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How il Cavaliere has raised Italy's profile and reach

Letter to the Editor, Financial Times, November 9, 2008

Sir, Demeaning Italians on the world stage has long been de rigueur in Berlin, Paris and London. However, in attempting to convey the method to Silvio Berlusconi's peripatetic "peekaboo" politics (Global Insight, November 5), Guy Dinmore reinforced the selfsame anti- Italian stereotypes he claims to deplore in the capitals of Europe.

For all his convoluted business entanglements, complex legal problems and over-the-top persona,;/ Cavaliere has actually raised Italy's global profile and geopolitical reach.

Whereas British, French and American troops in Afghanistan resemble colonial interlopers, the Italians are seen as guardians and protectors. Whereas German soldiers call in unwarranted air strikes on civilians, Italian peacekeepers provide food, clothing and medical supplies to the local populace. And in South Lebanon, Israel has asked General Claudio Graziano to extend the Magic Boot's command of UN troops for another six months.

On the economic front, Italy's second sorpasso of Britain must surely rankle Gordon Brown, the UK's scandal-plagued prime minister. And both Germany and France cannot understand how "fickle" and "lightweight" Italy has a lower unemployment rate than either nation. Moreover, the Germans must be positively livid over Serglo Marchionne's decision to reinvigorate Chrysler's product line with the cheeky Cinquecento (500) and the august Alfa Romeo. After its disastrous merger with the rigidly Teutonic Daimler Mercedes-Benz - and the ensuing clash of corporate cultures - Chrysler will welcome Fiat's Continental elegance, space-age Italian automotive technology and sense of mission.

Excluding Italy from Europe's central directorate, particularly when it comes to the big power conference on Afghanistan and the P5+1 Iran Contact Group, is as specious as it is counterproductive. Britain, France and Germany would be wise to remember what Edward Gibbon knew quite well: that "the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous" occurred on Italy's watch.

Rosario A. laconis, Mineola, NY, US Vice-chairman, Italic Institute of America

 
 
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