Wednesday, March 16, 2005

One Less Willing

It's big today that Italy has announced their withdrawal from Iraq. Not only is it a blow to Iraq, but the fact that Berlusconi is most likely doing it because he's facing elections at home is another blow to structuralist/realist international relations theory. Domestic politics matter a lot, irregardless of the actual structural position the country occupies. Iraq has shown that. It's debatable whether or not the recent killing of an Italian secret service agent and the fanatical ravings of Sgrena are to blame, or just an attempt by Berlusconi to avoid a crushing defeat. Sayeth Indy:

James Walston, professor of political science at the American University in Rome, said: "Berlusconi has been saying for quite a long time that he wanted Italian troops to leave fairly soon. Presumably the killing of Nicola Calipari has concentrated minds. Berlusconi cannot and will not cut and run, but he will contrive to leave Iraq as quickly as is elegant. And he doesn't want the expense of another hostage rescue operation weighing on taxpayers' minds when they go to vote.

"The centre-right are likely to lose the upcoming election, but this will reduce their decline in the opinion polls. Berlusconi's announcement is a rearguard action."

Gabriele Polo, editor of Il Manifesto, the newspaper on which Giuliana Sgrena works, said: "Like all members of the coalition in Iraq, Berlusconi has had difficulties with popular opinion against the war. This decision is definitely related to the upcoming election. What I fear is that the US and Italy have done a deal. America has agreed to Italy's withdrawal, and Italy has agreed that the inquiry into the killing of Calipari will not shed any light on the incident. It will leave it in the dark. We will not find out what really happened."

Who knows what the circumstances are behind Berlusconi's decision, but I bet they have more to do with the fact the election issue (70-80% of Italians disapprove of Italy's involvement in Iraq, and that number has been static since the beginning of the war) than mad Ms. Sgrena.