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Italian armed forces are in the midst of transition away from a modern military organization, whose main mission was deterrence, to a postmodern military organization, whose emergent mission is peacekeeping. The transition continues a larger historical process of organizational change that began after 1945 with the shift away from the early modern mass armed forces, which fought total wars, to the modern forces in being, organized for deterrence. These changes in organizational format have multiple consequences. Among them are consequences for the individual soldier's subjective understanding of what he is doing and why he is doing it.(1) Speaking generally, a key factor affecting subjective experience is the shift away from compulsory to voluntary military service. Like many other armies in continental Europe, the Italian army is moving from primary reliance on the draft to a mixed format that relies increasingly on volunteer or professional soldiers. An important question is whether soldiers in the post-modern volunteer force will be sufficiently motivated by noneconomic factors to undertake nontraditional military missions like peacekeeping. This article addresses that question, albeit indirectly, based on two surveys of Italian soldiers who served in Albania and Somalia.
Organizational Change and Soldier Subjectivity
As Charles Moskos and James Burk have recently observed, we are "in a period of transition away from the 'modern' mass army, characteristic of the age of nationalism, to a 'postmodern' military, adapted to a newly forming world-system in which nationalism is constrained by the rise of global social organizations."(2) This transition is indicated by movements away from national to subnational and nonmilitary threats; away from an organization based on cadre and conscripts to an organization of professionals and reserves; away from relatively large budgets during periods of deployment to the coincidence of deployments and budget reductions; and away from relative certainty about the military's mission and the soldier's tasks to increasing uncertainty about both. These dimensions can all be placed along the classic "institutional/occupational" dichotomy that Charles Moskos offered, almost twenty years ago, to describe the transition from an early modern to a modern military organization. They belong to the first of the three analytic dimensions of that dichotomy, the relationship between military organization and society.(3)
Other indicators of the shift from the early modern to postmodern militaries describe changes within the military system itself, the second analytic dimension of the institutional-occupational dichotomy. These indicators include movement away from a professional ideal emphasizing the warrior-hero toward an ideal emphasizing the soldier scholar and soldier-statesman; increasing reliance on civilian employees; fuller integration of women and publicly avowed homosexuals serving as soldiers; greater independence of soldiers' spouses from life in the military community; and increasing tolerance of conscientious objection and respect for civilian alternatives to military service.
Discussion of the transition to a postmodern army, however, has so far neglected the third dimension of the institutional-occupational dichotomy that focused on the subjective experience and attitudes of the soldiers themselves. It is here that I hope to make some contribution.
In the course of studying the missions to Albania (Pellicano operation, 1993) and Somalia (Ibis operation, 1994), as well as in previous investigations, I observed among Italian soldiers - specially among the younger ones - attitudes that could not be traced back to either pole of the institution/occupation dichotomy. I could not classify as institutional or occupational statements such as:
My family is pretty well-off, and could therefore find me most any sort of job. Instead I enlisted because I want to do things on my own (an Army volunteer).
Albania? I said to myself: when will I get another chance to run away from home, from the usual rounds, and to fare on my own for a few months? (a drafted corporal, Pellicano mission).
I don't like training, but coming to Somalia is better than going for a ride with one's friends; it's really an adventure, you don't know what can happen to you (a drafted bersagliere, Ibis mission).
We can look for a common denominator among these accounts (which are not uncommonly heard from young persons between the ages of 18 and 25, whether draftees or volunteers). But we find …