Sunday, October 30, 2005

Berlusconi's circus

The election in Iraq a few weeks ago was a triumph for freedom, and there are signs that the Sunni factions are increasingly getting involved in the democratic institutions of their country. Nobody denies the situation is very difficult, but the progress in Iraq is unmistakable, as Bruce Kesler argues in this excellent editorial.
Meanwhile the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who is doing his best to destroy the Italian economy, kisses up to Putin, hasn't gotten rid of Antonio Fazio and generally makes a fool of himself has repudiated the only remaining reason for which I could barely stomach him, his stance towards the Iraq War:
"I was never convinced that war was the best system to bring democracy to the country and to get rid of a bloody dictatorship," Mr. Berlusconi said of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. "I tried several times to convince the American president to not go to war."
"I believed that military action should have been avoided," he was quoted as saying.
I find these statements somewhat galling when just a few days ago it emerged that a Berlusconi ally, Roberto Formigoni, was involved in the Oil-for-Food scandal that is rocking the UN. The prime minister, who is a caricature of all the worse characteristics attributed to Italians, wants to prove the prejudices: he is making these statements because he faces an uphill re-election battle.
Berlusconi is a cynic "who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing," - if that. He clearly thinks the Italian people are too stupid to recognize his tactics and he may be right. Worse of all, the alternatives are at best nothing to write home about: on the contrary - while the opposition Unione coalition's economic policy might be better (if Fausto Bertinotti does badly) - their foreign policy instinct with respect to America is going to be irritating knee-jerk antagonism. The only moderately interesting outcome would be if Gianfranco Fini (who as the head of Alleanza Nazionale is a member of the current governing coalition) trounced Berlusconi's Forza Italia: with the exit of Alessandra Mussolini and the consequent purge of extremists from AN, Fini would seem to be an interesting, pragmatic and capable leader of a center-right coalition, whether it ends up being re-elected or in (hopefully strong) opposition.

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