The hegemony of Paris in the Sahel ... and on Italy

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)
26/07/20

The concept of hegemony has a complex history but also a pressing topicality, not only in terms of political theories.

We can trace its genesis back to the origins of Greek culture (from Herodotus to the Christian literature of the first centuries after the birth of Christ) and it goes up to the present day, having an important position regarding the study of international relations.

In the XNUMXs and XNUMXs, the concept of hegemony was used by authors such as Triepel (hegemony, 1938) and Dehio (Balance o Hegemony, 1948) to interpret the expansionist plans of Nazi Germany.

After World War II the categories of hegemony of balance they will remain central in the reading of the Cold War and also in the period following the fall of the Wall. We must remember the writings of Kissinger and the studies of Giovanni Arrighi (The long twentieth century, 1994). At the heart of this analysis we can place the United States-China relationship in a globalized world; in Kissinger, for example, the relationship between power e legitimacy translates (and develops) the traditional couple equilibrium-hegemony or that, even older, of force e consent. The fundamental concept is therefore that of the relationships di force, as can be seen from the Greek sophistry, especially in the definition of the justice of Trasimaco in the XNUMXst Book of the Republic of Plato: "the profit of the strongest".

So we can say that the concept of hegemony belongs to a line of thought that we could define historical and political realism. Only that realism can be understood in at least two ways: quantity, as domain of the fittest (as Hobbes describes in De Cive), where alliances also meet the same criterion; or in the sense qualitativo, as the ability of the less strong to lead the stronger for greater strategic quality, which derives from its historical position.

Translating the concept of hegemony in relations between European countries, we see how Paris, for at least a decade, has clearly exercised it vis-à-vis Italy: from Letta to Conte, our presidents of the council are indifferently under the direction (hegemony ) policy of the holder of the Elysium on duty.

Three weeks ago Parliament approved (without much debate) the refinancing of military missions abroad, among the various around the world the new operation stands out Takuba in Mali. The Italian government will send approximately 200 military personnel (including special forces operators and logistics personnel) and 8 helicopters (AH-129D and HH-90) to the Sahel region to fight the Tuareg jihadists, supported by the population harassed by dictatorial regimes maintained by Paris.

French military engagement in the sub-Saharan region began with the operation Serval, in January 2013, when a huge influx of armaments (coming from Libyan arsenals) reached the fundamentalists allowing them to occupy the whole northern part of Mali, including Timbuctu, and engaging in the application of the Koranic law.

Paris decides to intervene and begins to send the first French troops to Mali, a small contingent supported by some helicopters Gazelle. On January 12, the first clash between a column of Tuareg and French helicopters occurs (armed with 20 mm cannons and HOT missiles). The involvement of Paris had however already begun the previous night with a ground attack mission carried out by 4 Mirage 2000D, taken off from N'Djamena in Chad, to hit with precision ammunition various jihadist targets.

The air operations also continued on the 13th with four Rafale, departed from France and refueled several times in flight by the KC-135 tankers. In the meantime, the deployment of ground troops continued (thanks also to the use of RAF strategic transport C-17) with the arrival of paratroopers, equipped with ERC-90 light armor. sagaie.

Thanks to total air superiority, the situation on the ground turned upside down, the fundamentalists who were marching on the capital of Mali were forced to beat a retreat. In the desert, air superiority is fundamental, the French fighters hit the ammunition and fuel depots that the fundamentalists had created to fuel their offensive. On 25 January Goà was resumed, the main housing center occupied at the beginning of the offensive, putting the whole jihadist device in crisis and allowing to regain control of the upper reaches of Niger.

As expected, military intervention alone was not enough to eliminate the jihadist phenomenon that, indeed, changed strategy. In fact, the Tuaregs began to move in very small groups on board of pick-ups, taking advantage of the knowledge of the desert and the support of local populations, making rapid raids and disappearing immediately afterwards. The excessive weight of the French war machine (in 2014 the operation was inaugurated Barkhane, wider than the previous one) does not allow to effectively counter the groups of jihadist militants, also considering the vastness of the region.

Paris has therefore decided to lighten its forces, favoring the use of special forces (COS) and air carriers. Lacking sufficient resources, he asked for help from European allies, especially from Italy, which has highly trained special forces and years of experience in the war on terrorism.

At first glance it might seem a convenient mission for us too, as the Niger-Libya (Fezzan) border represents one of the gateway for migrants to the North African coasts (and therefore to the Italian ones). In these years of intervention, however, the French have not moved a finger to counter the migratory flow (which literally passed under their noses) and we therefore believe that our contingent of special forces will have other operational uses.

The fact remains that once again Paris has succeeded in its work of leadership (hegemony) towards an Italian government, unable, like its predecessors, to impose its own strategic plan but obliged to share that of another nation. In addition, the Italian contingent will be under French command (which has caused quite a few discontent among the military leaders), a sort of do ut of the for the fundamental support, at the recent European summit, of President Macron in the negotiation on recovery fund.

Photo: US Air Force / Prime Minister's Office / Ministère des Armées / Twitter