Is the United States learning way too much from Italy?

VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images These days, Washington is looking more and more like Rome. Unfortunately, the similarity is not in sunny alleys, cobblestone streets, angel-hair pasta, or renaissance stone angels pouring water from fruit baskets. It’s about politics. The scandal over the firings of U.S. attorneys brought to light a practice that has long been at ...

600734_070710_trastevere_05.jpg
600734_070710_trastevere_05.jpg

VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

These days, Washington is looking more and more like Rome. Unfortunately, the similarity is not in sunny alleys, cobblestone streets, angel-hair pasta, or renaissance stone angels pouring water from fruit baskets. It’s about politics.

The scandal over the firings of U.S. attorneys brought to light a practice that has long been at the heart of Italian political cuisine: “Generously sprinkle every government agency with loyal cronies.”

And Vice President Dick Cheney’s claim that he is immune from executive orders echoes former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s refusal to appear in court in a process against him because, as prime minister, he had much more compelling things to do.

President Bush’s recent decision to commute Scooter Libby’s sentence—which lawyers say will have deep implications for the U.S. legal system—is a classic of Italian politics 101: “screw the system, save your men!”

And yet, the Bush team still looks like a bunch of amateurs compared to its Italian counterparts. The latest? An Italian newspaper recently reported that the Italian secret services had been illegally monitoring left-leaning generals, judges, and journalists in order to discredit prominent critics of the former right-of-center government. Hopefully, the CIA has been the subject of too much bad press of late to take inspiration from this.

Erica Alini is a Rome-based researcher for the Associated Press.

More from Foreign Policy

A photo illustration shows Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden posing on pedestals atop the bipolar world order, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Russian President Vladamir Putin standing below on a gridded floor.
A photo illustration shows Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden posing on pedestals atop the bipolar world order, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Russian President Vladamir Putin standing below on a gridded floor.

No, the World Is Not Multipolar

The idea of emerging power centers is popular but wrong—and could lead to serious policy mistakes.

A view from the cockpit shows backlit control panels and two pilots inside a KC-130J aerial refueler en route from Williamtown to Darwin as the sun sets on the horizon.
A view from the cockpit shows backlit control panels and two pilots inside a KC-130J aerial refueler en route from Williamtown to Darwin as the sun sets on the horizon.

America Prepares for a Pacific War With China It Doesn’t Want

Embedded with U.S. forces in the Pacific, I saw the dilemmas of deterrence firsthand.

The Chinese flag is raised during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics at Beijing National Stadium on Feb. 4, 2022.
The Chinese flag is raised during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics at Beijing National Stadium on Feb. 4, 2022.

America Can’t Stop China’s Rise

And it should stop trying.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on prior a meeting with European Union leaders in Mariinsky Palace, in Kyiv, on June 16, 2022.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on prior a meeting with European Union leaders in Mariinsky Palace, in Kyiv, on June 16, 2022.

The Morality of Ukraine’s War Is Very Murky

The ethical calculations are less clear than you might think.