So many ideas are bubbling up...but I have to choose. Therefore, before it becomes too stale, I need to have a quick look at President Bush's Roman holiday.
We left very early on Friday morning for a beautiful, verdant corner of Italy in the Apennines mountains between Pistoia and Modena and didn't return until late on Sunday, so I have nothing in particular to report first hand on the excitement in Rome. Instead, I would like to have "a think" about a comment made by the current Minister for Foreign Affairs, Massimo D'Alema, in yesterday's newspaper. "America is a great country, and Bush perfectly understands that our government (now of the left) is loyal, although certainly not as much in line with his program as the past government (led by Berlusconi). But today Bush understood that we have two assets missing from Berlusconi's government: we are stronger in Europe and have more credibility in the Arab world."
I won't get into Euro-politics, but rather reflect on the fact that Italy in general and this government in particular does have a certain affinity with the Arab world and often acts as a very viable moderator. Italy is in an enviable position of being culturally between the extremes of the Individualistic/ linear time/ universal rules/ and inner-locus-of-control oriented cultures and those farther down the spectrum that encompass a group/ flexible time/ particular application of rules/ and outer-locus-of-control orientation. Italians sit very nicely and comfortably on the fence between the two, which can, at times (to the Americans), seem like they don't have backbone, don't take strong positions, waffle and waver and act in a rather Machiavellian fashion. Perhaps it is their role -- interpreters and moderators between the two extremes -- that makes Italy a strong and important ally, strong and important enough to necessitate a visit by the American president.