Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 43

Conflict in Libya rages, ISIL is apparantly gaining ground, the Egyptian Air Force bombed Derna, Benghazi and Sirte. Making sense of what happens is tough, and as Libya seems to descend into chaos, The Atlantic’s Matt Schiavenza wonders if the country is turning into Iraq.

Debate on what to do in Libya also rages. While countries debate what to do, it is also important to look back at what they did in the very recent past. Glenn Greeenwald on The Intercept looks with the usually critical eye at the failures of the intervention in Libya of 2011.

In the meanwhile, the cease-fire is hardly holding in Ukraine.  The BBC reports “live” on the events and also provides useful maps. If anything, the crisis in Eastern Europe brought “old” geopolitics back.

With a eye on the risks of escalating the conflict and at the successes of the past, Fred Kaplan on Slate ponders how to defeat Putin. It does not require going to war, but rather thinking about a recasted version of containment.

Venus in Arms is attentive to how war is portrayed in the arts. Last week we featured a post focusing  on Clint Eastwood’s war movies. This is an interview with American Sniper’s screenwriter on what it means to write movies about war (and other stuff).

Share Button

Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 40

Tuesday 27 January is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and thus also the end of the deadliest act of mass murder in a single location in human history“. This is the way through which The Guardian remembers the anniversary, which we should never forget.

The Tripoli branch of Islamic State (Isis) has claimed responsibility for an attack against a luxury hotel where several foreigners have been killed. For a detailed analysis on the Islamist forces in Libya see this report by Jon Mitchell. 

The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the University of Pennsylvania released its seventh annual 2013 Global Go To Think Tanks Report. Good news for Brookings, still at the top.

Very good news from Kobane. After several months of intense fighting the Kurds (with the help of US air strikes) have liberated the city from the siege posed by ISIS militants.

Finally, check this fantastic presentation of the next ISA panel on IR and Game of Thrones. ViA will attend the panel. So, don’t’ worry, we all provide a detailed report!

Share Button

“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)

Share Button

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.

Share Button

Italian public opinion and counter-narratives

As already described in a previous post, Venus in Arms will be at the next ASMI Conference (London, 21-22 November 2014). The Annual Conference of The Association for the Study of Modern Italy (ASMI) will be organized at the Italian Cultural Institute in London.

Here you’ll find the final programme of the event.

The title of the conference is: The Italian Crisis: Twenty years onIndeed, in 1994, the Association for the Student of Modern Italy organised a conference around the theme of the ‘Italian crisis’. As reported in the official website of the conference: “Silvio Berlusconi had just been elected as Prime Minister and the country was in dire economic straits. The political system was in tatters after the tangentopoli scandals. The crisis was analysed from a political, cultural, historical and social viewpoints in a conference which was extremely well attended and led to fascinating discussions after every paper. This year the call for papers was looking for original work on the history, culture, economics and politics of the last twenty years in Italy, as well as papers which take a comparative and transnational approach to the Italian crisis“.

Venus in Arms will present the paper: “An alternative view: Counter-narratives, Italian public opinion and security issues”. This is the abstract:

Recent studies have persuasively illustrated how the strategic narratives crafted by policy-makers shape public attitudes regarding military operations. Strategic narratives are conceived as crucial tools in order to convince the public in case of international conflicts. Consistent and compelling narratives enhance the perceived legitimacy of military operations. However, exogenous elements such as the presence of alternative counter-narratives play a considerable role in hindering a wider acceptance of the message. The goal of the paper is to investigate the main contents and the effectiveness of counter-narratives developed by political parties,“pacifist groups” and associations in order to contrast the “plot” designed by Italian governments to gain the support of public opinion towards relevant security issues (operation in Libya, F35, weapons sent to Iraq). What have been the key-elements of the counter-narratives? Why have some counter-narratives been more effective than others? Drawing on discourse analysis and interviews, the paper aims to answer these questions, examining how and to what extent the counter-narratives have successfully contested the official strategic narratives.

We promise a detailed account of the conference. See you there.

Share Button

Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 22

This week out attention is still focused on the crises in Iraq and Syria.

The first suggestion is the detailed account provided by Air Force Times on the US air strikes in Syria. It was the first time the U.S. sent the F-22 Raptor into combat. Look also at Jane’s for the analysis of the ongoing military operation.

The crisis deeply involves several countries in the region. A relevant strategic actor is Turkey. Here the report on the clashes occurred at the Syria border. As stated in the article: “Turkey has begun to close some of its border crossings with Syria after about 130,000 Kurdish refugees entered the country over the weekend”.

In the meanwhile, two Chinese warships have docked at Iran’s principal naval port (Bandar Abbas) for the first time in history. According to The New York Times, the Iranian and Chinese Navies were scheduled to start joint exercises. The meeting was defined as a: “freindly visit”…

The situation in Libya is still dramatic unstable. Here you’ll find an interesting story on chemical weapons, international organizations and smuggling.

Finally, something completely different. Television and IR: Lost debuted 10 years ago (September 22, 2004). The (acclaimed and criticized) show, which represents a turning point for television series of our time, can be interpreted according to different paradigms of IR Theory (indeed Hume, Locke, Rousseau were among the main characters…). Venus in Arms is still thinking at a post on that…


Share Button

Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 21

Iraq and the Islamic State are on the center of the global stage on their own this week. President Obama’s Administration is still struggling to find a balance between the perceived need to intervene and limit action of IS (roll it back, too?) and the mantra of “don’t do stupid s**t” that supposedly drive the current external action. But how much of a threat is the IS? This article reviews the American debate, showing the diversity of views among US policy-makers, pundits, and so on.

Still on perception and communication of foreign policy, Ryan Evans assesses the link between events occurred two years ago in Benghazi, Libya, with the killing of an American diplomat and Obama’s foreign policy (not just on Libya).  On the one hand, too much focus on a single event, related attempt to build a political case against the President’s management of the issue, can lead to overlooking the big picture. On the other, the case “laid bare” more structural shortcomings of “Obama’s national security communications apparatus” (Evans talks about “incompetence” and “cynicism”).

Israel is now disappearing from the news, with military confrontation in Gaza stopped. There has been some revival in the interest over Israeli nuclear program, starting from its origins. The Atlantic features an article calling for Israel to be more transparent on its nukes, arguably the country’s “worst kept secret”.

Thursday might be a historical moment for Scotland, as the vote on the referendum on independence will be cast. The London Review of Books presents a wide panel of opinions on the vote and its consequences for Scotland and the UK.

Finally, a group of American and Russian experts met in Finland for a classic “Track 2 diplomacy” initiative. Robert Legvold on the National Interest assesses the suggestions of the panel of experts and discusses critiques brought by opposers of the initiative.




Share Button

ViA at the SISP Annual Conference


Venus in Arms comes back to work after summer break. ViA will be at the SISP (Italian Political Science Association) Annual Conference. As illustrated in a previous post, the SISP Meeting will be held in Perugia at end of the next week (11-13 September).

The conference is organized by the Department of Political Science of the University of Perugia and the Department of Human and Social Sciences of the University for Foreigners of Perugia. The conference venue will be the Department of Political Science, University of Perugia, Via Pascoli, 20 – 06123 Perugia.

Here you’ll find the final programme of the conference. The abstracts of papers, panels and sections are here.

Venus in Arms will be present in four panels, focusing on intelligence, foreign policy analysis and Italian defense.

We will discuss the relationship between intelligence and national interest in a globalized world. We also present a paper on the historical evolution of Italian defense, stressing main innovations and obstacles. Finally, a co-authored work (with Michela Ceccorulli) will assess different interpretations of the Italian military engagement in Libya.

See you there

Share Button

Top 5 by Venus in Arms – week 17.

The dramatic crisis in Gaza is ongoing. Among several comments and op-eds, last week we focused on this alternative view regarding the widely debated Iron Dome. According to the MIT Professor Theodore Postol, the effectiveness of the system is overrated. Here and here you’ll find updated data and analyses on Iron Dome.

Apart from the ground war, IDF and Hamas are clashing also in terms of communication efforts. “The New York Times” provides an interesting account of such “struggle for domestic and international opinion”. In other words, a “clash of narratives” as a new level of propaganda war.

With the global attention devoted to the conflict in Palestine, we should not forget the worsening of security conditions in Libya. The website “Libya Body Count” well illustrates a war scenario: around 250 deaths only in July.

The F35 is a “hot issue” (and this is not a reference to the recent engine fire…) in the US. Here “The National Interest” highlights five possible ways to replace the JSF. Too late? The debate is still lively and controversial.

Finally, an Italian perspective. During the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Italy will coordinate EU policies leading to the negotiations of the new post-2015 development Agenda. If you are interested in development cooperation look at this website (in English) that shows a lot of data regarding Italian aid programmes.

Share Button

Mapping European Security: The EUISS Yearbook 2014

Some weeks ago the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) has published the second edition of the Yearbook of European Security (YES). The EUISS, which was set up in January 2002 as an autonomous agency under the CSFP (Common Foreign and Security Policy), is the Union’s agency dealing with the analysis of foreign, security and defence policy issues.

The “EUISS Yearbook of European Security 2014” provides a “comprehensive survey of the EU ‘toolbox’ as well as a “targeted analysis of European defense spending”.

Here you’ll find the link to the document.

Just at the beginning of the Italian Presidency of the Council of the EU, it is worth reading a detailed analysis of the current state of the play concerning security and defense in Europe.

In addition, the authors (Antonio Missiroli, Florence Gaub, Olivier de France and Daniel Fiott) assess “the changes and developments that have occurred in three ‘signature’ countries of the so-called Arab Spring”: Libya, Tunisia and Egypt.

Here below a selected passage from the foreword:

2013 was a remarkable year for the Union’s foreign, security and defence policy. The latter, in particular, concentrated the minds and mobilised the energies of all EU institutional actors in the run-up to the European Council meeting of December focused on ‘defence matters’ (the Documents section of this volume includes the full reproduction of relevant texts). Furthermore, the issue of cybersecurity gained in saliency and even urgency due to both internal policy developments and external political challenges. For its part, EU diplomacy proved its worth by facilitating both a landmark agreement between Belgrade and Pristina (in the spring) and a preliminary deal between the so-called ‘3+3’ and Tehran on Iran’s nuclear programme (in the autumn). Meanwhile, the Union’s neighbourhoods have remained a major source of concern, with growing instability in both the South – including our neighbours’ neighbours, from Mali to Sudan – and the East, where signs of turmoil started to become apparent well before the end of the year. 2014 will mark the conclusion of the post-Lisbon phase of European integration, characterised by the gradual implementation of the new treaty provisions and the establishment of a new institutional ‘system’ for the EU’s foreign and security policy – both carried out at a time of deep economic crisis inside the Union and rapid political change outside”.

Share Button