I can still remember vividly the sense of unease I had as I walked past the traffic jams clogging Rome’s roads on a hot day last August. The city had been blocked for the visit of Italy’s new friend, Muammar Gaddafi. As part of the warm welcome he received, Gadaffi was allowed to pitch his Bedouin tent in the beautiful scenery of the Villa Dora Pamphilii, give a public lecture at the University of Rome and even host a ‘convert-to-Islam’ party for hundreds of “glamorous women” who received special invitations to the event. On a previous occasion, Gadaffi had even received a welcome kiss on his hand from a bowing Silvio Berlusconi—a price the PM thought well worth paying for the contracts Italian companies would sign with the oil-rich former colony.
My discomfort came from a deep-rooted conviction that the Italian government was not just making an ethical mistake, but also committing a political and economic blunder.
Over the last twenty years, Berlusconi has sought to skip boring diplomacy by using his charm and skills as a salesman. And as a diplomat-businessman, he sure knows how to pick his friends. Last December, the Italian Prime Minister chose to boast of his close ties with Ben Ali of Tunisia, Gaddafi of Libya and Mubarak of Egypt. He has received th…