September 14, 2016
By William Medici
Luca Paolazzi, Chief Economist for Confidustria, the Italian industrial confederation, has reported what most of us already knew, that between 2000 and 2015 the Italian economy remained stagnant. It actually fell .5%, a significant number compared to other European nations. In the same period, France’s GDP grew by 18.5%, Germany’s by 18.2% and Spain’s by 23.5%. Normally, analysts would shrug, and say that Italy needs to do something to stimulate the economy. Except in this case, the country is facing what many in finance and in the intelligence community believe is the perfect storm.
Status Quo Vadis
Internal reform, an alien concept to most Italians, has been at the forefront to every economic and political crisis that the country has faced since the end of WWII. Political coalitions win or loose because of it. There have been 63 different government coalitions that have been formed beginning in 1946 with Alcide Gaspari’s eight-year tenure as Prime Minister that ended in 1953. Some of this was caused by the “strategy of tension,” part of operation Gladio that helped delegitimize Italy’s communist coalition which was the largest communist party outside of Moscow at the time. Still, 40 prime ministers have taken the reigns of the country and all of them promised growth, prosperity and stability. Instead, it has been the status quo that the Italian leadership measured as success. To put this in perspective, and although our electoral process is a bit different, we’ve had 11 presidents serve our country over the same period. Steady as she goes.
Italy is not a banana republic. It is the Bel paese – the beautiful country. It is a part of the G7 and has influence in the region. However, the challenges that Italy faces are many: A crumbling infrastructure (something we are dealing with here), an influx of migrants, an aging population, byzantine business regulations with a tax code that turn law-abiding citizens into tax evaders, limited outside investment combined with the political instability led by Matteo Renzi and his shaky coalition, have Italy inching closer to the Apennine fault line and ripe for collapse. In addition, the Italian banks carry too much risk and are too big and will fail which will push Europe into a free-fall unless, here are those two words again: Internal Reform.
The Black Hand
It is not just the politicians who have a hand in running things, other nefarious organizations have been a constant presence in Italy, undermining the state or fighting against it or sometimes colluding with it, like the mafia, or more specifically, the ‘ndrangheta from Calabria, the Camorra from Naples, the Cosa Nostra from Sicily and the Sacra Corona Unita from Puglia all of which have been able to continue to operate and thrive in this environment. And yet, the mafia is not the only thing lurking beneath the surface, recent intelligence identified specific terror affiliates that have been meeting and most likely recruiting in Italy should send a chill down your spine.
Compared to France, Italy has been fortunate not to have been attacked by terrorists. There are three reasons why the jihadis have not planned any operations in Italy as of yet. Even the arrest of the 3 militants (2 Afghans and one Pakastani) in Milan and Bari this past spring, who were accused of identifying potential targets, ended with no evidence that they were planning an attack in Italy. First, Italy is the entry for migrants, i.e. refugees, many coming from North Africa and like the migrants coming from the Mid-East through Greece, they do not want this passageway closed. Second, they need a beachhead for which they can plan, recruit and coordinate and do not need the heat on them from AISI, Italy’s internal intel service along with DIGOS the anti-terrorism division – which wasn’t the case for the three arrested. And third, when they do plan to hit Italy, the headquarters of the Catholic Church, it will most likely be a large-scale attack.
We know what happens when a central government looses its ability to provide stability for its citizens and are no longer able to police itself. We’ve seen it play out all over the world, in Bosnia, Chad, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Iraq, etc. A power vacuum ensues, and organized factions that have the means to snatch power will use brutality as a way to bring the people to submission. Will history repeat itself in the Bel paese because of two words?
William Medici is a former intelligence operations officer, Army veteran turned entrepreneur, communications strategist, writer & producer, media contributor and philanthropist.
September 14, 2016