Book Review: Internazionalismo Liberale


Guido Lenzi, Internazionalismo Liberale. Attori e Scenari del Mondo Globale (Soveria Mannelli, Italy: Rubbettino, 2014). 94 pp., €12,00 (paperback), ISBN: 9788849840797.

Convinced of the necessity of a reorganization of the international system, after years of diplomatic, professional, and academic life in international relations, Guido Lenzi offers with great subtlety the views of an Italian practitioner and scholar on today’s international arena. He does so determining and explaining the logic of an application of the international liberalism model to the contemporary world. To this extent, four main issues are extracted and abstracted by the author from the current global scene. Among these: the governability matter; the humanitarian intervention debate; the national identity issue; the international relations system; and the future perspectives for the Western model. Finally, in the concluding part of his work, the former Ambassador draws the conclusion of the analysis provided and offers an overview of the application of such a paradigm in the future.

Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the international relations scene is still not consolidated. This is the main argument behind the book of the Italian former Ambassador and Director of the European Institute for Security Studies in Paris. A panoply of new state and non-state actors—some of which are more legitimate than others—are the main protagonists of what could be considered as a new, unprecedented transaction phase in the history of the humankind. International terrorism is the most evident symptom of such overcrowding of the international proscenium, not the cause of it (p. 8). Yet, with his book, Ambassador Lenzi argues that a similar – if not identical situation – already occurred right after the end of the World War II. Thus, in 1945, when the initial foundations of what would have become the United Nations were set, international liberalism made his first, spectacular, entrance on the scene. Ever since, the path of such paradigm never left Europe. Indeed, its course was obstacled and interrupted by the Cold War years. However, recalling it, also through a re-proposition of the often-invoked, and at times obfuscated, “European Model” will help us all to identify and opportunely address the urgency of today’s political and operational challenges. Hence, the message stemming from the reviewed book is clear: the history is not over, as Francis Fukuyama argued not long ago. Yet, it is accelerated and it is setting a new rhythm (p. 11). The rules are the same and can be found in the international liberalism model itself. We just need to learn how to dance accordingly.

The Italian diplomat indicates in the first chapter of his work the key ways to successfully face the governability controversies of these years. With the end of the Cold War, the post-modern era has begun. In such an era, the international system is unstructured and missing a gerarchical order. Convergence and transnational collaboration are the only means by which the unpredictability stemming from such international scene can be faced, according to Lenzi (Chapter 1). These should be pursued with a particular attention to prevention through the establishment of political, diplomatic, economic, institutional, and cultural international networks. Thus, the reform of the current institutions, the author points out, can only be the consequence of such collaboration, not its premise (p. 16).

Lenzi focuses his second chapter on the humanitarian intervention. The 9/11 terrorist attack, he argues, has inaugurated a new type of war. Against the background of the above-described multifaceted international scenario, wars are not initiated to face delimitated phenomena of instability anymore. Yet, the real objective is nowadays containing and reabsorbing sources of insecurity, which are not well-defined at all (p. 23). The current most relevant threat for the Western world is not represented, along this reasoning, by authoritarian regimes such as Iran, North Korea, or Venezuela. But, it finds its origins in disintegrated states that are unable to rule their own territories. The military instrument becomes, in this way, a means by which public order is pursued both at the national and international level. In this case, as well, Lenzi believes that a stronger and more developed network of international relations would provide a solution to the growing reluctance of single nation states to intervene in the above-described unstable settings. Yet, he argues, even though the rules of the game seems to have changed and military actions have assumed different forms, such armed interventions should respect the “good war” principles once delineated by St. Augustine, St. Thomas, Erasmus, De Vitoria, and Grotius (p. 27).

Today, the constitutive elements of the nation state—territory, population, and effectiveness—seem to be questioned, as well (p. 32). As globalization has eroded the traditional borders, some have started believing that democracy and the respect for human rights could have served as a fil rouge to coordinate the international system. Others, in turn, fear the diffusion of anarchy. A new state doctrine is not needed, however, for the national state should and certainly could adapt to such new phenomena. Along these lines, Lenzi recalls the respect of the heterogeneity and the establishment of trans-governmental networks, such as the ones conceptualized by Slaugheter and the neo-feudalism of Berdjaev (p.36). While the liberal tradition understands the advent of the states as a step toward the unification of humanity, the former Ambassador considers the idea of a “universal-state” constituted by a “universal logos,” as premature. What we should strive for is, in turn, an incredibly “extended agora.” It is along these lines, he argues, that the EU is pursuing its integration. The motto, “united in diversity” is a clear reflection of such orientation.

Notwithstanding the multiple challenges and their multifaced aspects, a truly and effective coordinated action between not only the most powerful states, but also the emerging one, is not in place yet. To fill such a gap, the tasks’ spectrum of international organizations has widened, often creating overlapping and inconsistencies. Such non-coordination partially derives from the historical contingency, which, as said, blocked the international system for decades during the years of the Cold War. It is now time to reorder and reorganize such a system (p. 50). Under a perspective of deep reform of it, Lenzi provides an all-encompassing systematization of the main Western actors as well as of the emerging powers in the international scene, which could play a pivotal role in such renovation.

In conclusion, it can be argued that basing himself on an impressive amount of classic and modern international relations literature, Ambassador Lenzi successfully manages to link his knowledge, coming from the experience on the field, to relevant theories of international relations. Exploring a relatively unstudied question, the volume offers, in this way, an encompassing overview of the application of the international liberalism theory to contemporary political and operational challenges. Remarkably, this is done without forgetting to mention the relevance of the crucial European ideal of cooperation, which is considered as a model throughout the analysis.

Maria Giulia Amadio Viceré, LUISS Guido Carli, Rome

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