Rome '08 Workshop

Preparing for International Crises 

Dr. Stefano Silvestri

Istituto Affari Internazionali  

Dr. Stefano Silvestri


I think it is very difficult to consider what to do in the future because it is very difficult to assess the possibilities. For instance, we may find ourselves in a very difficult situation very shortly in Turkey. What should we do if the Turkish Constitutional Court bans the present government party? Who will be our friends? It will be very difficult to decide because very bad consequences can result from all actions. This kind of thing can happen in Turkey as well as elsewhere, because presently we are involved in a very large number of crises throughout the world for which we do not have a clear way of identifying a winning strategy, let alone an exit strategy. 

We know, for instance, that Asia will be at the center of world actions during the next 20 to 40 years but we do not know how. When we try to understand what China is, what China will do in the next 20 or so years, we have more question marks than responses. During the coffee break, we talked about how intelligence is one thing and knowledge is another, and that the two may go into different directions at times. For instance, I have difficulty understanding the Chinese regime’s definition of the Chinese Constitution. The definition is that China is a democratic people’s dictatorship under the direction of the Communist Party. Now, if someone can explain this to me so that I truly understand it, we might be able to project something about China’s future, but I doubt that anyone is capable of that today. 

Of course, there are other problems, including demographics. Someone said recently that, given the fact that China will have about 30 million more men than women in 2030 or 2040, there will be a more bellicose regime. I do not know if that is true or not, but apparently it is a statistical probability. However, China will also have important vulnerabilities. The country, as well as Japan, India, and all the major Asian powers, will be vulnerable in the energy field and will have important food shortages, though Japan will have the money to pay for food. These kinds of problems may create a very difficult international situation in which the management of violent crises will become much more uncertain and difficult. 


How do we prepare for that? Right now I think we are not prepared. If I look at what we have on the ground today and what we plan to have, we do not have many men. Quantity is lacking, and we are more and more involved in the management of crises in which the number of men we can put on the ground is more and more important. 

We also lack quality in the sense of capabilities. Sometimes we have very good capabilities to fight a war that we will never fight, but we do not have the necessary capability to fight the real operations we are engaged in. 

We also lack strategies. Do we have clear strategies on how to deal with the number of situations in which we are involved? Sometimes, it looks as though we are engaged in tourism. In Chad, for instance, we appear to be engaged in a kind of military tourism. 

Finally, we lack civilian-military integration. Are we capable of conceiving a strategy that is both civilian and military, with a single command and a single strategy? If not, then probably we are undermining both civilian intervention and military intervention; they tend to act against each other. 

The next American presidential election is another factor of uncertainty, which may result in high pressure to abruptly change direction. We heard the very interesting speech made by the Pakistani ambassador. I do not want us to find ourselves in a situation in which we have to choose whether to lose Afghanistan or lose Pakistan. Regarding Iran and other areas we may also find ourselves needing to abruptly change direction. That in part would be forced upon us by the absence of capabilities, strategies, qualities, and quantities. 

I would like to conclude by simply stating that western Europe is practically the only area in which military expenditures are diminishing. This should give us an idea of our present security culture, which we should perhaps discuss with more intensity. 

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