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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Effective strategic narratives? Italian public opinion and military operations in Iraq, Libya, and Lebanon

Oddly enough, in the new Italian White Paper there are no references to the concept of strategic narratives. On the contrary, many official documents and statements by decision makers have recently emphasized the role played by strategic narratives to enhance the perceived legitimacy of military operations.

Venus in Arms has already addressed the concept of “strategic narratives”, defined by Freedman as: “compelling storylines which can explain events convincingly and from which inferences can be drawn”

Today, we are pleased to present the new paper by Fabrizio Coticchia: “Effective strategic narratives? Italian public opinion and military operations in Iraq, Libya, and Lebanon” (here, gated). The paper has been published in the first issue of the new Italian Political Science Review/Rivista Italiana di Scienza PoliticaIPSR/RISP (now published by Cambridge University Press) provides three fully English-language issues per year. Here additional info on the Journal.

Here below the abstract of the paper:

Public attitudes are greatly shaped by the cohesiveness of the strategic narratives crafted by policy-makers in framing the national involvement in war. The literature has recently devoted growing attention toward the features that define successful strategic narratives, such as a consistent set of objectives, convincing cause–effect chains, as well as credible promises of success. This paper provides an original framework for ‘effective strategic narratives’ for the case of Italy. The military operations undertaken by Italian armed forces in Iraq, Lebanon, and Libya represent the cases through which the framework is assessed. Drawing on content and discourse analysis of political debates and data provided by public opinion surveys, this paper explores the nature of the strategic narratives and their effectiveness.

The author has already addressed the issue of narratives, public opinion and Italian military operations, locking at the case of Afghanistan (here)

The current paper presents two main implications.

First, strategic narratives should not be realistic, but rather compelling. A certain ambiguity of the storyline could be sometimes inevitable due to the gap between long-established values (such as peace or humanitarianism, which are very difficult to modify) and a risky military environment, where those beliefs may appears as extraneous. In these cases, an integrated communication strategy, aimed at preparing the public opinion and avoiding counter-productive rosy pictures, could be crucial to avoid a collapse of approval towards the intervention.

Second, as already tested by literature, casualty aversion per se does not determine the fall of public support. However, mounting insecurity on the ground requires greater flexibility of the narrative to adapt and transform. In this case, a negative narrative dominance (i.e., a more persuasive counter-narrative) could play a fundamental role in hindering the plot’s effectiveness.

ViA will provide additional posts in the near future regarding strategic narratives and other security issues (e.g., the F35). Stay tuned.

 

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L’Italia e la minaccia jihadista. Quale politica estera?

Oggi Venus in Arms sarà a Milano, all’ISPI (Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale) per presentare il volume “L’Italia e la minaccia jihadista. Quale politica estera?”, a cura di Stefano M. Torelli e Arturo Varvelli.

Fabrizio Coticchia, di ViA, ha contribuito al volume con un capitolo relativo alla politica di difesa italiana e la minaccia jihadista. Dopo aver illustrato l’evoluzione della dottrina nazionale in materia di “nuove minacce”, l’analisi si è concentrata sulla principali lezioni apprese in questi anni di missioni militari, dal ruolo dell’intelligence all’addestramento delle forze di sicurezza locali. La descrizione dell’attuale impegno in Iraq (e Libia) precede alcune raccomandazioni che vengono elaborate in conclusione al capitolo.

Qui il link dove scaricare il rapporto, appena uscito in formato e-book

Come riassunto dal sito dell’ISPI: L’ascesa dello “Stato Islamico” e la competizione con la vecchia al-Qaida sembrano attivare dinamiche molto rischiose per un’intera area geopolitica – dai Balcani al Maghreb – già instabile, ma altamente rilevante per gli interessi dell’Unione europea e dell’Italia in particolare. Qual è la reale portata di questa minaccia? Quali i paesi più a rischio? Quali le implicazioni per la nostra politica estera e di difesa e per la sicurezza del nostro paese?

Il volume si pone lo scopo di rispondere a queste domande.

Il rapporto è stato presentato anche a Roma l’8 maggio alla presenza del Ministro degli Affari Esteri Paolo Gentiloni.

Oggi (nella sede dell’ISPI, via Clerici 5 Milano, alle 17.30) saranno presenti:

Andrea BECCARO (Freie Universität – Berlino), Fabrizio COTICCHIA (Università di Genova), Lia QUARTAPELLE (Camera dei Deputati), Riccardo REDAELLI (ISPI e Università Cattolica di Milano) e Arturo VARVELLI (ISPI).

Qui le informazioni per poter partecipare all’evento.

Qui invece la diretta streaming

 

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 50

This week a Top 5 directly from Germany (where ViA is working on military transformation…).

So, the first suggestion comes from a German source: Der Spiegel (International). Here you’ll find an interesting interview with the Iraqi Prime Minister. According to Al-Abadi: ‘the liberation of Tikrit is very encouraging’.

A lot of debate last week on the Iran Deal. The Monkey Cage focuses on the differences between “hard-liners and moderates” in Teheran.

Other cuts for the UK defense? A new RUSI paper highlights the possibility of further reductions in defense spending and personnel numbers in the forthcoming Strategic Defense and Security Review. We should wait after the next General Election for having concrete answers.

A compelling analysis by the excellent Political Violence @ a Glance on the “the rise (and decline) of piracy“. The post (which summarizes a forthcoming article) illustrates argues that: “pirates are rational, criminal actors who generally weigh the potential gains from successful attacks against the risk of capture”

Finally, some documents declassified. This week, thanks to Unredacted,  we have the “The Dark Alliance”,the connection between the genesis of the crack cocaine epidemic in California and across the U.S., to the contras, the CIA-run and Reagan-backed guerrilla army operating out of Nicaragua. A different sort of “Iran deal” at that time…

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 48

This week our Top-5 starts looking at the battle of Tikrit. According to The New York Times, “the hard lessons of the Tikrit offensive, with a heavy cost in casualties for the Shiite militiamen and soldiers involved, have Iraqi officials thinking more cautiously about their next steps”. In the article you’ll find also interesting maps of the ongoing battle.

The debate on the controversial F-35 is still lively. On the one hand, we have positive news regarding the Pentagon’s estimated procurement cost, while on the other hand the technical problems of the JSF are not vanished.

After the terrorist attack in Tunisia, a growing attention has been devoted to North Africa. The Monkey Cage provides an interesting perspective on an underrated case: Morocco.

Uk defense under reconsideration? As stated by the BBC: “The Commons Def Committee says Britain’s security strategy urgently needs updating, to ensure several different threats can be tackled at once”. We will look at the electoral debates to assess the effective role played by defense issues in the UK…

Finally, the account by Duck of Minerva of the most recent ISA Conference in New Orleans (Game of Thrones as a main issue..)

 

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 47

Changing ideas is a sign of intelligence, a necessary element of academic research. It is also a key for organizational adaptation and learning. It’s hard, though, and also for individuals, to admit they’re wrong.  That’s why the list of past “wrongs” by Steven Walt, a dean of American IR scholars, is a must read.

Photos often describe conflict better than many words. The Atlantic features a series of impressive photos of Reuters’ photo reporters in Northern Iraq, where battle is raging.

Sticking with ISIS (is there anything else, nowadays?), DefenceOne presents the case for drones: air strikes are doing the job in Iraq and Syria.

Well, perhaps something else matters. Where is Vladimir Putin? BBC responds with humor (we know now he is still among us..)

Finally, elections in Israel.  Follow the live blog of the Jerusalem Post. As they say, “Israel has no foreign policy, just domestic politics”.

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Paris attacks and foreign fighters. A research agenda

The dramatic Paris attacks has raised attention (and concern) over the phenomenon of the so-called “foreign fighters“. Several scholars have already focused on the role played by foreign insurgents fighting on behalf of local rebel groups. (See for instance the detailed historical analysis, from the Texas revolution to Afghanistan, by David Malet). Since the end of the Cold War sub-national and transnational actors have played a growing role in global politics. The foreign fighters are the most recent and controversial example of the increasing relevance of transnational actors, especially in contemporary warfare.

Recent research has tried to track “Western” foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq. For instance, the ICSR team has created a unique database with the social media profiles of nearly 200 British, European and Western fighters in Syria. Others consider the current conflict against the ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) as a “game changer” for the extremist threat to Western countries. The border between domestic and international security appears as blurring due to the possible menaces posed by those fighters, mainly in terms of consequences related to their experience on the ground (blowback effects, terrorist attacks, radical propaganda, etc.).

In next weeks/months also Venus in Arms will focus on the issue of foreign fighters. Through the case of the ISIL  we are interested in analyze the process of learning and adaptation of foreign insurgents in contemporary conflicts. In a forthcoming book chapter we investigate the effective extent of the role played by the foreign fighters in the process of elaboration and diffusion of approaches, tactics and lessons learnt in a cross-time analysis (2011-2014).

Despite a mounting interest over such issue, a scarce attention has been devoted to the mechanisms through which the foreign fighters are trained and, above all, the ways adopted for spreading military innovation and adaptation across conflicts and crises. From a bottom-up approach focused on foreign fighters, the book chapter (more details on the book  in next weeks..) examines how the lessons learnt derived from other conflicts have affected the ways through which insurgent organizations in Syria and Iraq changed to face new challenges on the ground. Thanks to primary and secondary sources, the study sheds light on the mechanisms of inter-organizational learning and the adoption of practices that come from the experience of foreign fighters.

Findings will allow to better assessing the role played by those fighters in contemporary warfare, illustrating the “institutionalization” of lessons learned in insurgent organizations.

Stay tuned…

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Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 37

Happy new year from Venus in Arms! Whatever this year will bring, US defence and foreign policy decision will keep being decisive in shaping the world to come. This long essay of James Fallows discusses the “tragedy of the American military” as the outcome of a long-term process of separation of the armed forces from American society that led to the paradoxical outcome of making war less relevant for Americans, and at the same time more likely.

How’s the new US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter going to manage the defense apparatus in such critical times? Well, he might follow what Joshua Jones calls the Rolling Stones’ rule of leadership: “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.” That is: refine priorities, create better communications between civilian leaders and uniformed men in the Pentagon, build long-term relations with Allies and friends, improve the procurement process. Not easy tasks…

Where will conflicts be in 2015? French strategist Jean-Marie Guéhenno selects ten hot spots where violence might persist or rise this year. Apart from the usual suspects (Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya), he’s pessimist about chances of peace in Africa (from DRC to Nigeria) and perhaps in Latin America too (oil prices might deeply affect Venezuela’s political stability).

On the brighter side, Steven Pinker and Andrew Mack on Slate argue that the world is not falling apart. While news always (inevitably) focus on what happens, and thus conflict and violence seem ubiquitous, numbers would show that violence – from homicides to mass killings – are on decline. At least in the “long run”.

If you still have time (a lot, in fact), the NSA released at the end of last year internal reports on activities documenting abuses as well. You can start from here.

 

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“Our” book: The Transformation of Italian Armed Forces in Comparative Perspective

The editors of Venus in Arms are pleased to present their most recent book: “The Transformation of Italian Armed Forces in Comparative Perspective. Adapt, Improvise, Overcome“. Ashgate (Series: Military Strategy and Operational Art) has  just released online the detailed description of the book, which will be published in July 2015.

The book is about the change in Italian Armed Forces since 2001. The manuscript focuses on new empirical evidence on how the Italian forces, compared and contrasted with the French and the British ones, have devised their doctrines, their force structures and their budgets.

Here below an overall introduction to the research:

European armed forces have undergone deep changes in the past two decades. Given the breadth of the debate and the size of transformations that took place, it is somewhat surprising that relatively few academic studies have directly dealt with changes in force structure of European militaries, and the Italian armed forces in particular. The focus of this book is the organizational dimension of the restructuring of armed forces through 3 different lenses: doctrine and strategic framework, budget and resource allocation, and force structure and deployment. The key issues addressed relate to how these factors interact in shaping transformation. Of particular interest is the theme of learning, which is how armed forces endogenize change in the short and long run. This study provides valuable insights into the extent to which armed forces manage to adapt to the emerging strategic and operational challenges they have to face and to illustrate the weight of institutional legacies, resources constraints, and inter-organizational learning in shaping transformation. Focusing on the Italian case in comparative perspective and based on a large variety of military operations from airstrikes to peacekeeping and counterinsurgency, the book provides an innovative viewpoint on military transformation and significantly contributes to our understanding of contemporary security that is deeply shaped by the lessons learnt in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq and Libya.

We will provide additional details and previews of main findings in next weeks.

P.S. Yes, “Adapt, Improvise, Overcome” refers to the Marine Corps’ mantra popularized by Sergeant Gunny (Clint Eastwood)

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Borders in Transition: Rethinking Sovereignty, Domestic Politics and International Relations in the MENA Region

Venus in Arms recommends a very interesting conference: “Borders in Transition: Rethinking Sovereignty, Domestic Politics and International Relations in the MENA Region”. The event will take place at the European University Institute (EUI), Florence – 11-12 December 2014.

The conference is organized by the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies  and specifically by the project “Borderlands“, directed by Professor Raffaella Del Sarto.

Here you’ll find additional details on the conference. Here the Programme.

The conference sets out to explore the impact of the transition process in North Africa and the Middle East (MENA) on the nature and management of borders. Focusing on Libya, Egypt/Sinai, and Syria/Iraq, the conference addresses the following questions: Firstly, what are the implications of the altered nature of borders in the region for the notion of state sovereignty? Secondly, how did altered patterns of border management affect the role of specific local and societal actors? Thirdly, the conference will reflect on the regional and international dimension of these developments, including the implications for the EU–the ‘borderlands’ of the MENA region.

Registration for this event is mandatory.

See you there.

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