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As such its perception of its interests today is defiantly unsentimental and its fidelity to rules — particularly those made in the West — is selective at best. The experience of the Middle East is particularly striking, where fragile and artificially created nation states have so far proved resistant to transnational forms of identity that have challenged their legitimacy. Authoritarian governments have survived insurrection in Egypt, Iran and Syria, and even Iraq has held together, albeit at huge human cost. As the Syrian civil war reaches its end, it is the nation states — and not the non-state actors, or millennialist ideologues — who are the main protagonists in a series of proxy wars.

A rather more traditional paradigm is reasserting itself: the revenge of the nation state. The starting gun on the new age of competition has already been fired.

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What remains to be seen — and the Brexit process gives little reason for confidence so far — is whether the nation state is up to the task. As the United Kingdom wakes up to this new dispensation, it is now becoming clear that other nations have had a considerable head start.


It is eerily reminiscent of the heartland theories associated with the English geographer, Halford Mackinder, the so-called father of geopolitics, at the start of the last century. The road ahead is unlikely to be smooth. China has many future challenges looming. With its property bubble and precarious credit boom, these include the very real possibility of a major economic crash that would cause ripple-effects across the globe. In every scenario, however, the Belt and Road initiative will have huge geopolitical implications that the West has not yet begun to grapple with.

One aspect of the project, the new Silk Road to Europe, has effectively been completed already. A four-lane motorway running from the Yellow Sea to St Petersburg — a ten-day drive, covering more than 5, miles and linking Russia and China through Kazakhstan — opened last month.

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The road deliberately avoids Afghanistan but the Chinese state is getting increasingly sucked into that country because of expanding Chinese interests, as lucrative contracts and security concerns become harder to disentangle. And Chinese inward investment in Europe is also on a sharp upward curve.

Thus far, it is the maritime dimension of the Belt and Road project that has caused the greatest panic in the West. The claims of a rising Chinese nation state in regional waters threaten the freedom of navigation that the United States and its regional allies hold so dear. Other nation states in the region have been jolted into action. This can be seen in the willingness to consider the types of grand strategic projects that liberal capitalist economies used to forgo. On 9 October, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe announced a multi-billion dollar infrastructure development project of his own, in the Mekong Delta benefiting Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

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Meanwhile, the Build Act making its way through the US Congress would transform the overseas development capabilities of the American government, to allow it to contribute to major infrastructure projects in the region. Once again, this is happening against the backdrop of the Belt and Road. It remains to be seen how successful such initiatives are. A depressing but revelatory article in Prospect magazine recently painted the picture of a Foreign Office suffering a crisis of identity, quality and purpose.

An institution that was once the envy of the world is in decline, having had a number of its limbs lopped off. The decisions to create separate government departments for International Development in and for International Trade in have taken away two core competencies that are fundamental to any effective foreign policy. Whereas once the Ministry of Defence was the little brother to the Foreign Office, it has become the better-fed behemoth next door. Our thinking about international affairs is stale and unimaginative.

The UK has world-class universities with huge reserves of expertise about the world. But not enough of this is filtering through to the people who control our foreign policy. Just as the nation state is called upon to take back control, we are beginning to see how bare the cupboard has become. The malaise cannot be laid at the door of the Brexiteers alone, although they have inspired a revolution for which no one was prepared. It is more accurate to say that Brexit has revealed something that has been true for some time: we have lost the habit of thinking strategically about our place in the world, of combining all our attributes together in pursuit of a coherent goal.

Such a focus has encouraged the tendency towards short-term crisis management. When we do cast our eyes beyond our immediate environs, we tend to talk in abstract terms about values and rules, without clarity about what we mean or the wherewithal to bring about our desired goals.

A quick scan of the international scene poses several future dilemmas for which we are not prepared. How far are we willing to stretch to support our allies when challenges arise, such as preserving freedom of navigation on the South China Sea? What happens if our vessels are charged by Chinese fishing boats — a potentially minor incident that could provide the spark for a major conflict?

For how long can we hedge between the US and China, as they enter into what looks to many like a new cold war? In a less turbulent era, before the US embarked upon a trade war with Beijing, it was possible for the UK to sign up the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and court inward Chinese investment, only provoking mild grumblings from the US Treasury. The first two bi-millenaries could be wonderfully used in order to exalt, together with the Roman poets, the collaboration between the intellectuals and the power, which was intensely wished by the regime.

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The men of letters that Maecenas had gathered around himself and around Augustus offered a model of mobilization of the intellectual energies, which was destined to the strengthening of the consensus. The signs of updating suggested by Virgil's works covered the whole range of possibilities: as foreshadower of Christianity, he was the symbol of the agreement between the fascism and the Catholic Church; as poet of the country life, he was the ancient soul of the fascist ruralism; as celebrator of the Roman domination, he was also the prophet of the power wish of the Mussolinian Italy; as poet of the pacification after the disaster of the civil wars, he was, ultimately, the mirror of the Italy pacified by fascism Canfora, , p.

It was not so easy to discover in Horatio's works themes that were susceptible to such an immediate and persuasive updating: anyway, the civil poet Horatio was privileged, not without exaggerations and funambulisms that were, as always, valued by a portion of the academic world Cagnetta, The Augustus' bi-millenary occurred following the conquest of Ethiopia, when the fascist Italy had taken on a proud imperial frown. At that time, among so many other celebrations, the "Exhibition of Augustus' Romanity", an extraordinary display of the ancient Rome and the fascist cult of romanity, was organized in Rome: the visitors were introduced to the usances, customs, techniques, and culture of the Roman world, along the ancient values that the fascist Italy had transformed in contemporaneous ones.

Its echo in Italy and abroad was huge Scriba, Contemporaneously, the "Exhibition of the fascist revolution" was re-opened; it was inaugurated in in order to celebrate the regime's tenth anniversary, and which until had recorded some four million visitors, both Italians and foreigners Salvatori, , p. In former days, one went to Rome to see the Pope, the Saint Peter's cathedral and other sacred spots; now, one goes to Rome also and, maybe, mainly to see the duce, to admire the restored monuments, to stand in awe in face of the new Roman sceneries opened by the regime.

Attracted by the fascism's triumph and the mirage of the ancient Rome, millions of Italians saw the capital for the first time Gentile, , p.

While the damage inflicted by the fascist rhetoric to the diffused image of the ancient Rome would, although very slowly, be re-absorbed by other images in the future, the damage caused to its material testimonies is irreversible cf. Giardina, , p. We know that, for Mussolini, to formulate a policy of general guidelines for the capital's rebirth would not be enough: he guided and discussed the projects, often used his unappealable power of decision-making, claimed the credit for having devised and wished the city's new image.

The principle that inspired the regulator plan of , of which he declared himself as spiritual father, is perfectly synthesized in the words addressed by Mussolini himself , v.

XXII, p. You shall continue to free the great oak's trunk from everything that is still screening it from light. You shall clear a space around Augustus' mausoleum, Marcello's theater, the Capitol, the Pantheon. Everything that grew around them along the decadence centuries should disappear [ This operation had been extremely important in the outline of a false physical and social image of the ancient Rome, destined to be perpetuated way beyond fascism, as recognized by all those that watched the external scenographies of the movies with a Roman theme after World War II: a cold and presumptuous city, which expresses, even in its monuments, an intimidating inclination.

The case of the route that would be later called Via dell'Impero Route of the Empire is a good example. Opened on the space that had been emptied due to the demolition of a whole and modern quarter, with its foundations built on the ruins of the ancient imperial forums, that road made way for a magniloquent perspective on the Coliseum, creating, at the same time, an ideal specular association between the Piazza Venezia Venice Square , the spot where the audience that the duce addressed from the famous balcony used to be, and the most grandiose of the Roman monuments, while the gigantic statue of Victor Emmanuel, on the Altare della Patria Altar of the Fatherland , experienced a definitive marginalization.

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Moreover, that road became the triumphal trajectory of the regime, along which the forces of the new combative Italy paraded in face of the Roman crowds, and, thanks to its use as propaganda in the newsreels, in face of the whole nation. Also in this case, the misconception that characterized the relation between fascism and romanity was repeated: in the presupposition that fascism had rediscovered the Roman world, the collective imagination saw the ancient Rome through the filter of the present, while the truth was just the opposite: the current images invented the ancient ones.

Fascism did not restrict itself to restore and liberate the ancient monuments: it has also created a modern architecture of Roman inspiration, often decorated with Italian or Latin inscriptions, which, most of the time, quoted acclamations and declamations taken from the duce's speeches and writings. A great prominence was also given to the agrarian tradition of the ancient Italy, which was perpetuated in the agrarian inclination of the contemporaneous Italy.

This theme can be regarded as a crucial knot of multiple aspects of the fascist politics, some of them present along the whole year period of fascism, others typical mainly of the thirties.

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As a matter of fact, it often appears in association with the campaign for the demographic development the peasant families were more prolific than the others , with the autarchy that was proclaimed in response to the sanctions decreed by the Nations Association after the aggression to Ethiopia, with the specificity of the Italian establishments in the colonies cultivators' establishments, it was repeated, in opposition to the mercantile character of the "plutocratic" empires , with the anti-bourgeois controversy, with the racial laws see ahead , with the relation between the work in the fields and the warrior's worth: according to the fascist message, for each of those aspects it was possible to find a clear mirror in the history of the ancient Rome.

A first significant stage of this policy was the so-called "battle of the wheat", started by by Mussolini, with a redundant warlike terminology. The campaign aimed at increasing the cereal's production, decreasing the entity of the imports: the objective was fully achieved, although at the cost of serious unbalances and a delay in the agriculture modernization. Another great moment of exaltation of the ruralism as a character of the Roman and Italian ancestry began in , with the policy of "integral bonus", which, continuing and re-launching initiatives that had been started after the formation of the Unitarian State, aimed at the regeneration of all of the main swampy areas in the peninsula.

In the regime's propaganda, the bonus was not presented only as a concrete technical and social challenge.