Learning From Others? Emulation and Change in the Italian Armed Forces Since 2001

As illustrated in previous posts, military transformation represents our main current research issue. We’ve just published a book on this topic and we are still working on Italian (and European) military transformation.

Here you’ll find our latest paper, which has been published (in early view ) on “Armed Forces&Society“. The title is: “Learning From Others? Emulation and Change in the Italian Armed Forces Since 2001” (F. Coticchia and F.N. Moro, 2016).

Here below the abstract:

How does military change take place in states that are not able to develop autonomous solutions? How does transformation occur when limited resources are available? What are the “sources of military change” for armed forces that do not possess the (cognitive and material) resources that are essential for autonomous development? In articulating an answer to these questions, this article draws from the theoretical debate on interorganizational learning and looks at the mechanisms that drive “learning from others.” We argue that adaptation and organizational learning often had to look for, and then try and adapt, off-the-shelf solutions that required relatively more limited resources. Empirically, the article focuses on the Italian Armed Forces, which have rarely attracted scholarly attention, although it emerged from almost total lack of activity in the Cold War to extended deployments in the 2000s.

Stay tuned for additional results of our analysis (we are now working also with surveys..)

 

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 83

Christmas is coming, but it does not seem like international politics is stopping for the event. War in Syria and Iraq is still raging, with European countries taking a more active role in recent weeks. How do they get the intelligence needed for operating? Seymour M. Hersh writes about US intel sharing in the London Review of Books.

Attacked in its “homeland”, ISIS needs a constant influx of recruits. Could videogames, or Hollywood, provide examples to took at?

But problems for Western Powers are not limited to Iraq and Syria. Talibans are advancing (again) in Afghanistan, and the recent suicide attacks near an American base shows how the situation id far from improving.

In recent years, the debate in security studies has been often focusing on non-traditional military threats such as organized crime. El Salvador’s gang problem is a case in point.

Finally, what are the COIN lessons that the Rebels and Republic in Star Wars should learn from Afghanistan and Iraq?

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – “Back to the Future day”

Today is October 21 2015, which is the date Marty McFly travelled 30 years into the future. So, also out Top5 is deeply affected by the “Back to the Future Day”. From an IR and security studies perspective, what about the main changes occurred in the global and strategic scenario in the last 30 years? Here below some examples for the last week.

 Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party just won the elections in Canada. A former actor became a political leader in North America. It sounds familiar.. (“Are you saying that Reagan is the President? Ah ah”)

But we have also some discontinuities with the 1980s. Look at the Afghanistan. At that time Washington supported the Islamic militias against the Soviets. Now the situation is a bit different…Here a recent report from Kunduz.

Also the Chinese global role is a huge innovative element of post-Cold War era. Here an interesting analysis of the Chinese aid in Africa. According to the article “Western pundits and policymakers continue to mischaracterize the intent and nature of Chinese development finance”.

The Middle East has been transformed in the post-bipolar content. However, the conflict between Israel and Palestine is far from being solved.  This is the question posed by Political Violence @ a glance: “Why Haven’t We Seen a Third Palestinian Intifada (Or Are We)?”

Finally, a last significant change. From a masterpiece of the pop-culture to an another: The Force Awakens trailer. In a strategic context marked by the diffusion of intra-state conflicts, transnational terrorism and growing complexity maybe we miss “clear” enemies. Such as Darth Vader

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ViA 2015: La trasformazione militare italiana (e molto altro)

Terminata la pausa estiva, Venus in Arms è di nuovo pronto a rituffarsi sui temi della difesa e della sicurezza (e molto altro). In questo breve post di inizio Settembre illustreremo brevemente gli argomenti che saranno al centro della nostra attenzione nei prossimi mesi, nei quali cercheremo sempre di collegare analisi e studi “accademici” a riflessioni legate al dibattito corrente.

Primo aspetto al centro del nostro lavoro sarà la trasformazione militare italiana, ovvero l’argomento del nostro ultimo libro. Il volume analizza il processo di cambiamento delle forze armate italiane nel nuovo secolo, attraverso una prospettiva comparata (Francia e Gran Bretagna). L’analisi illustra l’interazione tra alcune dimensioni della trasformazione (budget, impiego sul campo, dottrina) e la loro influenza sul percorso di cambiamento e adattamento avvenuto negli ultimi anni nella Difesa italiana. Attraverso interviste, documenti ufficiali e fonti secondarie sono state esaminate in dettaglio le operazioni in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libano e Libia.

Una particolare attenzione è stata dedicata alla dimensione istituzionale del cambiamento. In linea con quest’ultimo aspetto, in futuro ci focalizzeremo sulla dimensione dell’apprendimento, attraverso survey e questionari.

Nelle prossime settimane organizzeremo alcuni seminari di presentazione del libro, che riporteremo per tempo sul blog. Un po’ di pubblicità non fa mai male, naturalmente.

Un altro aspetto che continuerà ad occupare costantemente le pagine di Venus sarà la Difesa italiana, soprattutto alla luce della pubblicazione dell’ultimo Libro Bianco e della riforme ad esso collegate. Stiamo lavorando proprio sull’ultimo documento strategico e a breve saranno qui riportati i risultati delle nostre analisi.

In chiave comparata ci dedicheremo poi al rapporto tra l’evoluzione della Difesa italiana e quella tedesca avvenuta nell’era post-bipolare. Abbiamo già passato un po’ di tempo di Germania per interviste e analisi. Quindi aspettatevi un bel po’ di materiale da leggere e discutere (non in tedesco, tranquilli).

Una parte consistente del nostro lavoro sarà poi dedicata ai temi della political violence, del ruolo della criminalità organizzata (nazionale e transnazionale), dei conflitti contemporanei.

Al tema dei foreign fighters saranno dedicati alcuni post, i quali riporteranno i risultati di alcuni analisi che abbiamo condotto di recente in merito al caso dell’ISIL.

Non ci dimenticheremo del controverso tema degli F-35, cercando però di spostare la discussione da una prospettiva budget-driven a qualcosa di più articolato, come fatto in passato.

La sicurezza europea, scossa dalle crisi interne e regionali e dal dramma immane dei profughi, non potrà che essere esaminata in dettaglio, così come la trasformazione della NATO.

Infine, i guest-post cercheranno di ampliare l’orizzonte interdisciplinare di ViA, da analisi tradizionali di Relazioni Internazionali agli studi di intelligence fino ai “nuovi” metodi di insegnamento in materia di IR, sicurezza e scienza politica. Ogni contributo alla discussione è ben accetto ovviamente.

Sarete sempre tenuti al corrente dei principali appuntamenti con conferenze e seminari (in più qualche dettaglio sulle trasferte che faremo in Europa League).

Insomma, molta carne al fuoco. Senza dimenticarci l’appuntamento settimanale con la nostra Top-5, che raccoglie i migliori “5 pezzi facili” che provengono da blog, riviste, giornali di tutto il mondo. La dimensione “pop” del sito non verrà trascurata, soprattutto nella spasmodica attesa del nuovo capitolo di Star Wars.

Stay tuned

 

 

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Our book…

We are pleased to announce that we’ve just received the first copies of our book: “The Transformation of Italian Armed Forces in Comparative Perspective. Adapt, Improvise, Overcome?“, F. Coticchia and F.N. Moro, Ashgate, 2015.

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Here you’ll find the full contents list.

Here the first reviews.

We consider the manuscript as the ViA’s book. The blog will provide you further details on our research on military transformation in Europe. First of all, here you can download the introduction.

Let us know what do you think about…

 

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Book Talk: Strategic Narratives, Public Opinion and War

Today, 30 June 2015 at 3.30 pm, the NATO HQ (Luns Auditorium, Brussels) will host the presentation of the book: “Strategic Narratives, Public Opinion and War. Winning domestic support for the Afghan War“, edited by Beatrice de Graaf, George Dimitriu and Jens Ringsmose. The editors and three authors will illustrate the volume (unfortunately we have not been able to attend).

Here a description of the event.

The Former NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who wrote the preface, will introduce the event. 

Admiral James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander at NATO 2009-13 and Dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, has defined the volume as a must-read to understand 21st century conflict“. 

As stated in a previous post, the manuscript aims at providing a  comprehensive analysis on strategic narratives, adopting a comparative perspective to examine the case of the military operation in Afghanistan. The case of Italy has been investigated by Venus in Arms‘s Fabrizio Coticchia and Carolina De Simone, in the chapter: “The winter of our consent? Framing Italy’s ‘peace mission’ in Afghanistan”.

Here will find more details on the book.

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Venus in Arms at the next BISA Conference: “Italian Foreign Policy and Radical Parties”

Venus in Arms will be at the 40th Anniversary BISA (British International Studies Association) Conference (London, 16th-19th June 2015).

Here you’ll find the programme and other details.

We will present the paper: “The Limits of Radical Parties in Coalition Foreign Policy: Italy, Hijacking, and the Extremity Hypothesis” (F.Coticchia and J.Davidson). The paper has been recently accepted by Foreign Policy Analysis for publication (forthcoming).

Here below the abstract:

Scholarly consensus increasingly suggests that coalition governments produce more extreme foreign policies than single party governments. This, the literature argues, is especially likely when coalition governments include radical parties that take extreme positions on foreign policy issues and are “critical” to the government’s survival, as the radical parties push the centrist ones toward the extremes. A look at Italy’s Second Republic center-left governments and decisions on military operations provides an important counterpoint to the extremity hypothesis. In three high profile cases of military operations–Albania 1997, Kosovo 1999, and Afghanistan 2006-08–Italy had a center-left government that depended on radical parties for its survival. In all cases the parties took a position against military operations but did not prevent the government from engaging in/continuing operations by threatening survival or forcing the government’s fall. Our paper seeks to explain the irrelevance of leftist radical parties in Italy’s Second Republic. We argue first that radical parties are reluctant to threaten or force government collapse as this can lead to a center right coalition coming to office and voters’ blame for the outcome. Second, we claim that relative salience has been critical: foreign policy has been less important to radical parties than domestic issues and it has been more important to center-left parties than radical ones. Finally, we argue that radical parties have appealed to their voters through theatrical politics (e.g., attending protests) and have affected the implementation of military operations.

See you in London

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“Strategic Narratives, Public Opinion, and War”

Venus in arms has already addressed the interesting topic of narratives and counter-narratives in previous posts (here on Afghanistan, here on the F-35).

Today we recommend a brand new book on narratives, just published for Routledge “Strategic Narratives, Public Opinion and War. Winning domestic support for the Afghan War” edited by Beatrice de Graaf, George Dimitriu and Jens Ringsmose.

The manuscript aims at providing a detailed and comprehensive analysis on strategic narratives, adopting a comparative perspective to examine the case of the military operation in Afghanistan. The preface is by the former Secretary General of NATO Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Several scholars have contributed to the book. Here you’ll find all the contents of and the authors (among many others: Lawrence Freedman, David Betz, Alister Miskimmon, Ben O’Loughlin, Laura Roselle, Tim Groeling and Matthew A. Baum)

Also the case of Italy has been analyzed, thanks to Venus in Arms‘s Fabrizio Coticchia and his chapter (with Carolina De Simone): “The winter of our consent? Framing Italy’s ‘peace mission’ in Afghanistan”. 

As illustrated in the website of the book:

This volume explores the way governments endeavoured to build and maintain public support for the war in Afghanistan, combining new insights on the effects of strategic narratives with an exhaustive series of case studies.  In contemporary wars, with public opinion impacting heavily on outcomes, strategic narratives provide a grid for interpreting the why, what and how of the conflict. This book asks how public support for the deployment of military troops to Afghanistan was garnered, sustained or lost in thirteen contributing nations. Public attitudes in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe towards the use of military force were greatly shaped by the cohesiveness and content of the strategic narratives employed by national policy-makers. Assessing the ability of countries to craft a successful strategic narrative, the book addresses the following key areas: 1) how governments employ strategic narratives to gain public support; 2) how strategic narratives develop during the course of the conflict; 3) how these narratives are disseminated, framed and perceived through various media outlets; 4) how domestic audiences respond to strategic narratives; 5) how this interplay is conditioned by both events on the ground, in Afghanistan, and by structural elements of the domestic political systems. This book will be of much interest to students of international intervention, foreign policy, political communication, international security, strategic studies and IR in general.

Finally, here below some reviews of the manuscript:

‘This volume is a must-read to understand 21st century conflict. In today’s supercharged world of social networks, instantaneous communications, and suddenly constructed narratives, national leaders must bring their publics along. The long, difficult, and still unfinished NATO campaign in Afghanistan offers many lessons — both good and bad – for how to approach to aspect of creating security in a highly complex world.’ — Admiral James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander at NATO 2009-13 and Dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, USA

‘How states explain their participation in conflict is not a passive reflection of a policy position, but actively shapes the scope of the conflict itself, and frames how actions are understood by the enemy, one’s own side, and other audiences. So strategic narrative matters. This admirable book, focused primarily on strategic narrative and domestic audiences, serves as a guide for policymakers and students of contemporary conflict.’ —Emile Simpson, Harvard University, USA

‘How do Western governments persuade their publics of the necessity for fighting “wars of choice”? This fascinating volume explores the importance and effectiveness of different national strategic narratives for the war in Afghanistan and, in so doing, explains why some Western states were more successful than others in sustaining public support for this long and costly war.’ — Theo Farrell, King’s College London, UK

Some events will be organized soon (also in Italy) to present the book. So, stay tuned.

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 46. “The best of Venus (2014-2015)”

Quite a different Top 5 this week. One year ago our “adventure” in the blogsphere started. In the last 12 months Venus in Arms tried to provide a contribution to the current debate on defense and security, from an Italian and European perspective. It has been a hard work, but we are really satisfied about the results. And we are eager to improve our work every day. So, this week we present the best posts (according to our opinion..) published by Venus in Arms in the last year (March 2014 – March 2015). We deeply thank ALL the people who supported us with brilliant guest posts.

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 41

While ISIS keeps killing hostages, admits the loss of the Syrian city of Kobani, and attacks Kirkuk, US President Barack Obama tries to place the threat posed by the Islamist group in context. It’s one of the many themes addressed in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

This comes in a period of thorough rethinking of American strategy in the past decade and beyond. Robert Grenier on The Atlantic tells his role in trying to prevent the US intervention in Afghanistan by convincing the Taliban to hand over Osama Bin Landen.

In the meanwhile, the US Administration is also rethinking about the state of its nuclear arsenal. Perhaps trying to re-pivot to Asia after events kept the attention on the Middle East, Obama wants to spend hundreds of million dollars  in renovating the nuclear triad, raising several critiques.

Australian Lowy Institute for International Policy features an interesting debate on how to deal with terrorism. Anthony Bubalo’s piece deals with the classic  dilemmas  of democracy balancing the fight on terror and civil liberties.

Finally, a lot of debates on military matters have been raised by recently released movies, starting with American Sniper. Walter Isaacson, well known for his biography of Steve Jobs, tells a part of Alan Turing’s story, celebrated by Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game.

 

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