Contributions for this issue were received from Giulio Bartolini, Edoardo Camilli, Adriano Metz, Nicola Morfini, Flavia Sesti, Anna Clementina Veclani and Benedetta Voltolini.
Architects of delusion : Europe, America, and the Iraq War / Simon Serfaty. - Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, c2008. - 172 p. - ISBN 978-0-8122-4060-3
Architects of Delusion by Simon Serfaty, senior associate at the Washington think tank, CSIS, and professor of US foreign policy at Old Dominion University (Virginia), deals with the positions adopted by the US and the main European countries during the controversial 2003 war in Iraq.
In 2003, the United States decided to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iraq, in order to disarm it of its alleged weapons of mass destruction and to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism. The United Kingdom (UK) joined in, while France and Germany refused to participate. Analysing these countries' history as well as the evolution of transatlantic relations since the end of World War II, the author tries to explain the reasons behind their opposite positions and the impact this had on the EU-US relationship.
To this end, he makes use of four distinct categories. First, the relationship between France and the US, on the one hand, and between France and the UK, on the other, is analysed in "terms of estrangement", due to the continuous French attempt to achieve a predominant position in Europe to counterbalance the power of the United States. Britain and Germany, secondly, have always had an equidistant attitude towards both Europe and US: their relationship with the latter is thus defined in "terms of endearment". Third, the expression "terms of disparagement" refers to the relationship between Britain and both Germany and France, due in particular to their distance from US policies. And fourth and finally, the status of the transatlantic relationship at the beginning of the new millennium is referred to in "terms of entanglement".
Within the framework provided by the overall historical analysis of the US and the three European countries, the author focuses on the role played by their heads of state and government, defined as the architects of one of the most serious crises in the transatlantic relationship since World War Two. Serfaty concludes that even on that occasion all acted consistently with their country's orientation in foreign policy. Bush's decision to intervene unilaterally in Iraq confirmed the US' predominant position within the international community. Blair's support for Bush was another manifestation of British acquiescence towards the US, Chirac's opposition to the American line was consistent with the traditional French intransigence, and finally, Germany's usual ambiguity was confirmed by Schroeder's opposition to Bush, the US and the intervention in Iraq.
The Iraqi war also showed that no country can influence US positions very easily, in particular on security-related issues. In this specific case, this was due mainly to the fractures among the EU member states, which prevented the Union from reaching a common position and acting as a cohesive power on the international scene.
Serfaty concludes his analysis with a look at the future of Europe and the transatlantic relationship. As for the former, Serfaty states that in order to be a stronger actor in the international community, the EU should be more united. To this end, France and Britain should solve their differences and Germany should exert its influence on their decisions. Secondly, in order to make the transatlantic relationship more effective, the US and France should get over their estrangement, the EU and NATO should cooperate to reinvigorate a strong and cohesive West, and the US should recover the visionary and bold leadership it exercised in the past.
The book offers the reader an excellent overview of the evolution of transatlantic relations. The historical approach used by Serfaty throughout the book is interesting and innovative in that it provides a solid background, useful for analysing, with additional tools, such a controversial event as the 2003 Iraqi war. To make the analysis more complete, however, and to accomplish his initial intention of describing the US and European leaders as the real architects of the transatlantic crisis, the book would have benefited from more attention to the characters and personalities of the heads of state and government, setting them more effectively in their historical context. (Flavia Sesti)
External perceptions of the European Union as a global actor / edited by Sonia Lucarelli and Lorenzo Fioramonti. - London and New York : Routledge, 2010. - xiv, 233 p. - (Routledge / GARNET series: Europe in the world ; 7). - ISBN 978-0-415-48100-7 ; 978-0-203-86691-7 (ebk)
Lucarelli and Fioramonti's edited book is a valuable contribution that sheds light on the role of the EU in the world. The perspective adopted makes it particularly interesting, because the book looks at how the EU is perceived by the other actors in the international system.
Particularly since the 1990s, a host of authors have studied the EU's distinctive role in world, coining terms and adopting theoretical frameworks that point to its distinctive nature as an international actor. The idea of 'distinctiveness' implicitly presents the EU as a better and more suitable actor than other international players for spreading values and norms abroad (e.g. democracy, rule of law, human rights standards, good governance). This is reflected in the EU's rhetorical self-representation as a "global player with global responsibility"(3).
There has been little formal investigation of how external actors see the EU, a gap that this book aims to fill. What the world thinks of the EU is of the utmost importance in shaping the EU's identity and should help EU actors avoid cognitive dissonance. The authors highlight some factors that influence others' perceptions of the EU. These include both long-term variables, such as historical memories and socially constructed conceptions of the world, and more contingent features, such as preferences, interests and political interaction. These variables are then tested in several case studies that examine the perceptions of political and economic elites, public opinion, civil society organisations and the media in powerful, emerging and developing countries, as well as the perception that international organisations and regional institutions have of the EU. What emerges is that external perceptions of the EU are characterised by a clear discrepancy between the EU's rhetoric and practice. Lucarelli and Fioramonti identify "a potentially inverse relation between 'positive image' and 'policy effectiveness'" (223), in that the policies in which the EU is less effective, namely the political ones, are those in which the EU's self-representation is closer to external perceptions.
Not only is the chapter sequence coherent with the theoretical framework outlined by the editors, but each chapter is also a valuable piece in itself and can be read individually as a clear and detailed explanation of the perceptions related to the specific geographical area considered. The brief theoretical picture provided in the first chapter, although clear, could have been developed more to provide readers with a more informed and detailed background. Yet the book is still convincing in demonstrating that the 'distinctiveness' theory needs to be readdressed with more critical reflection and taking the perceptions of external actors into account. The book opens up new areas for further research and, thanks to the recommendations at the end of each chapter, is a valuable instrument for policymakers. (Benedetta Voltolini)
Il fondo sovrano cinese / Alessandro Arduino. - Milano : O barra O, c2009. - 159 p. - (Quaderni CASCC). - ISBN 978-88-87510-64-5
In recent years, Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) have become a matter of discussion among scholars, economists and journalists. SWFs are state-owned investment funds composed of a differentiated portfolio of financial assets, ranging from shares and properties to bonds and energy resources.
In his book Alessandro Arduino focuses his attention on the genesis of SWFs and particularly of Chinese ones. Indeed, the Chinese SWFs are likely to play a pivotal role in the years to come, not just because they are the main tool through which China is financing US debt, but also because of the huge amount of money that China is pouring into the world economy. Since its foundation in 1997, the China Investment Corporation (CIC) - the Chinese SWF - has had 200 billion dollars at its disposal to inject into the world market. Part of the money is invested in US bonds and part has been used for the acquisition of small quotas - around 10 percent - in financial groups like Blackstone and Morgan & Stanley. However, since the outbreak of the sub-prime crisis, the CIC has begun a new policy of investment in regions like Africa, South America and Central Asia, for the acquisition of strategic assets, mainly in the energy sector. This new policy is supposed to contribute to making the CIC Beijing's main tool for providing the financial resources needed to transform China's economic structure from export-oriented to domestic demand-oriented. But it has raised concerns in Western countries about China's non-economic use of SWFs. In this regard, Western governments fear that China may acquire their strategic assets by using the CIC as a political/economic instrument of penetration. However, the author placates such concerns by comparing present worries with those regarding Japan in the 1990s, which faded away as soon as Tokyo's growth rate started to slow down.
Finally, Arduino concludes with some indications for the near future. Although the present economic situation makes it difficult to predict the future of Chinese SWFs, due to a large number of variables affecting this period of crisis, SWFs in general, and China's in particular, may be expected to play a stronger role on the world scene, both economically and politically.
In conclusion, with its simple and comprehensible language, even to those who do not have an advanced knowledge of economics, Arduino's book aims to provide a general outlook on China's SWFs. The book's clear structure takes the reader through a step-by-step discovery of SWFs in general, the China Investment Corporation in particular and, finally, the political and economic consequences of this new tool of power. Nevertheless, the book lacks a deeper economic analysis that would have made it interesting not only for the general public but also for a more qualified audience. (Edoardo Camilli)
Identity and foreign policy : Baltic-Russian relations and European integration / edited by Eiki Berg and Piret Ehin. - Aldershot ; Burlington : Ashgate, c2009. - vi, 208 p. - ISBN 978-0-7546-7329-3 ; 978-0-7546-8990-4 (online)
The collapse of the USSR caused a sudden disorientation in the peripheral areas of the former Soviet Union. After 1991, the Baltic states had to face a process of identity construction to consolidate and institutionalise the independence achieved. Russia had to follow the same path in the aftermath of the Soviet demise. As the authors remark, these two identities are still under construction and are evolving in reciprocal contrast. While the elites of the Baltic states seem to accentuate both political and cultural contrasts with Russia in order to underline their historical ties with Western Europe, the authors argue that this policy is counterproductive insofar as it tends to isolates the Baltic region from both NATO and the EU, which are not interested in having tensions between East and West increase dramatically.
An interdisciplinary approach is well structured and provides a broad, scientific analysis. After a short but effective account of the possible theoretical frameworks, the authors adopt a constructivist approach to describe and interpret the ongoing process of Baltic identity formation, in both domestic and foreign policy. The analysis itself is well organised and clearly states the main points of discussion: a) a Baltic common identity has never existed and it has now been imposed with Russia as the 'common danger to the east', b) Baltic states are in NATO but not in the EU, so that relations with Western Europe mainly concern security issues, c) the identification with Western Europe is not a 'positive identification', as it has been formed in contrast to Russia.
One of the major points of the book, however, could have been better explained and developed: Baltic states aim to play a major role within the Western context, and it is for this reason that they would like to sever their ties with Russia. But as the authors demonstrate, the only way for Baltic states to improve their international status is to use their peripheral position to become a link between Russia and the EU.
Otherwise, the book admirably achieves what it sets out to do. The level of detail provided is commendable, and the argumentation is consistent. The book's leitmotiv is that the contrasts between Baltic states and Russia could easily be pacified by a different process of identity formation. Perhaps a little too moderate, given the numerous provocations of Baltic political leaders who explicitly exalt Nazi resistance to Soviets during WWII, and tending to underestimate some Baltic-Russian diplomatic crises.
Nevertheless, the book provides a fundamental manual of current Baltic-Russian relations. Data and events are up-to-date and describe in great detail the issues that Baltic states complain about in Russian foreign policy.
The mix of geopolitics, energy security, EU enlargement, and historical and sociological issues provides an interesting and comprehensive framework for interpreting ongoing regional developments. (Nicola Morfini)
Obama : un anno di sfide / Claudio Angelini. - Milano : Rizzoli, 2010. - 208 p. - (Rizzoli best). - ISBN 978-88-17-03765-5
Il caratteraccio : come (non) si diventa italiani / Vittorio Zucconi. - Milano : Mondadori , 2009. - 243 p. - (Frecce). - ISBN 978-88-04-59367-6
Two big names from the Italian media, Claudio Angelini and Vittorio Zucconi, the A and Z of foreign correspondence, have each produced a book this time instead of the usual tv coverage or report. Obama, un anno di sfide (Obama, a year of challenges), is by Angelini who, after having presented the main news broadcast for the major national tv channel for around 20 years and having directed the national radio news, has now been in New York for another 13 as the correspondent of various national tv and radio channels, director of the Italian Cultural Institute and now president of the Dante Alighieri institute as well as editorialist for Italian national tv and the Roman daily, Il Messaggero.
Il caratteraccio, come non si diventa italiani (Bad character, how not to become Italian) is by Zucconi, an exceptional teller of American tales for the daily newspaper, La Repubblica, as well as explosive narrator, multifaceted author of books, university lecturer, and Italian and American citizen.
In short chapters and tight prose, ideal for reading in the evening or during a trip, Angelini's book recounts the first year of the first black president of the United States. The premise laid down in the introduction is an American saying that the author defines as "Aristotelian" in its straightforward logic, "walk the talk" or "do what you say", fulfill your promises.
The Obama that Angelini writes about is the Obama faced with challenges, the many challenges that he has had to confront as commander in chief and that he has ended without winning even one. And as if that weren't enough, having lost along the way, what with the economic crisis and the international crises, some of his charisma and credibility.
But now, with the approval of the health reform, the enormous domestic policy obstacle that the president had to overcome, there is new hope for the expectations Obama the candidate raised during his campaign and his early speeches in the White House to be met: the man who, for the very fact that he had been elected gave substance to the American dream, is able to do what he says, resorting to pragmatism and compromise where evoking justice and asserting principles is not sufficient.
Writing about Obama, Angelini writes about the United States, a nation that "is not a part of the world, but a state of mind". And he tells about his newspaper, the 'watchdog' of the powers that slumbered during the patriotic exaltation of 'post 9/11', national security and President Bush, and that has now awakened in that contrast between love and hate that the current president generates. All of this at a time of transition between traditional media, which are going through a crisis that could be their last, and new media, which are seeking a new journalistic expression and legitimation.
Quite different, Zucconi's book is more Italian than American. The title - and the book - springs from a series of lectures held at Middlebury College, University of Vermont, aimed at explaining to young people whose only knowledge of Italians is through stereotypes, who Italians really are and why they've become so "quarrelsome, resentful, always 'pissed off' with others and openly hypocritical, to the point that they are beginning not to like themselves anymore: a people that goes 'against' everything, that exists because it's against something".
Thus, by describing himself and consequently the Italians that are like him - and there are many - Zucconi uses a strong image to explain to perplexed Americans what democracy means in Italy: "rather like Galvani's frog, which needs periodic shocks to move its legs and seem alive, even while it's dead". Some of Prof. Zucconi's students are still searching through Wikipedia to find out who Galvani was and what on earth he did to his frogs (Adriano Metz, also in Italian)
Transforming Pakistan : ways out of instability / Hilary Synnott. - Abingdon : Routledge for The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2009. - 198 p. - (Adelphi papers ; 406). - ISBN 978-0-41556-260-7
Former British High Commissioner in Islamabad (2001-03), Hilary Synnott provides an account of Pakistan's recent history, along with an analysis of the internal and external dynamics that have shaped the country's reality. At a time in which security, socio-economic and political conditions remain critical, he also tries to suggest policies to be pursued by both internal and external actors to stabilise the country.
The four chapters describe Pakistani post-independence history up to 2001, the aftermath of 9/11, internal conflicts, and regional relations. Synnott makes it clear from the outset that Pakistan, since independence in 1947, has undergone difficulties in its nation-building and in its relations with neighbouring countries and the US.
The author goes into much detail about the nature of Pakistan, addressing religion, ethnic groups, languages, central and provincial administrations, internal tensions, the interplay between politics and religion, and the role of the army and the intelligence agency (ISI). It emerges that both civilian and military rulers, who have alternated in power through military coups and relatively fair elections, have failed over the decades to establish the desired liberal Muslim democracy. Religion has proved to be a fragile base for forging a lasting national identity and unity, while its political use has generated many of the current problems. Synnott examines the domestic and foreign policies implemented by different leaders in the last sixty years, as well as their implications for the national, regional and international contexts. Special attention is given to President Pervez Musharraf and his turbulent relationship with the US, as his long presidency (1999-2008) fell in the years of the 'global war on terror'.
Concerning regional relations, the author recalls that the animosity and wars between India and Pakistan have mainly been the consequence of the Kashmir dispute opened in 1947 and, in recent years, of reciprocal allegations of state-sponsored terrorist attacks. In addition to two wars, Kashmir has been the cause of crises on other occasions, the latest in 2001-202, with the mobilisation of both armies, spreading fear of a nuclear confrontation around the world.
In Afghanistan, he points out that Pakistan, the US, and Saudi Arabia used religion to organise Afghani resistance against the Soviet occupation between 1979 and 1989. To different extents, they militarily and financially supported groups of militants to undertake the jihad against the invader. In the 1990s, the US' neglect of Afghanistan favoured the rise of the Taliban, and eventually of al-Qaeda. Synnott argues that there is a direct connection between the mujahadeen supported by Pakistan and the US and the violence in Afghanistan in the 1990s, the turmoil in Kashmir in 1989-99, the acquisition of nuclear weapons by India and Pakistan, and tensions between the latter in 2001-02.
After 9/11, Pakistan pledged full support to the US in the fight against terrorism, providing logistical facilities and intelligence, shutting down terrorist training camps within its borders, and cracking down on extremist groups. But after its engagement, Pakistan progressively underwent a 'Talibanisation' (especially suicide bombings within the country) and a spread of 'neo-Taliban' militancy in the Federally Administered Areas (FATA) and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). This provoked the reaction of both Pakistan and the US (covert ground operations and drone attacks) contributing to the radicalisation of reactionary movements.
Finally, Pakistan's relations with China, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf are defined as "shifting" and "opaque", characterised by common interests (hedge against India in the first case, religion in the others) but also suspicion and rivalry. The author judges that it is in the interest of all these states to contribute to Pakistan's stability, but does not go into the security dilemmas that all these relations trigger.
Thanks to his experience, Synnott provides an exceptionally informative and detailed account of modern-day Pakistan. In the prospective strategies for stability that he proposes, he calls for the Pakistani people and institutions to "transform" Pakistan with the support of the West. Elaborating on this widely shared consideration, Synott suggests a variety of policies. Unfortunately, they do not go much beyond those too often spelled out by Western governments in their rhetorical discourse and rarely put into practice. (Anna Clementina Veclani)
Stato di guerra e conflitto armato nel diritto internazionale / Marina Mancini. - Torino : Giappichelli, 2009. - XI, 336 p. - (Studi di diritto internazionale ; 15). - ISBN 978-88-348-9597-9
This book provides an in-depth analysis of two strictly related issues of international law - the current role of the 'state of war', a core concept in international law until the Second World War, and that of the outbreak of an 'armed conflict' between states - in an attempt to assess whether the legal consequences of the latter are equivalent to those deriving from the proclamation of the state of war.
As emphasised in Chapter I, under classical international law, when a state of war arose between states, it entailed relevant legal consequences such as the application of the laws of war; the interruption of diplomatic and commercial relations; the termination of contracts between citizens and companies of the belligerent nations; measures against enemy citizens; or even the termination of treaties. In particular, third states were obliged to comply with the law of neutrality.
However, those legal consequences were not automatically produced when states resorted to armed force. Their application was strictly related to the state of war, which arose when the so-called animus bellandi was manifested by one of the states involved in the armed confrontation. In particular, states had to explicitly proclaim the state of war by issuing a formal declaration of war, as regulated by the III 1907 Hague Convention, or take action aimed at affirming the animus bellandi. Ascertaining the animus bellandi was crucial at that time. In fact, in other situations in which states used armed force, such as armed reprisals, the above mentioned legal consequences could not be invoked.
The author rightly emphasises that this framework was not uniform as some of the above mentioned effects also applied when a state of war did not arise (Chap. I). For instance, eminent authors of that period, such as Anzilotti, maintained the need to apply the laws of war whenever states resorted to armed force. Furthermore, practice shows that even when a state of war was proclaimed, it was not clear whether it automatically produced all the legal effects mentioned above. For instance, practice and scholars did not agree in considering treaties concluded by parties to the conflict as automatically terminated.
The development of the law of the United Nations and the progressive affirmation of the prohibition of the use of force in international relations, a topic analysed in depth in Chap. II, has raised doubts in legal doctrine as to the continuing relevance of the notion of state of war in international law and its compatibility with the UN Charter.
The author correctly affirms (Chap. VI) that the law of the United Nations does not prevent one of the states involved in an armed conflict from proclaiming the state of war, when acting in self-defence. However, the analysis of international armed conflicts since War World Two, including those in which the UN Security Council has authorised the use of armed force (Chap. IV-V), highlights that this opportunity has generally not been taken up by the political authorities of states involved in conflicts. This choice has often been the result of political calculations, deriving from the assumption that proclamation of a state of war could characterise the conduct of the state as aggressive, thus violating the prohibition of the use of force set out in art. 2.4 of the UN Charter. Another factor is the long time required to proclaim the state of war. In fact, changes introduced in constitutions after War World Two now call for the involvement of national parliaments, while this proclamation was generally the prerogative of the executive power during the classical period of international law.
The abandonment of the concept of state of war has been determined by a change in international law in the last decades. There has been a tendency not to make the legal consequences mentioned above dependent upon the intentions of the states concerned. Those legal effects have increasingly been related to an objective fact, that is the existence of an armed conflict. The author uses an in-depth examination of the practice during the post-War World Two period (Chap. VII-VIII) to prove that legal effects similar to those previously related to the proclamation of the state of war now stem from situations of armed conflict, especially when the confrontation has reached a significant magnitude. This can be affirmed with respect to the application of international humanitarian law and the exercise of belligerent rights, effects on commercial relations between states involved in an armed conflict and contracts between citizens and legal entities of those states.
In conclusion, this book, which is the first exhaustive and comprehensive analysis of the concepts of state of war and armed conflict, confirms the evaluations of some authors, such as Schindler, who consider the concept of state of war "a relic of a past time".1 As the author asserts, while this notion can still have a potential theoretical role in international law, it has progressively been deprived of any practical relevance and is therefore condemned to marginality in legal doctrine and practice. (Giulio Bartolini)
1) D. Schindler, "State of War, Belligerency, Armed Conflict". In The New Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflict, vol. I, edited by S. Cassese. Naples: Editoriale Scientifica, 1979, 19.