Prof. Mario Caligiuri: “The degeneration of democracy is like the sleep of reason: it gives rise to monsters”

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Mario Caligiuri1

Prof. Mario Caligiuri. DR.

Mohsen Abdelmoumen: You are a world-class intelligence expert. How do you explain the inability of some Western countries to fight terrorism?

Prof. Mario Caligiuri: Any social problem must be understood in its true nature, which is cultural. The West interprets the world with its own eyes and does not necessarily understand it completely. The invasion of Iraq on the basis of false information indicating the existence of chemical weapons that did not exist, or the intervention against Gaddafi in Libya to stabilize the situation and ultimately create chaos, were obvious mistakes. In fact, they gave results opposite to those expected, contributing to the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism, which is attacking the West at home, the moderate regimes of Islam itself and Christians living in Asia and Africa. But behind all the phenomenon of the territory, the real reasons are political.

How do you explain that some Western countries took in terrorists who have spread terror in Syria, Iraq and, long before that, Algeria?

The West does not have a single voice. Each country promotes its own foreign policy, which is inevitably in contradiction with that of another. These are errors of assessment because the short term is viewed from a national electoral perspective. There is a lack of vision and coordination, which the European Union and NATO are finding increasingly difficult to achieve.

Do not you think that Westerners have made a serious mistake by supporting armed groups in Syria?

This is very likely if we look at what has happened and what is happening. This is like a reissue of the Cold War scenarios where the United States and the Soviet Union clashed in the 1960s in Vietnam or in the 1970s in Afghanistan. We have seen in both cases how it happened.

Colonel François-Régis Legrier made an overwhelming observation about the involvement of Westerners in Syria under the aegis of Washington:  What is your analysis about this?

From my point of view, Colonel François-Régis Legrier’s observations seem to me quite realistic. Conducting a military intervention based mainly on technology responds to the need to minimize the loss of human life due to the negative repercussions that would occur at the national level of each State. In addition, the use of technologies, though increasingly sophisticated, is indiscriminate and therefore kills civilians and destroys infrastructure, thus fuelling a negative opinion that really promotes ISIS’ action. Moreover, I do not believe that the consequences of the American withdrawal, which could compromise the results obtained, have yet been carefully assessed.

Is not the destabilization of Libya by France under the aegis of NATO, which has caused chaos throughout the Sahel and North Africa, a serious strategic mistake?

It is not just a strategic mistake, but a political and humanitarian mistake. France has enormous responsibilities because the real reasons for the intervention were probably dictated by national electoral logic and economic policy. And this case also confirms the limits of NATO’s current action, which must be quickly revised.

You mentioned Algeria’s experience in the fight against terrorism. In your opinion, has the world that let my country fight alone against terrorism learned the lesson of Algeria?

In my opinion, very little. Many years ago, Algeria had the courage to cancel the elections won by Islamic fundamentalists. Democracy is a system that must be managed with caution, because it is sensitive to media manipulation and populist and fundamentalist messages.

Do not you think that there is a need for intelligence cooperation between the European services and Algeria?

It would be more than necessary. But it must be honestly said that this is very difficult, because each intelligence system responds exclusively to national interests, which are different from each other. It is already very difficult to get the intelligence services of the European Union countries to cooperate. This is a huge gap because the enemy is common. However, we must continue on the necessary path of cooperation, even if we must realistically admit that there are also considerable constraints.

Europe has experienced a wave of terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, etc. In your opinion, do not the European intelligence services need reforms, cooperation and additional resources?

Certainly, but above all, in my opinion, the intelligence services need a cultural deepening to counter the phenomenon. The incomplete control of the territory and the legislative limits accentuate the difficulty of controlling a phenomenon that is often very unpredictable. I have already mentioned the difficult cooperation in the previous question, but I would like to point out that cooperation between the intelligence services of different countries has already prevented many attacks and has produced considerable results. This is confirmed by the relative lack of significant attacks in the last two years in Europe.

You studied intelligence services in your co-authored book with M. Valentini: “Materiali di intelligence: Dieci anni di studi 2007-2017“(Intelligence material: Ten years of study 2007-2017).In your opinion, how can intelligence services be made more effective?

First, by promoting the human factor and directing intelligence policies towards the sectors that, in my opinion, are already the most dangerous today. I’m talking mainly about organized crime, which is increasingly infiltrating the legal economy and weakening democracy around the world; to the risks of artificial intelligence, which represents an increasingly strategic key to the new world order and which can become uncontrollable in the West, belonging mainly to individuals and not to states; social distress, which risks becoming irrepressible because the current social systems have more and more difficult to guarantee the future and the rights of citizens, beginning with those of work and security.

How do you explain that Western countries do not question their alliance with Saudi Arabia, which is the generative of Wahhabi ideology and terrorism in the world?

Sherlock Holmes would say: « Elementary, Watson. » This clearly demonstrates that the economic interests, not only of States, but especially of multinationals, prevail over the needs of citizens. This is the greatest weakness of democracies that may explode, as was the case in Europe in the twenties and thirties. The results of this era are still being felt today, almost a hundred years later, but we must consider that the degeneration of democracy is like the sleep of reason: it gives rise to monsters. Our mistake today is focused on the monsters and not on the causes of the degeneration of democracy, which, in my opinion, is mainly related to the selection of very inadequate ruling classes.

Some European countries have negotiated the return of jihadists on their soil. Do these governments have the means to watch these terrorists? Are not these jihadists returning from the war zones in Syria and Iraq a permanent danger?

In my opinion, most of them can represent a risk precisely because it is not always easy to control them. In fact, individual actions are almost always unpredictable. Moreover, for years, a jihadist remains silent and submerged, then, like the dragon’s eggs, he suddenly appears after a long time. On the other hand, however, a pacification attempt could also lead to positive results, as has happened with political and separatist terrorism in Europe. However, the situations are very different and it is therefore necessary to be very careful, because the consequences of these political choices, even if they are carried out with the best intentions in the world, may not be positive.

Some sources mention a redeployment of Daesh to Libya. In your opinion, has not Libya become a sanctuary for jihadists?

Thanks to the myopia of the European intervention, there is a risk of giving oxygen to ISIS, which is out of breath in all other territories, except on the Web. It is precisely for this reason that I would like to focus the attention of the intelligence services of Western States in the fight against the Islamic State, concentrating it in two directions: Libya and cyberspace. These are probably the two main immediate emergencies.

Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen


Who is Prof. Mario Caligiuri?

Mario Caligiuri is a full professor at the University of Calabria, where he founded the first master’s degree in intelligence, the first course in intelligence and the first centre for intelligence studies at Italian universities. He is considered one of the leading international scientific experts in intelligence. His writings include intelligence and the humanities: Una disciplina accademica per il XXI secolo (2016), Cyber intelligence; Tra libertà e sicurezza (2016), Intelligence e magistratura; Dalla diffidenza reciproca alla collaborazione necessaria (2017) and, with Giangiuseppe Pili, Intelligence studies; Un’analisi comparata tra l’Italia e il mondo angloamericano” (2019). For the Italian intelligence magazine « Gnosis« , he recently wrote two very important essays: The unsustainable lightness of the democratic elites (2017), On artificial intelligence and the new world order and A priority commitment to intelligence (2018).

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