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Intelligence and asymmetric economic wars

Intelligence and asymmetric economic wars

Published Dec 19, 2022 Updated Dec 19, 2022
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Intelligence and asymmetric economic wars

di Francesco Sidoti


In its 2021 quadrennial report, the U.S. National Intelligence Council underlined the current global issue: the effects of the pandemic will linger, particularly as a warming world leads to new political conflicts, including, in the direst scenario, global food shortages that spawn social movements, mass migration, and armed rebellion. Many global powers were critically contested long before the pandemic, and those critical trends haven't after that abated.

The pandemic illustrates why it's vital to have excellent international collaborations. There is no secure path to get out of the tangle humans have built in the Anthropocene: we shape the road as we go ahead, amidst so many difficulties, uncertainties, and dangers.

Cooperation between all the states is necessary, and peace is the keyword of this millennium, with a completely new meaning compared to the past.


Conceptual distinctions: intelligence and economic espionage

Intelligence activities are distinct from espionage, undercover work, counter-information, disinformation, secret service structures, and military operations. Intelligence can use all these different sectors, but it cannot be reduced to one of them. Espionage and intelligence can be linked. But they are, in essence, very different (Sidoti 1998). The same can be said for other forms of activity: they may be related to intelligence, but they are essentially different. Generally, intelligence is considered as the information gathered by an organization to guide its decisions. However, not every piece of information is relevant. The distinctive aspects of information regarding intelligence are dangerous situations and possibilities. Intelligence is concerned with resistance to any threat and, therefore, with the development, resilience, and, finally, the survival of individuals and organizations.

In his 1986 memoirs, Count Alexandre de Marenches, who had run the French secret service (SDECE) for a decade, gave a famous example of financial espionage and how profitable it is. "Spying in the proper sense is becoming increasingly focused on business and the economy, science and industry - and very profitable it is. It enables the secret services to discover a process used in another country, which might have taken years and possibly millions of francs to invent or perfect. This form of espionage prevails not only with the enemy but to some extent among friends; it has to be said".

He continued telling the story of how, through an informer, the French secret services "knew for certain beforehand that the Americans were going to devalue the dollar on December 18, 1971...Thanks to this information, the Bank of France was able to carry out a series of highly successful operations. The figures involved, in fact, taken on their own, would have financed the service for years".

As early as 1944, Charles de Gaulle supported a dirigiste French political economy, which included substantial state-directed control over many industries. According to another former French intelligence chief, Marle Le Roy, "the practice of targeting U.S. corporations was initiated by Charles De Gaulle" (Schhweizer 1993, 103). In 1994, the report Intelligence économique et stratégie des entreprises, commonly called The Martre Report, drawn up by Henry Martre and Philippe Clerc, constituted a milestone for the public intellectual performance of some activities the French secret services had practically conducted for a long time.

I presume that intelligence is not spying and that it is, on the contrary, a scientific field (Sherman 1949; Herman 1996). In its distinctive attention on information and threats, intelligence is focused on collective and future gains. Intelligence creates strategic forecasts and estimates - and can profitably commit to the realization of the most favorable forecasts. Information, analysis, forecasts, and intervention can be done in many ways. Its heroes are people such as Alan Turing and Ann Caracristi.

Intelligence is not a structure but a function. Its original task was to obtain information superiority over the enemy to have a cognitive advantage and therefore be able to win any commercial, military, strategic confrontation. Intelligence has increasingly expanded its role, including covert paramilitary operations. According to some, intelligence was an elegant euphemism, not to mention a lousy word: espionage. But it is a very backward conception: intelligence analysis does not end in espionage but uses espionage, and very cautiously, because it knows how often espionage sources may be self-interested, double-dealing, inaccurate, voluntarily, or involuntarily misleading (Nacci 2014).

Intelligence is a concept and also a conception.


Conceptual insights: economic and financial intelligence

Economic and financial intelligence (IEF) is an activity carried out in both the public and private sectors. IEF wants to identify the critical factors of the economic and financial context to give decision-makers the opportunities to enhance competition and predict emerging threats and risks to the security of the employer's assets. Since it also deals with threats and espionage, IEF falls within the sphere of intelligence, not mere forecasting, analysis, or market strategies. IEF activities go through research, acquisition, processing, evaluation, intervention tools. They want to achieve strategic and vital information superiority.

We find the activities of IEF within the most prominent corporate structures and within the States that perceive the existing global threats to the solidity of every national heritage. The IEF is an activity of acquisition and analysis of information concerning the global economic-financial scenario to protect the technological knowledge of the industries considered strategic for state security, to prevent the hostile penetration of foreign interests in vital economic sectors (defense, infrastructures, communications, energy, creation of internet networks), to avoid the loss of economic competitiveness of national companies on an international level, to combat the economic crime. Fields of application of IEF are manipulation of market shares, industrial espionage, counterfeiting, illicit online sales, financial fraud, and, of course, organized crime.

The distinction between financial and economic intelligence is often overlooked in practice, but it is evident in history and theory. Economic intelligence is ancient. It takes its modern form with the first global activities of the post-medieval world and specifically in the Republic of Venice that was among the first Italian city-states to create a structured intelligence system(Preto 2016). It reached its maximum efficiency during the sixteenth century.

The specific English connection between information and intelligence had a significant Italian antecedent. The word intelligence was little used in Italy at that time, but with an important exception: Machiavelli (“Basta, ad intelligenza di Vostre Signorie…”). And Machiavelli was the most read political author in England at that time. In 1531, in his The Book Named the Governour, sir Thomas Elyot advocated foreign travel because of its potential benefits for state intelligence, using the word in our current meaning.

Out of complicated philological problems, for sure the structure firstly created in Venice corresponded quite precisely to what we will find later in England. The Serenissima was uniquely equipped to attack her enemies and support her interests. Diplomacy, governments, markets, commercial enterprises were aggregated into a single central body for gathering information and using hidden methodologies. Venetian spies acted at home and abroad, using all sorts of illegal tools (Ferracin 2017). However, information was the most pursued element. Its research, together with the concentration of attention on threats (including weaknesses of adversaries and future potential menaces), constitutes the heart of intelligence adequately understood.

It was the first modern intelligence system. This model was imitated because its fundamental contribution to the imperial Venetian power was clear. So it was taken as a model (integrated with other profiles of the Italian experience, first and foremost Machiavelli in the English experience, which brought those Mediterranean and Renaissance roots to a superior perfection. And they called it "intelligence," understanding that it was not only a matter of spies, corruption, prostitutes, blackmail, sabotage, assassinations, and poisoning.

In the 17th Century, Amsterdam and Holland were the first heirs of the intelligence culture of the Venetian empire. With a solid financial system and a new shipbuilding industry, the Dutch helped England's trade dominance. Afterwards Britain replaced the Netherlands as a hegemonic power.

In the English redefinition of the word intelligence - which became denser than espionage, spies, secret services, and covert paramilitary operations - the economy plays a central role, including substantial technical and theoretical developments of Western rationality. The economy turns into a kind of war. In 1520 Machiavelli wrote L'Arte della Guerra, the art of war. In 1647, the English mathematician, astronomer, cartographer Nathaniel Nye wrote The Art of Gunnery, explaining that war was also a science focusing on trigonometry, higher arithmetic, abstract mathematics, and scientific cartography. Even the economy was a science - dismal also because of its moral and technical matters.

In the struggle against the Spanish empire, the English use of intelligence and the embodiment of an entire nation in a total war mentality was born. For the first time in history, Englishmen built warships, prepared precisely and only for a military purpose. At the same time, previously, there were only commercial ships, which were occasionally used for war purposes. The most remarkable thalassocracy emerged, in a sense used by A. T. Mahan and K. Schmitt. Economic intelligence was a significant part of it. The Venetian model was a lesson on the matter, together with the entire Italian Renaissance experience, where Machiavelli was one among many. When Caterina de' Medici celebrated "the art to hide to achieve your goals", she was one among many. Huguenots branded Caterina a sneaky Italian and bloody pupil of Machiavelli.

After the axis shift, in world civilization, by the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, economic intelligence has been brought to its highest perfection in England. From Walsingham to the East India Company, subsequently with the management of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern oil and up to the present day, the history of economic intelligence has been a substantial concern in the history of the modern world, merging private and public interests.

Financial intelligence is much more recent because it is intertwined with the birth of a new kind of financial capital, very different from Hilferding's Finanzkapital. During the so-called "glorious thirty" of postwar capitalism, Western states took over most of the systemic functions of private finance. A lot has changed since then. Under the flag of neoliberalism and free-market extremism, the financialization of the economy framed a different trend, which has increased from the 1980s onwards. In the West, huge financial profits have represented a significant countertendency to the overall reduction of returns in some commercial and industrial fields.

Speculation in the currency market, speculation in stocks, speculation in derivative instruments have been able to create higher profit rates that than those prevalent in the rest of the economy. Financialization, according to Paul Krugman, has become "a monster that ate the world economy" (Rayman, 2013). For Giovanni Arrighi, the hegemony (Almeida dos Santos 1987) of financial capitalism is the sign of the imminent transformation of the current capitalist cycle. Illegality and unscrupulous competition have become ubiquitous in present financial systems. Pino Arlacchi focuses on their endemic illegality. Financial crime, in his perspective, is not an aberration, the action of few rotten apples deviating from the norms that allow contracts and property rights to be respected. To some observers, lawbreaking seems to be the way a large part of financial capitalism operates successfully every day worldwide (Abel Souto et al.,2020). By incorporating a vast set of misconducts in its normal behavior, the financial sector can get enough extra profits to contrast the tendency of the overall rate of profit to fall. Obviously, I add, together with predatory capitalism, there are platform capitalism, philanthropic capitalism, and many others. There is capitalism for all tastes.

According to a widespread point of view, inter-state friendship extends only to military fields due to fierce economic competition, not to the realms of technology, economics, and finance, even among strategic allies. The rivalry between states takes place less and less at the military level - and more and more in the grey area of technological, economic, and financial levels (Lopez, Mastelloni, 2008). Proper intelligence structures and mentalities are particularly relevant in these gray areas, characterized by defensive and aggressive activities.

Many countries have profited from the collapse of the old US/USSR bipolar system. Thirty new "glorious" economic years passed between the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and November 2019, when Covid-19 began to circulate. These thirty years were similar to the thirty years from 1945 to 1975 following the Second World War when many economies caught up with a spectacular growth rate. After this second and glorious thirty years, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a completely new historical period begins, featured by more intense economic competition and, therefore, by a more intense relevance of financial intelligence.


Economic interference and asymmetric wars

Inter-state economic interference has an ancient and complicated tradition. The financialization of the Western economy and the birth of dominant financial capital have changed the frame of reference completely. A new way has been found to force states, nations, and governments deeply.

Within the framework of strategic antagonism, inter-state economic conflicts manifest themselves in various forms. Trade wars, monetary wars, and sanctions are the three conceptually most frequently cited categories of economic confrontation. Financial sanctions are a kind of special operations in the subset of inter-state economic sanctions.

The U.S. first employed financial operations during World War I, after Congress passed the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA) on October 6, 1917. Since the end of WWII, the U.S. has used financial operations to manage threats of expropriation to U.S. firms. The intelligence model concerning Allende's Chile marks a transition point not just to protect U.S. companies but also to crack other states.

With the advent of contemporary financial capital, the model of U.S. global intervention changes and flourishes. The old model had had its apotheosis in the 50s classic examples—the Iran of Mohammad Mosaddegh and the Vietnam of Graham Greene. The new model becomes a protagonist in many crucial areas, from Venezuela to Turkey (Sidoti 2016). It is a complex, filtered, mediated intervention, but it is very effective.

In democratic systems, the destructive capacity of modern warfare heightens the need to limit the use of visible force. Modern warfare was a harsh reality in which soldiers killed and were killed, innocent children and innocent citizens died. Even in our hyper-modernity, asymmetric warfare can kill innocent children, and innocent citizens can die, but the origin, the meaning, the reason are occult, covered, implied, disguised. In the shadowy world of asymmetric warfare, the rules exist in a kind of Orwellian no-man's land. Economics is the main battleground: hypermodernity thrives on consensus, and the political consensus is made even with money and business.

We must single out a coup d'état as a species within the more extensive typology of the overthrow of unwelcome governments. Edward Luttwak’s revised handbook (2016) offers an altogether new way of looking at the overthrow of governments, considering their vulnerability to financial quakes of even the most steady states in the event of harsh economic turmoil.

From Curzio Malaparte to Gene Sharp, the reflection on coups is broad. It is connected to the problems of change in a political system that does not foresee this kind of change but undergoes it under other names.

I have applied (2019) coup d'état theory to the recent history of Turkey. In chronological order, in Turkey, we first find the coup through popular protest (the typology experimented in the Arab springs); then the coup through judicial intervention (the typology experimented in Italy and Brazil); after, the coup through internal military intervention (the typology experimented in Egypt); finally, the coup through economic war (the typology experimented in Venezuela). Democracies have attention lapses, and conspiracists see the play of a backbencher not as an extra but as a delegate. There are many invisible hands at work, but (in the best Western tradition) the left-hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Proxy wars enable intervention on the cheap and are politically palatable.


Friendly competition and collateral damages

The story of Spycatcher, a book by an ex-M.I.5 man, Peter Wright, says a lot about the obsessions with intelligence, bungling hubris, and ordinary treachery. His descriptions should be read together with those of John le Carré. Even if Peter Wright has got something wrong and something overstated, the system he describes however remains very instructive, including details on economic intelligence and attempts (prodded to do so by "friendly" foreign spies) to discredit even the British prime minister himself.

Some say that the first commandment of intelligence is that things are not as they seem (with the necessary consequence that we must not trust anyone). If this is true, then it is especially true in the field of economic intelligence.

The importance of the economy has dramatically increased and has changed with democratization and globalization (Bremmer 2019). Weapons of nuclear destruction had already radically altered the theory and practice of warfare among nuclear powers. For democratic states, military intervention costs more and pays less. Iraq and Afghanistan have taught that lesson. Traditional wars no longer break out between the strongest states but between the weak and within them. The economy has always been important and a cause of wars, but it becomes even more insidious as a ground of ruthless competition for the division and commercialization of existing resources. Computerization and globalization make the terrain of the economy even faster, unstable, and treacherous.

In this situation of the international scenario, there are no enemies, but, above all, an ally can also be a competitor, and an unfair one at that (and, according to some, it is easier to be conniving above all towards allies). Great and little asymmetrical wars occur for economic ends and with financial means.

In this perspective, the national state has the essential task of creating economic security, keeping the markets clean, and protecting strategic assets. One of the most important purposes for financial intelligence is to build an adequate and permanent structure of analysis, resistance, and intervention. Political and military alliances must be understood and used appropriately. An all-out war is impossible, but there is a need to prepare for conflict in the "grey zone" between war and peace, with increasing intelligence operations, cyberattacks, and parallel diplomacy. It remains important to distinguish and select information from the immense amount of that available. Intelligence has always been an essential task, but today in a particular way, due to the deadly mix of widespread ignorance among the public and the increased possibilities of spreading hoaxes and poisoned meatballs (Caligiuri 2018b). The risk of disinformation and consequent conditioning of economic behavior is very high.

For its renowned origins, the Italian tradition of intelligence is, in truth, a national glory. Those origins were so excellent that they also greatly influenced different intellectual sectors, starting with the economy (Sidoti 2009). According to James Buchanan, Pareto and various other economists of his era can be considered the intellectual forefathers of the modern public choice theory. The famous Austrian school is chronologically subsequent and is not characterized by the same attention towards those phenomena of illegality, corruption, and market manipulation that today are at the center of economic and financial intelligence.

From its origins (Pasqualini 2006), the Italian state has always carried out profitable activities in the field of economic intelligence. However, these worthwhile activities have been cataloged within the sphere of espionage. They have rarely come to light from a declared and organized intelligence perspective. In the post-World War II period, the first governmental commission on economic intelligence was set up in 1989. Paolo Savona's subsequent studies constitute the founding act of Italian financial intelligence. Only in 2011 Savona and Jean publish the first academic book on the matter. In the same way, critics say, it is certified that other Western intelligence services had much more adequate culture, structures, and means than the Italians. This delay or backwardness in the strategic dimension of the economic-financial analysis, with a failure to develop an integrated approach and an integrated intelligence perspective, has been caused by a specific situation.

During the Cold War, due to the importance of the opposition to communism and because of its Middle Eastern policies, Italy was an extraordinary battlefield, both for the clash of internal forces and the intervention of many other foreign countries.

Some inquiries on terrorism have become relevant. In particular, the confessions of Vinciguerra were astonishing. He is a right-wing extremist, convicted of severe terrorist crimes. Consultants in various judicial investigations on the many carnages made on the Italian people, have demonstrated that Vinciguerra's interpretation is the only interpretation that has consistently resisted, in comparison with all the data and factual pieces of evidence that have emerged in the long course of thirty years of investigations, trials, and studies (Giannuli 2018). Many conspirative reconstructions have been rectified or denied (Satta 2020), but this interpretation has resisted every criticism, above all in the courtrooms. Judge Guido Salvini was the first to legitimize and follow Vinciguerra's reconstruction and interpretation of those years. Afterward, the Parliamentary Commission on Massacres, many judicial authorities, and a specialized bibliography on the subject drew abundantly from Vinciguerra's writings.

Many respected judges and many prized investigative journalists (among them Rosario Priore and Giovanni Fasanella) have proposed a very documented explanation for some interference of foreign organizations in many assassinations and carnages that took place within the Italian territory. Often under the false guise of genuine internal subversion, Italian terrorism in many respects was encouraged, supported, and, according to some observers, secretly directed outside the Italian borders.

This severe (and murderous) interference did not occur in any other European country and is a clear sign of a meaningful weakness in Italy, also in terms of intelligence. In the midst of so much murderous hate and many stubborn interests in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Italian foreign politics was temerarious but effective. For years Italy had a primary role in many world crucial areas - a part praised by some, hated by others (Caligiuri, 2021, 2018a, 2012). During the years between 1991-1994, many Italian events marked a turning point. Italy was the fifth economic power in the world; it quickly became the octave. In September 1992 (just a few weeks after the killings of judges Falcone and Borsellino), because of intense monetary speculation, the Italian lira crashed out of the more flexible arrangement that preceded the euro's establishment, bringing Italy on the verge of bankruptcy. Suddenly, people discovered that Italy had a massive public debt (but the amount of private money of Italians is far greater than this debt), an all-powerful mafia, an ineradicable corruption, a backward culture, huge unemployment, and currency woes (which even caused serious concerns within Europe and the European Monetary System). Beginning in those years, Italy's relevance in international politics has been considerably downsized - until the Draghi cabinet, which has been in office since 13 February 2021.


Stupidity and dangerousness of economic wars

It is possible to better understand our conception of intelligence, if we think about its opposite: stupidity, which is firstly a lack of intelligence. Carlo Maria Cipolla gave a great definition of stupidity. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or a group of people while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses as well. From this reflection, we can derive a deeper understanding of intelligence.

A truly intelligent person is a person who causes gains to another person or a group of people while himself deriving gains. In short, an intelligent person is focused on collective and future gains, not on other people's losses. An intelligent person has a broad view of personal and collective interests. He is not focused exclusively on the short term, or his country, or himself. He does not think: "take the money and run". Cipolla offers a clear example of a person who bears in mind only his interest, not caring about others: a bandit "wants a plus on his account. Since he is not intelligent enough to devise ways of obtaining the plus as well as providing you with a plus, he will produce his plus by causing a minus to appear on your account".

In his seminal book of 1973, J. Mueller presented a careful evaluation of U.S. public opinion on the wars in Korea and Vietnam and the U.S. presidents during those wars. Logarithms and regression of the poll percentage were at the center of his analysis.

Other Mueller books have basically always reasoned on the following points: endless wars, nuclear stockpiles, and fat Pentagon budgets have so far produced for the U.S. citizens only misery, failure, and humiliation. American foreign policy since 1945 has been marked with unnecessary and costly military interventions that have mostly failed. Since the end of WWII, thinking of and preparing for a possible war has had devastating economic consequences, but, in fact, there has seldom been significant danger of an all-out war.

In 2021, John Mueller says that "war has come to seem not only futile, destructive, and barbaric, but profoundly stupid". Mueller explains that international war is in decline, so complacency and appeasement become viable strategic diplomatic devices. Either would save lives, fortune, and face. War as a critical instrument of state policy should no longer be considered "inevitable or necessary". Muller is just one of many Americans who think this way. I'm quoting him just as an example.

War has made humanity secure and prosperous, says the renowned historian and archaeologist Ian Morris. But to this frightful affirmation, he adds that fifteen thousand years of war reveal a new situation. After Hiroshima and the Holocaust, war has created a more civilized and quiet humanity.

War has been history's greatest paradox. But a totally new situation suggests that the next half-century will be the most dangerous of all time. We will survive it only if the age-old dream of ending war may yet come to pass.

A large military is scarcely required since war has now become a thing of the past. The U.S. has been nearly continually at war since World War II ended. However, American society is the most outstanding example of a knowledge society, because it produces more intelligence than any other country and shows that a knowledge society is also a risk society, from atomic risk down. In the knowledge society, stupidity does not end; it increases: it has more opportunities, like everyone else.

Public officials carrying out state services should act within formal laws and enhance the national interest and public economic assets. That’s for sure. But, from Samuel Johnson onwards, patriotism must be intelligently understood.

Leaders in international business, finance, and economic affairs move freely into high positions in national and international institutions. The idea of national interest is a pretty murky one. Who represents the homeland? Who defines the vital and primary interests of the country? Does this idea refer to the interests of all the people in a nation? To the elites? To the corporations? To state officials? Or what? The nature of the political choice will vary depending on exactly how one answers these questions.

The present-day idea of a knowledge society is founded on the vast increase of information technologies. The creation, dissemination, and utilization of good information is intended as the most crucial factor. In such a society, knowledge assets could be the most potent producer of wealth, sidelining the importance of land, industry, and financial capital. Many underestimate that a knowledge society generates and makes available better ways to improve the human condition, regardless of specific nations and place of birth. Today, every society would like to be a knowledge society, often misunderstanding this central feature of our age. According to different experts, from T.S. Eliot to James Gleick, you can have information without intelligence, intelligence without knowledge, and knowledge without wisdom. Selection makes intelligence. Experience makes knowledge. Sufferance makes wisdom. In a knowledge society, the augmentation of cerebral activities does not imply the augmentation of wisdom.


Economic and financial education: an intelligent perspective

Financial literacy is a sub-segment of economic education, which in turn is a segment of the broader field of civics education. Economic education is about the "dismal science". In the tradition of Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus, economics is the science of scarcity, as well as wealth. Economic education is, therefore, awareness of the limits to desires and greed. And financial education is awareness of the technical aspects of the correct use of money, including banking and pensions, stock markets, savings, long-term capitalization, investments, mortgages, and loans.

Economic and financial education includes socialization to money, which plays a leading role in forming an environment based on trust. Children instinctively absorb their parents' attitudes, and wrong behaviors are easily assimilated. There are evident benefits of economic and financial education.

The European Commission has recognized financial knowledge as an essential element for building a single capital market and promoting long-term savings and investments. International institutions have repeatedly insisted on this necessity. The OECD has issued a Recommendation on financial literacy, which calls on all the countries that have signed it to implement programs to increase the financial knowledge of young people and adults.

International institutions point out that global security depends on having citizens who understand, from an early age, a world of rules and constraints that are often primarily of economic nature. The necessity of financial awareness has to do with moral, social, and political reasons. Economic life has become increasingly complex. It is crucial to have adequate responsibility in the flow of this complexity to manage the savings correctly. Essential economic and financial awareness has proved to be a shield to cushion the blows of crises.

For years, many countries (for example, the United Kingdom, Portugal, and Australia) have included financial education in school curricula. More recently, some countries have established financial education as compulsory in schools. Finland has announced its goal of becoming the nation with the best financial knowledge by 2030. Economic and financial education allows us to sharpen citizenship that is aware of the social world and the functioning of the entire system in which we live. Rights and duties are intertwined with money as a universal means of communication and measurement. The citizen's responsibility is tested in the face of money, with its opportunities and its pitfalls and enticements. Consequently, it is necessary to introduce financial education at school because it is the particular area of cultural formation and societal inclusion par excellence. The future belongs to young people, and it is our task to give them the tools to face it and build it successfully.

Promoted by the OECD, the Global Money Week is an event dedicated to financial education for young people and is celebrated every year worldwide. It has involved 175 countries over the years. In Italy, civic education has recently become compulsory: imparting to each young person a sense of membership in society, a sense of living connection to its constitutional chart — one that can unite people and strengthen social links in hard times. It is the capability of placing one's life in a meaning larger than oneself.

One of the keys to Western historic success is now a wasting asset. Education made the West great; neglect of education can reverse the process. The word "education" has lost much of the noble luster that it once had. It has wound up demoted to a kind of literacy or a kind of "user's guide" to technical job preparation. Just as "citizenship" has wound up demoted in a sort of "user's guide" to legislation and institutions. Both words deserve better. Education and citizenship are not merely about literacy or voting but also about possessing a sense of membership in society as reliable and responsible patriots. Civic education, rightly understood, extends far beyond the formal phrases of the Constitution. It should promote a profound and sincere sense of our belonging. Hence civic education should include economics (understanding of economy), which is mainly about personal responsibility. These feelings of belonging and responsibility must coexist with the democratic elements of criticism and opposition. Without the deep foundation that these feelings supply, a republic will be a weak and murky one. In many Western countries, polls and studies show rising rates of despair, unhappiness, suicides, depression, alcohol and drug addiction, and a massive loss of morale and hope.

According to formal national requirements, civic education is a subject that also includes the duty to teach economic and financial matters. That kind of civic education should be specified by law (Quiroz Vitale 2005). Many nations have already included financial schooling as a compulsory field. Italy has signed the OECD Recommendation, which is strict on educational duties.

Our insistence on civic, economic, and financial education is highly appreciated and required by true intelligence experts, as is amply demonstrated by the quadrennial "Global Trends" report of the U. S. National Intelligence Council, issued on March 2021.

This report looks over the near and simple time horizon, demonstrating that intelligence must create strategic forecasts and estimates. Furthermore, this report indicates that intelligence must also deal with educational problems that are important for the stability of national and international systems. Indeed, the report observes that during the pandemic, unpreparedness, ignorance, uncertainties, and failures of national and international institutions deepened public dissatisfaction and further eroded faith in the Old World Order. The report also noted the internet's tendency to exacerbate political and cultural divisions.

The "trust gap" between an informed public with faith in a government solution and a wider public with deep skepticism of institutions is growing, the National Intelligence Council report said. The problem is made worse by technology. Algorithms, social media, and artificial intelligence have replaced expertise in deciding what information spreads most widely, making the public more vulnerable to misinformation. People "are likely to gravitate to information silos of people who share similar views, reinforcing beliefs and understanding of the truth"; the report concludes.

In short, the report underlined in a very clever way that in a democracy, educational problems have an extraordinary relevance which is further enhanced by the sudden advent of the telecommunications civilization, still largely unknown in its mechanisms and consequences. Today's children will be the citizens of tomorrow in the dramatic framework offered by the U.S. National Intelligence Council. They deserve an economic and financial education that is up to the dramatic crises that await them and that makes them aware of the many existing good possibilities. Obviously, economic and financial education is only a segment of what we need. Scholars such as Edgar Morin have written extensively about it. But it is a necessary segment.

Collecting and analyzing information, intelligence deals with the most significant issues of our time: climate change, the pandemic, building back the global economy after its worst recession since the Second World War, mass migration, and various other political, economic, and strategic issues. Its primary business includes the adequate role for the world's largest companies. But the first intelligent business is fair global access to the more necessary education. This is not simply my opinion. They openly confess to it.


Out of the cave of human stupidity

In Plato's allegory of the cave, people are compared to prisoners chained in a deep cave where they can only watch their shadows on the wall across from them and hear the echoes of a reality they don't see. For them, this spectral world of shadows is the only and effective world; they think that those shadows are real entities.

The metaphor of darkness and light runs through the entire cultural history of the West, from the Middle EasternGospels to the Central-European Lumiéres (Gammone 2015, Sidoti 2015). The image of the light of reason is brought back to its best proportions in the sublime Lockean image: human reason is equal to the light of a candle on a dark and stormy night in the forest full of unknown and dangerous enemies. Instead of stupid wars, we need the light of intelligence.

The 2021 G7 summit at St. Ives showed a clear picture of the current global transformation. It was the first face-to-face meeting of global leaders since the coronavirus pandemic outbreak.

When the leaders of the G7 countries first met in 1973, their combined economies represented around 65 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP). They now account for approximately 40 percent of global GDP. It is a very wealthy group of nations. But it is a minority group. The G20 includes China, India, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia and accounts for 90 percent of global GDP.

The old Western-led order seems to be over. Thousands of soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen annually rotate among the several hundred U.S. military bases in more than 80 nations. Many Americans increasingly aren't happy with the idea of being the global policeman. However, the world needs some kind of global policeman, and, at the same time, requires an architect of international trade and a defender of fundamental democratic values.

According to the IMF, in 2021, China will generate 19 percent of world output measured at purchasing power parity, up from 7 percent in 2000. China increasingly is a near-peer competitor, challenging the United States in multiple arenas — especially economically, militarily and technologically. China is also expected to "at least double" its nuclear weapons capacity over the next decade. Beijing would launch a space station between 2022 and 2024.

Impartial observers blame China's unpopularity on Western resentment of its success. Is China the most significant current geopolitical problem? Is Africa's spectacular population growth an opportunity or a problem? If China or Islam did not exist, would ours be a peaceful and perfect world? Are China and Russia the most important global issue, or is it the trap we built in the Anthropocene, which could constitute the last hour of humanity? Is the West duly prepared for a protracted and final struggle with China, Russia, Iran, and so on? The answers seem clear. Many observers have quoted the famous Arthur Schlesinger Jr. saying: “democracy has survived the twentieth century by the skin of its teeth”.

Some Western leaders share troubling concerns about China. However, for some of them, like Germany, China constitutes the second-largest export market, just behind the U.S. These links explain why some Europeans are not so wary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that the new task force created to spur infrastructure was not against China's BRI. Emmanuel Macron emphasized that the G7 as a group was not "hostile to China". Armin Laschet (who was the frontrunner to become Germany's chancellor), said, "If we're talking about 'restraining' China, will that lead to a new conflict? Do we need a new adversary? China is a competitor and a systemic rival. It has a different model of society, but it's also a partner, particularly in things like fighting climate change". Laschet also called for the West to try to "establish a sensible relationship" with Moscow (Weiner 2020). "Ignoring Russia has served neither our nor the U.S.'s interests". He also said the West should resist slipping into a cold war mentality with China. "The 21st century is very different. The prism of how the world looked before 1989 offers limited advice. We have a multipolar world now with different actors".

The final 2021 G7 statement emphasized a shared obligation to "international cooperation, multilateralism and an open, resilient, rules-based world order". Just pro-Western observers remarked that this proclamation deserved only a laugh. World order and global stability are the product of international rules, enhanced by strong democracies and strong commercial peace. This is Westernization (Pocock 2003) in its best definition, from the rule of law to open society, from liberty to human rights. An Earth-spanning security space governed by global rules exists.

It is possible to achieve operational results with covert asymmetrical wars and open financial operations, at the interagency level, only if a dominant command can collect centrally, focus, combine and coordinate the willingness of many players. Apart from typical diplomatic and circumstantial words, this willingness seems completely absent among Western countries at the moment. Also the ability to collect, focus, combine and coordinate seems not completely present at the moment. The multiple and intricate ties between Western and Chinese economies took decades to build. These complex ties will be expensive and troublesome to transform, even in a creeping and cautious manner. It remains to be seen whether we can restore a sense of common purpose across partisan and national lines without which a Western response cannot be sustained.

On China, Mario Draghi's three C's indicate an excellent course of action: "Cooperate, compete, context": a relationship of cooperation and competition, respecting the values each nation has in its own context (O’Hanlon, Steinberg 2017). Like it or not, cooperation is a necessity. A lesson of the past few years is that Westerners must focus on what they can do to strengthen themselves. The healing of Western democracies starts at home. In the long run, Western democracies must look within if they want to rescue their values and interests. I advocate political compromise (Avishai Margalit) and piecemeal approaches (Karl Popper). We need "a middle way between East and West" (Berggruen, Gardels, 2013).

The U.S. National Intelligence Council looked rightly over the brief time horizon. The intelligence community has long warned intellectuals and policymakers that some pandemic disease could profoundly reshape global stability.

The 2021 U.S. National Intelligence Council report depicts the world as unsettled by the pandemic, the ravages of climate change, mass migration — and a widening gap between what people demand from their leaders and what they can deliver. The authors of the report describe the pandemic as a preview of crises to come. It has been a globally destabilizing event — the report called it "the most significant, singular global disruption since World War II — that has reminded the world of its fragility" and "shaken long-held assumptions" about how well national governments and global institutions could respond to an unforeseen catastrophe. This highly destabilizing event underscored the risks: "more and cascading global challenges, ranging from disease to climate change to the disruptions from new technologies and financial crises". The report underlined another central point for our perspective.

If cooperation between states is necessary, peace is the keyword of this millennium, with a completely new meaning compared to the past. As dueling in the old days, war has passed into a dim corner of history. Never like today has global peace been so practically achievable a goal. More and more observers support the idea of a new "Copernican Revolution": a paradigm shift from the old model where war and the threat of war are at the center of international relations to the pacifist model where peace is at the center of the global system. A global policy of "complacency" even "appeasement" would be a far more reasonable substitute for war.

A society of knowledge is intrinsically incompatible with the massacres, violence, destructiveness, and stupidity of war. Without sincere international cooperation, there is only a dire prospect of asymmetrical wars and sore conflicts. As Ian Morris writes, Westerners "waged a Five Hundred Years' War on the rest of the world". The latter have not forgotten.

To save ourselves we must be very careful with the use of intelligence. Reflexivity is much more a kind of therapy than a road to omnipotence, and the final destination of our journey is not a paradise of perfect knowledge, but a much more straightforward and humble world, where, as Wittgenstein states in the last line of the Tractatus, "Of whom one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent". But that doesn't mean that there is nothing to say. Far from it — there are lots of things to say. It just depends on what we are talking about and how. There is much to be said about the possibilities of building global peace. We need to go beyond the fratricidal massacres that have so far devastated our brief history.To the present global system the only alternative is a situation of large-scale fragmentation, risks of sudden unplanned crisis, and rising economic, strategic and political tensions.

In an actual knowledge society, intelligence networks are exalted to the extreme. The ultimate point is that, as humans, we need today to focus on global gains, not on other nations' losses (Aron 1977). We need today to focus on long-distance human gains and losses. Therefore, in the broadest perspective, intelligence must be free from intermeshing with greedy politics and selfish national interests. In this new phase of humankind, intelligence structures must be necessarily linked to national interest and political leaders. Still, in its mission and its vision (regardless of the specialized agencies), the function of intelligence must necessarily be addressed to the interest of humankind as a whole. This had never happened before. It takes a lot of intelligence to understand it - and a great deal of goodwill to try to carry it out (Gammone 2022).

Many estimations about Western weakecness are fatally flawed, and now we see the actual situation unfolding before us. Many wrong assumptions have all been turned around. In the West, there is weakness in some ways, and there is resilience, strength, aggressiveness in some other ways.




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