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The Dual Face of Post-War Italian Foreign Policy

A Tale of Hypocrisy and ExpediencyIn the aftermath of World War II, Italy’s foreign policy was marked by a dual-faced approach: on one hand, aligning under the protective shadow of NATO, led by the USA; on the other, maintaining ambiguous relationships with adversarial regimes and groups. Italy, despite being disparaged, supplied arms to Libya and supported Palestinians even as they orchestrated terror in Europe, showcasing a foreign policy driven by convenience.In 1991, Italy belatedly joined the coalition against Iraq, albeit under the guise of an international police operation. This limited and risky participation culminated in the loss of an aircraft and the capture of two pilots. Subsequently, Italy’s military missions abroad, including in Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Libya, often disguised as humanitarian or peacekeeping operations, hid a more complex and sometimes inconsistent reality.The 1992 involvement in Somalia, initially a humanitarian mission, quickly escalated into direct conflict. In Kosovo in 1999, Italy participated without United Nations approval, alongside groups previously labeled as terrorists.The 2001 operation in Afghanistan was justified on shifting grounds, reflecting a lack of clear intent. The 2003 intervention in Iraq was based on false information and concluded ambiguously.However, Italy’s policy decisions regarding Ghaddafi in 2011 are of particular interest. This period marked a turning point in Italian foreign diplomacy, revealing the art of hypocrisy and hidden interests.For decades, Italy built an embarrassing energy dependence on Libya, turning a blind eye to Ghaddafi’s regime, its involvement in human trafficking, and its plans for nuclear and chemical weapons. In 2008, a partnership pact with Libya was touted as a solution to non-existent colonial reparations, in reality, a way to maintain strong commercial ties with Ghaddafi, distorting humanitarian law and conflating refugees with illegal immigrants.Italian policy breached NATO principles, committing not to use its military bases against Libya. Nonetheless, the renewal of gas and oil concessions to Eni was seen as a victory, while Western powers feared Ghaddafi imposing similar restrictive conditions on them.In 2010, Ghaddafi’s reception in Rome, complete with tents and bodyguards, epitomized hypocrisy, displaying Italy’s subservience to the regime. When France, Britain, and the USA began intervening in Libya, Italy followed reluctantly, attempting to hinder the intervention with appeals to the UN and NATO.As the conflict intensified, Italy “suspended” its treaty with Libya and joined NATO operations with fourteen aircraft. Ghaddafi’s regime had not worsened since 2008 or 2010, but revolutions in neighboring countries made it incompatible with the new geopolitical order. Ghaddafi, having supported Ben Ali and Mubarak, threatened the new governments in Egypt and Tunisia, fueling the counter-revolution.The need of Western oil companies to overthrow Ghaddafi to avoid contractual restrictions influenced the decision to intervene. For Italy, NATO’s “civilian defense” became a war alongside insurgents, yet with consideration for Ghaddafi’s investments and mercenaries.The pretext of Ghaddafi’s crimes against humanity was valid, but true justice would have included those who supported his regime for decades. Ghaddafi’s death circumvented a broader trial. In Italy, the response was a mix of relief and condemnation, with a swift restoration of previously established contracts with the regime.This episode reflects a history of compromises and hypocrisies, with Italy navigating a complex international context, often at the expense of consistency and ethical principles.In summary, post-war Italian foreign policy and military interventions have been a complex web of alliances, economic interests, and often contradictory political decisions, reflecting the art of hypocrisy and the challenging pursuit of a balance between principles and realpolitik.

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