ViA at ISA 2016: German and Italian defense, Mafia killings, and Renzi’s foreign policy

The International Studies Association has just released the preliminary programme for its (57th) annual convention. This year the conference will be held in Atlanta, from March 16-19 2016.

Here you can find all the info on the (huge) conference.

The title of the annual convention is “Exploring Peace“. As stated in the official website:  “Traditional international studies have put a premium on war, militarized conflict, and other violence as primary phenomena for investigation. In contrast, “peace” is often defined as the absence of militarized and violent conflict, an afterthought or residual category without a distinct theoretical explanation. Yet, such a characterization lumps many disparate kinds of events and relationships together. Economic sanctions are sometimes placed in the same “non-war” category as cultural exchanges […] The focus on mitigating conflict and violence has led scholars to downplay or ignore other values such as human rights, justice, and equity that are part of many conceptions of peace. In addition, such a concentration leads away from interactions that increasingly characterize international affairs, including trade cooperation, integration, and peace building…“.

Also this year Venus in Arms will be at the ISA, presenting three papers on different issues (and surely going to support the Atlanta Hawks at the Philips Arena) . Here below the abstracts of the paper we will present there.

“Divergent paths: Understanding post-Cold War Italian and German defense policy”

F.Coticchia and F.N. Moro

Italian and German defense policy during the Cold War shared several features, from the legacies of WWII defeat, to pacifism as a key in strategic narratives, limited military expenditures and non-use of armed force in international arena. Just after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, however, Italy provided its military contribution to “Desert Storm”, while Germany refused to deploy armed forces in Iraq. Since the end of the bipolar era, the Italian troops have been engaged in operations abroad and several defense reforms (suspension of conscription, jointness of the Chiefs of staff, etc.) have been approved. On the contrary, the first German combat operation occurred in 1999, and “military restraint” has been never abandoned. Moreover, territorial defense remained at the core of the strategic approach until the mid of the 2000s while the professional model was only recently adopted. Therefore, despite similar historical, institutional, and social premises post-bipolar outcomes have been divergent. What are the explaining factors of such different pace and timing of military transformation in the cases of Italian and German defense? Through primary and secondary sources, the paper focuses on prestige and parliamentary control that together with timing/sequencing played a crucial role in shaping the two outcomes.

“Transferring violence? Mafia killings in non-traditional areas: Evidence from Italy”

F.N. Moro and S. Sberna

Violence is a key tool used by organized crime to assert its control over territory and business. Since organized crime grew increasingly mobile and moved away from traditional areas of entrenchment, several popular analyses of mafias argue that violence is bound to spread to new areas of migration. In this paper, we argue that this view overlooks two important elements. First, criminal organizations acting in non-traditional areas face a structure of constraints and opportunities that does not favor the adoption of violence as a successful organizational strategy. Second, even when violent means are adopted they might be the result of conflicts that have their roots in the territories of origin of criminal groups. We provide empirical support to these statements trough quantitative analysis of violence perpetrated by mafia groups in Italy in the period between 1983 and 2008, analyzing the link between violence in the South (where these groups have established for over a century) and areas of recent expansion in the Northern part of the country. Also, we shed light on the mechanisms underpinning violence through micro narratives about specific episodes of violence

“Explaining Renzi’s Foreign Policy: The International Effects of Domestic Reforms”

F.Coticchia and J.W. Davidson

Since becoming Italy’s Prime Minister in February 2014 Matteo Renzi has attracted a lot of attention for his domestic political reforms. Journalists and scholars have focused far less attention on Renzi’s foreign policy, however. This lack of attention is striking given some of the Renzi government’s actions on the international stage. For example, Italy has refused to participate in air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and has favored accommodation with Russia over the Ukraine crisis.Based on primary (interviews, official documents) and secondary sources, this paper will attempt to explain the Renzi government’s foreign policy. First, because Renzi is focused on domestic reform, foreign policy is an afterthought. Renzi’s government has avoided costly policies (e.g., air strikes, purchasing new F-35 fighter, etc.) because they would undercut his economic plans. Second, because Renzi’s domestic reforms anger many on the left, he has chosen a foreign policy that appeals to–or at least does not create further problems with–the left (e.g., vocally asking for anti-austerity measures in the EU during the semester of Italian presidency). Finally, Renzi lacks foreign policy experience and has chosen low profile ministers who are not political competitors.

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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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Organized crime and “political” violence: A report from MPSA 2015 and a focus on Italian mafias

Midwest Political Science Annual Conference last week in Chicago. Good place to keep updated – and try to contribute on – recent advancements in the discipline. Few strands of literature have been enjoying a blossoming in the past years as conflict studies did. Evolving political realities – lot of attention was devoted to “Afghanistan and Iraq-like wars” – and progresses in research design and methods – with a strong push coming from quantitative studies blended in making the field so rich. Within this growing body of studies, a relevant place has been occupied by research looking at forms of violence and agents, such as organized crime, which have often escaped classical analyses of “political” violence.  Or at least those following Schmitt’s classical distinction between political and criminal aims contained in the famous Theory of the Partisan.

Thus, the panel on “Political Violence and Crime” at MPSA constituted an interesting opportunity to discuss current research on the theme (I think the late Charles Tilly, who was always keen in relating organized crime and political phenomena, would have been happy about it). Five very interesting pieces of work were presented. Harvard’s Bradley Holland presented a paper on ethnic violence linked to drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) in Southern California. Guillermo Trejo and Sandra Ley (Notre Dame) showed the link between the structures of political arenas and DTOs’ killings of politicians in Mexico. University of Wisconsin’s Nicholas Barnes presented his extensive fieldwork on gang governance in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, and Wolfgang Muno (University of Mainz) laid out an interpretative framework to analyse “bad informal institutions”.

And then (highly likely that it is not the best piece, but for sure the dearest to Venus), Francesco (Moro) and Salvatore Sberna had a piece on violence in non-traditional areas – that is in the regions were mafia consortia did not have their roots – in Italy. The problem is a central one, given that organized crime and mafias are increasingly mobile and that violence perpetrated by these groups has been making the news on both sides of the Atlantic. Across the Ocean, there has been a lot of discussion over the effect of Mexican drug cartels’ presence in large US cities. Italian mafias as well sparked debate, both in Italy – where presence in the Northern regions of the country has been expanding for decades – and abroad – where violence erupted in “surprising” locations (such as Duisburg in Germany, where a massacre took place in 2007).

The paper addressed, both theoretically and empirically, two major puzzles. First, notwithstanding expansion in Northern regions, the number of mafia homicides in these areas is overall much lower than in Southern regions where mafias have their strongholds. Second, although limited, violence (measured by mafia homicides) in Northern regions present notable diversities: some provinces in some years are clearly more violent than others. How, then, can this diversity be explained?

Three main findings emerge:

  • Violence in non-traditional areas is more limited as groups do not find the same environmental conditions of territories of origin. First, the balance of forces versus law enforcement is penalizing. Second, business in new markets is less confined to the provision of “private protection” and more based on the attempt to penetrate legal markets, where resort to violence is less needed. Becoming legitimate, by way, has been the attempt of most criminals in pop-culture, from Michael Corleone to Lemond Bishop (a reference for the Chicagoans). This has always Third, and as a consequence, mafia groups in new areas often choose to “outsource” the use of violent means to other agents (often, coming from parent groups in areas of origin).
  • When violence happens in new territories, it is often the result of “transfers” (spillovers) from mafia violence in the old ones. That is, if a conflict erupts in a Sicilian province, it will likely affect violence in a Northern province where the Sicilian groups involved in the conflict previously migrated.
  • Violence transfers are affected by local conditions as well. Spillovers, in other words, happen in the provinces where the mafia groups’ presence has been more consolidated (over time) and where they actually have more capabilities/resources (which is signalled by the absence of other mafia consortia in the same area).

Work is under way in these directions. Stay tuned for details!

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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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Why Mafias Kill. Exploring homicides in Southern Italy

Well, this should be a blog on Italian and European defence and security, and organized crime has been increasingly on the radar, both of institutions and scholars dealing with security issues. Most attention has been to so-called transnational organized crime and the possible responses to its rise, both in Europe and the US. Another strand of studies, possibly epitomized by the excellent Federico Varese’s Mafias on the Move, have dealt on organizational features and operational modes of different mafia groups that have their base on a specific territory (and might, or might not, extend their range of action). If the problem one wishes to understand is why and how organized criminal groups (and the “mafia” sub-species) use violence, Mexico comes immediately to the mind, with thousands of deaths in the past few years in what are actual “wars”. Or, if looking back to the recent past, one might consider Italy, where mafia violence often emerged in chronicles because of intense inter-group fighting and occasional dramatic attacks to judges and other State representatives (or, more rarely, “terrorist” attacks against civilian targets). Quite surprisingly, there is not much research on the topic (a notable exception is here).

A recent paper by Andrea Petrella, Salvatore Sberna and Venus in Arms’ Francesco Moro looks at mafia homicides perpetrated in Southern Italy – where mafias (namely Cosa Nostra, Stidda in Sicily, Camorra in Campania, ‘ndrangheta in Calabria and Sacra Corona Unita in Apulia) are traditionally deep-rooted –  in the period 1983 – 2008 (you can find an early version of the paper for download here).

The article contains some multivariate statistics that you can read if you like, but three statements deserve particular attention.

1. Notwithstanding widespread pictures (yes, movies to begin with) of violence constituting an essential and defining characters of mafias, the actual use of violence is constrained in space and time. Figure 1 below shows how the intensity of violence (defined by the number of homicides over the population in a given province) widely varies over space, suggesting that there might be contextual and/or organizational factors that can account for that variation. Figure 2 similarly shows variation in time in the region of Campania (where Camorra’s presence has been made famous by Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah)

Figure 1. Where mafias kill

mafia_homicides

 

Figure 2. When mafias kill

 Mafia_Homicides_2

2. Mafia violence often is the outcome of rivalries among groups competing for establishing themselves as dominant in a given area. At least in the Italian South, by “area” we have to intend a territory (elsewhere, interestingly, criminal groups can compete for functional control of specific business sectors, both “legal” and illegal). Homicides, then, mostly target other Mafiosi.

3. One of the key factors that lead to increasing tension, and then competition and violent conflict, among different mafia groups, is the lack of available channels to achieve its objectives. As “the Mafia exists side by side with the State”, political parties play a role in shaping access to the political system, which is essential for mafia groups, as such access can guarantee business opportunities in public works or licenses, as well as “favourable” law enforcement. Thus, “In a competitive criminal market, when Mafia groups find limited ways to access the political arena, they have strong incentives
to revert to violence in order to compete with rival criminal groups. Violence will then be higher in areas where the vote is concentrated in one or two political parties and the level of political fragmentation is low”. The fragmentation of the political arena, in other words, can lead to reduced levels of violence as access to government is available for more groups.

Further research on the theme is on the way. Stay tuned for news.

 

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