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Reviewed by:
  • La Marina Italiana nelle Operazioni di Pace, 1832–2004
  • Brian R. Sullivan
La Marina Italiana nelle Operazioni di Pace, 1832–2004. By Ciro Paoletti. Rome: Ufficio Storico della Marina Militare, 2005. Maps. Photographs. Illustrations. Notes. Bibliography. Indexes. Pp. 450. Euro 47.00.

"Peace operations" often indicates actions indistinguishable from low-intensity warfare. Such activities by the Sardinian navy and its successor, the Italian navy, provide examples of such small-scale power projection and form the subject of this fine book. Ciro Paoletti divides his account into three periods: 1832–74, 1874–1939 and 1945–2004. This chronology equates to naval involvement in Italy's unification, efforts toward great power status, and a reduced naval role after World War II. The book describes episodes little-known even to Italians, while providing fascinating insights into Italy's changing national security policies over 170 years.

Italian naval peace-keeping can also be differentiated by activities within or beyond the Mediterranean. In the latter case, the Regia Marina conducted South American–Caribbean operations with a permanent presence from 1833 to 1911, ostensibly to protect Italian emigrants and trade. They ended after European naval response to the 1903 Dominican revolution prompted the "Roosevelt Corollary" to the Monroe Doctrine, abrogating such activities to the U.S. Navy alone. While Italian ships remained for several more years in South American waters, American pressure, budget restraints, and Libyan War requirements ended Italian naval intervention in the Western Hemisphere. Such events help explain Chinese operations. The Italian navy supported Italian military intervention against the Boxers, then monitored the Chinese revolution. Except for a small presence, Italian ships withdrew during World War I, although briefly returning from 1925 to 1938. Italy had participated in far-flung naval peace operations largely to claim its precarious place as "least of the great powers." But its true interests lay in the Mediterranean area. The Regia Marina despatched ships to Tunisia (1864), Spain (1873–74), Egypt (1882), Morocco (1887), Crete (1897–98), Albania (1913–23), southern Russia and Turkey (1918–20) and Fiume (1919–20) to advance Italy toward Mediterranean hegemony. Finally, Italian naval "peace-keeping" operations during the Spanish Civil War actually supported Mussolini's armed involvement in that conflict, including attempts to control the Gibraltar Straits.

Such grandiosity collapsed in 1943 and Italy emerged from war barely a second-rank naval power. But the Cold War, NATO membership, and a resurgent [End Page 519] economy revived national pride and encouraged naval rearmament. There followed Italian participation in Vietnamese "boat people" rescues, attempted stabilization of Lebanon, Suez Canal minesweeping, Persian Gulf operations, and United Nations interventions in Somalia, the Adriatic, and East Timor. Involvement in multinational efforts reflected redefinition of Italian interests: not an impossible grasp for world power but realistic defense of global stability and Mediterranean area security.

The book enjoys excellent illustrations and, more so, revealing discussion of the Regia Marina's technological and political evolution. The sail-to-steam transition, deployment costs, changing naval budgets, ship design controversies, and suitability of warships for unconventional tasks all influenced Italian naval peace-keeping. Thus, the author provides illuminating background to small episodes within a larger story. He concludes with a valuable, detailed bibliography on the legal, financial, technological, and commercial aspects of Italian naval peace-keeping and each historical episode narrated. For those interested in peace operations, naval history, or European interaction with the wider world, Paoletti has provided a fascinating work.

Brian R. Sullivan
Vienna, Virginia


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 519-520
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2010
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