to set up their own autonomous state in Cis-Jordan and the Gaza strip. In this way Arab terrorism, deprived of its greatest source, would perhaps receive a fatal blow. Whatever the case, retaliation, currently far from effective, would become effective. But these considerations are valid only in the short term. In the mid-term it is necessary for Israel to have a guarantee based on fact, not words. And at this stage the responsibility of Europeans begins. With their division, their impotence, and the power vacuum they generate even in the Mediterranean, they prevent everybody — Israel, USA and Arab nations included — from being able to count on a regional balance capable both of containing the aggressive drive which always occurs when not checked by adequate power, and eliminating, in the long term, the causes of this particular type of terrorism with the unity and modernization of the Arab nation. With the stupid pretence of having European foreign policy but no European power — and preventing the European Parliament from developing such power — Europeans by choosing resignation and impotence not only threaten the fate of Europe but the world’s fate as well.

And now peace. There are only two forms of peace: the precarious and armed form based on the balance of forces, which dissuades aggressors but requires every state to develop all its potential means of violence, and that of world government: true peace, according to Kant, since it would allow people to live unarmed and to defend their autonomy exclusively by lawful means. If this is true, and it is true for all those who have not lost their senses, then it is also true that whoever does not pursue a balance in power relationships, and does not attempt to direct it towards great regional unifications to fill the power vacuums and create the pillars of the future world government, works for war and not for peace, although appearing on the public stage with an olive branch in his hand, idiotically happy whenever he manages to reduce the strength of his own state without remembering that this automatically corresponds to the strengthening of the other states.

At this stage all would be said and done were it not for just one other consideration about the cause of European states’ weakness (with some differences: France behaves much better than the rest). At first sight it may in fact appear to be disconcerting that states with about fifty million inhabitants, advanced industrial development etc. can be subjected to all kinds of difficulties by such an underdeveloped and underpopulated state like Libya. The solution of the enigma becomes much easier to perceive if we remember that what holds true for individuals holds true for states as well: anyone with nothing to lose can be aggressive and therefore fearsome, while anyone with a lot to lose tends to become cautious and prudent. The enigma is solved entirely if we remember how Einaudi (who was one of the greatest Italian scholars of this century as well as being President of the Republic from 1948 to 1955) justified the statement I recalled (“Existing states are dust without substance”) by explaining that “none of them is able to bear the costs of independent defence”.[1]

And here we have him — the king stripped of his fine clothes. European states have no independent defence. To understand and judge European states all we need to appreciate is the kind of “raison d’état” existing in states incapable of independent defence. We need only wonder what kind of training and selection the political class undergoes in states of this kind.

Mario Albertini

* This Note, published in The Federalist, 28 n. 1 (1986), pp. 37-39, is a declaration made by Mario Albertini on 16 April 1986. His remarks came immediately after the so-called Gulf of Sidra crisis had culminated in U.S. air strikes on Tripoli during the night of the 14-15 April 1986 (in retaliation for the bombing of a Berlin discotheque frequented by US military personnel), to which the Libyans had responded by firing two Scud missiles at a U.S. facility on the island of Lampedusa on 15 April. These events were also part of a climate of extreme and growing tension between the U.S., Italy and Libya within the broader framework of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and they followed in the wake of the October 1985 “Sigonella crisis” — the occasion when, at the NATO Air Base at Sigonella, Italian military police prevented U.S. Army Delta Force soldiers from seizing the four terrorists who had hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, together with Abu Abbas, who, on behalf of the PLO and at the request of the Italian government, had been sent to negotiate the release of the hostages.

[1] Luigi Einaudi, Lo scrittoio del presidente, Turin, 1956, p. 89.



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