It’s business as usual in Italy. The government of Prime Minister Romano Prodi has fallen after a vote of no-confidence – the margin against him was no more than two votes, actually. In such circumstances, President Napolitano is empowered by the constitution to call on someone in a position to form a government, and he has duly summoned Prodi to do so all over again – in other words no-confidence is the same as confidence. Prodi is at the head of a left-wing coalition of nine parties, two of them Communist not on speaking terms with one another. Proportional representation reduces politics to a trivial game of musical chairs. Which is why since Italy was remade after 1945, governments on average have lasted less than one year.
Prodi was brought down apparently because Giulio Andreotti decided to vote against him. The octogenarian Andreotti is one of those leading European politicians – in the mold of the Frenchman Francois Mitterand or the German Helmut Kohl – who refuses to give up because there is always a little more damage to be done by the black arts of which such men are masters. His nickname as “the Prince of Darkness,” is well earned. Not long ago, he was charged with mafia connections and complicity in murder, but acquitted.
And what was the vote about? Under Nato auspices, Italy has a thousand troops in Afghanistan, and against all odds Prodi was asking for a commitment to keep them there. The no-confidence vote was driven by anti-Americanism, a card Andreotti and other leading European politicians love to play. Put another way, appeasement of Muslims brought down the Italian government as it did the Spanish government after the Madrid bombings.
I find I can’t get out of my head this bravura passage from John Stuart Mill, written long before the present moral collapse of Europe, but pertinent to it. “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature, and has no chance of being free unless made or kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”