The unbearable lightness of Defense

(To Marco Bertolini)

In the beginning was the very deprecated twenty years, which lost the war. And then it was the Italian Republic, which repudiated it, the war. Although later he boasted of having won one, the "cold", and not with good feelings but with the very armed and nuclear deterrence of NATO. However, the Defense was always there, defined as "sacred duty" in what would be the most beautiful constitution in the world, at least to hear that well-known constitutionalist who answers to the name of Roberto Benigni, albeit with an apparent schizophrenic dichotomy between article 11 and 52 of the same. But we did not take much notice of how we were from the obligations of our alliance as opposed to a communist military alliance, both well established in the real world that did not care about our ideological chimneys.

So, all the guys at 18 years were visiting with leverage and at 20 they received the pink postcard. Which was called "precept" postcard, because it was prescriptive, an obligation. All the young people knew, in fact, that they were officially required to give something important to the national community: a whole year of their lives and not a mere declaration of solidarity or availability for the next to be shown in some noisy school event (indeed, anti school) or in some colorful "Pride". There was also, to tell the truth, the large group of enlightened "conscientious objectors" who faded from it, not to be confused with those vile doctors who refuse to kill the unborn; but that's another story.

Thus, our barracks were filled with boys, rarely recalcitrant, sometimes listless but always intrigued by that strange life in common in which everyone was dressed in the same way, ate the same soup and subjected themselves to the same unbearable corporals, sergeants and lieutenants. Everyone, in those months, was conditioned to recognize himself in a community, that of the company or regiment, a repository of his own identity which expressed itself in the "spirit of body", and in the national one, daily greeted with the lay flag-raising liturgy. A school of democracy, in short, trashed with the provision that suspended the conscription by a Republic of "born learners" who believes they already know everything and do not need schools. Criminalized and then forgotten! We see the fruits of it in the whims and jokes of our very tattooed and desperate youth. But it's not even what I want to deal with.

The Defense, in fact. He was one of the key ministries of the country, with the Interior, the Foreign and the Economy. Stuff from politicians in the round, in short, like Andreotti, Segni and Spadolini, to name a few of the best known. Perhaps they have not all been statesmen in the most classical and noble sense of the term, but servants of the State and with the sense of the State yes. People of culture, who knew how to understand a text in Latin and also in Greek (other than subjunctive!); who knew our history and the constraints and opportunities given to our country by its privileged geographical position; that he knew with what wolves the same had to do and that he had no illusions about the breadth of views and the goodness of spirit of the other countries, democrats or authoritarians they were. Italy continued to be the reason for their political actions, albeit interpreted in different ways according to their respective parties. But it was Italy and nothing else they wanted Christian Democrat, Communist, Atlantic or European. Italy with its originality to enhance or even to tolerate, its characteristics easily recognizable from those of others, with its vices and its virtues, its spaghetti al dente, its San Remo Festival and its language, the its population spread in a not too wide (not too wide) ethnic spectrum that fades from polentoni to terroni. In short, Italy with its culture, to use an abused term but that makes the idea, to be protected and protected. They would never have conceived its dissipation in a tasteless Euro-African broth that did not respect its identity and vital interests; just as they would never have allowed, just to give an example, that the cinematographic realism of the post-war period, even if guilty of often painting a “type” of Italian cialtroncello and da Macchietta accepted with complacency and guilty condescension from everyone, left the place at fictions who today want to successfully convince us and above all our foreign buyers that we are only the homeland of the mafia and the underworld. So cheap stuff; an opportunity not to be missed.

But all this has passed and the story has changed, or so someone had deluded himself, with the "victory" of the Cold War that should have delivered us to a peaceful and finally solidary world, which recognizes itself in the precepts of democracy for which all ideas are legitimate, as long as they do not contradict the obligatory myths of the current fantasy-political debate. A world that had to confirm the reason for our constitutional choices, therefore, proving to be foreign to the bellicose ideologies of the past that had triggered many painful wars. Now there could be no more wars and in the face of the humiliation of a present who refused to bow to our constitutional intuitions - re-proposing in fact scannings around the horizon as never before - here is the semantic invention that saves goat and cabbage: we are only required operations of peace, humanitarian or international police.

Here, in fact: guards and thieves! And as for the police we do not care about anyone, as known thanks to the series of Commissioner Montalbano and Marshal Rocca, and we do not need to resort to the unpleasant category of the soldier; when then it is to the latter that one must make compulsory recourse in order not to disfigure with the allies who ask us for it or to give more substance to the control measures of the territory, it is disguised as a policeman, and whoever has been seen has seen.

But unfortunately, as the Police Forces represent one of the pillars of our society, they are not comparable with the Armed Forces, for conceptual and structural reasons.

Unlike the latter, in fact, the former are essential "Security tools" turned however to an internal enemy, criminality, to which they are opposed on the tip of law in a struggle that sees clearly opposed the "good" (the State) against the "bad" (the malfeasance, terrorism, the Mafia and so on ). A struggle that does not provide for its conclusion with an agreement between the State and the Casalesi gang (at least in the light of the Sun) and that will end only with the complete destruction and restriction in prison of the latter. In short, a struggle with punitive, as well as operational, ends that can only be concluded with the triumph of "good".

The Armed Forces, on the other hand, are "Instruments of sovereignty" as they are aimed at facing an external enemy whose interests affect us. A fight, in this case, between "good", since other states cannot deny themselves the right to fight for their own interests even if they are contrary to our laws, and even to international ones, especially if they refer to survival and security. In this case, the end of the confrontation to which we tend is the agreement, the truce, the treaty in which, having asserted its material superiority, the enemy is forced to the "table of peace", with some deprivation, amputation and humiliation , but without the need to "destroy" it. In short, at least at the level of principles, no punitive ambitions towards him, even if this approach has radically changed since the Second World War with the Nuremberg trial and with the subsequent Hague Tribunal; but above all with the appearance of international non-state actors such as terrorist organizations and various liberation movements, mostly of a jihadist matrix, which cannot be included in the casuistry of the "legitimate fighter". It could be argued at length whether these behaviors represent a form of barbarism or if they are a logical consequence of globalization, but it is certain that the ethics of the soldier should continue to recognize the defeated enemy and perhaps captured a completely different and superior dignity to that of the imprisoned criminal.

The obvious consequence of this different conceptual approach is reflected in the actual operational profile, with the Armed Forces equipped with decidedly more deadly means than those supplied to the Police Forces, having to contrast with other Armed Forces or organizations as themselves structured. Above all, the Armed Forces must by this nature admit a decidedly higher risk rate, up to accept the loss of life not as an "accident" due to bad luck or chance, but as an obvious consequence of their "professional" activity. For them, in short, weapons are not simply a means of self-defense, or to be used as an "extreme ratio" if they are pulled by the hair, and employ fire as an ordinary means of carrying out the mission, together with movement and fortification. They do not respond to anyone's fire, and if they have done things right, they "shoot" first.

Even from an organizational and ordering point of view, law enforcement agencies and the armed forces appear as something completely different, as the Italian example shows, which can be compared to that of all Western countries.

If we observe the organization of the Police Forces, in fact, we note that they are responsible for the coordination - with a significant difference for the Carabinieri - to the Police Headquarters in turn combined with the Prefects. In essence, each Province has its own "endowment" of law enforcement agencies in the hands of the Prefect who employs them for the needs that lie ahead in the territory. Upstream of this, we go directly to the Interior Ministry in which a "crisis" Cabinet held by the Ministry of the Interior itself meets to meet specific needs. A Cabinet, in fact, not a General Staff with the complexity and the specializations that are characteristic of the latter. In the case of conflicts of attributions between different Prefectures, therefore, it is the Ministry itself that must intervene, lacking an underlying hierarchical structure that allows a cascade of competences and responsibilities between it and the local level.

A similar organization, logical and rational due to public order commitments, is not acceptable to the Armed Forces, characterized instead by a hierarchical structure that is based on the "duty of subordination" of each operator already with respect to the immediately higher level. In doing so, once the mission is received, the Armed Forces are in a position to operate autonomously, disseminating tasks at the subordinate levels, assigning resources, exercising control over the orders issued, taking the necessary initiatives and resolving conflicts between different components.

To exemplify, albeit with a certain amount of approximation, we could say that the law enforcement agencies are a container of organs and operators with a limited degree of hierarchization and complexity, directly in the hands of the political-institutional authority for the conduct of operations of a specialist nature; the Armed Forces on the other hand, are a hierarchical set of complex hierarchical structures, aimed at the conception, organization and conduct of operations ranging from the tactical level to the operational and strategic level, without involving the political level except in the initial phase of assigning the mission and of the definition of the final objectives, the so-called "End state".

Beautiful theory, which in the Italian reality is however distorted by a practice that sees in the superficial affirmation of a substantial identity between a soldier and a policeman the motivation for the demilitarization of the former. And this, to ensure him "the rights" of the second, already inundated with the figure of the Commanders who disappeared with the demilitarization of the 70 years, plastered with an absurd law against torture aimed at criminalizing their behavior and waiting to be completely disarmed and conditioned to the "Non-violence" on the part of a gregarious political class and a homeland that seems to no longer want to be such. And who cares about reality!

We see it every day with thousands of soldiers used as guards in the operation Safe Roads with very limited functions and without requiring any conceptual activity to the executives. Pseudo public security agents to extend the stock of real PS agents, subtracting time and resources from the training they will need when they are to be employed in operations. And with the air that is blowing there is no illusion about a future of "peace and love forever"!

We see it with the triumph of the culture of accident prevention, in training but also in operations, firmly embraced by the Major States themselves, forced to flee from their responsibilities and committed to linking their hands to their Commanders, nailing them to the paradoxical function of employers and not of trouble seekers for themselves and their staff to enable them to survive when they are serious. The very recent and paradoxical civil condemnation of General Stano for the Nassiriya massacre, on the other hand, clearly shows how the State abandons its Armed Forces to the offensive of an absurd from which it is human to try to defend itself.

We see it, finally, with the drive towards unionization which has already shown its true face with reprehensible manifestations that would have been called insubordination not long ago, undermining the disciplinary foundations of an institution that cannot be based on consensus, but which has its indispensable axis in the principle of authority and the ethics of obedience.

Photo: Prime Minister's Office / Andreotti Archive / Ministry of Defense / US Marine Corps / US DoD