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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