Small Wars Journal

For Not-Quite-Wars, Italy Has a Useful Alternative to Traditional Troops

For Not-Quite-Wars, Italy Has a Useful Alternative to Traditional Troops by Elisabeth Braw - Defense One

More nations should consider creating police-cum-military forces for hybrid stabilization missions.

They are a domestic police force, but they are doing their jobs in countries hundreds and thousands of miles from home: Afghanistan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Palestine. They get so many invitations — pleas, really — from countries emerging from conflict, or descending into it, that they must turn some down. They are Italy’s Carabinieri, and their unusual mix of law-enforcement talent and military capability may often be a better answer than traditional troops to today’s not-quite-wars.

Visitors to Italy are often confused by the peculiar setup of the country’s law enforcement. The municipal-based Polizia performs routine police work, chasing burglars and investigating thefts. The Guardia di Finanza, operating under the Ministry of Finance, handles smuggling and financial crime. And the Carabinieri? They are what one might call Italy’s special police, in charge of investigating particularly complex crimes and keeping public order under difficult conditions. If, say, a mass riot broke out after a Roma-Lazio game, the Carabinieri would be trusted to restore order. When mafia bosses are apprehended, the arrests are often carried out by Carabinieri officers; last year, they pulled ‘Ndrangheta boss Giuseppe Giorgi from a secret compartment behind his fireplace.

Crucially, the Carabinieri are also trained soldiers; they serve under both the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior…

Read on.


Some deep thinkers in the U.S. military community have been arguing that the U.S.  needs a constabulary force for many of the gray areas we operate in that require a blend of intelligence, police, and military capabilities and authorities.  Italy's Carabinieri is a great example of the value this type of force could provide many nations.  The closest thing we have in the U.S. is the Coast Guard, which is a great capability in its own right, but they have very little capacity to support operations outside of the U.S., and they are not ideal for working in the land and human domains. Based on current national level guidance this is a low priority now, but the requirement to conduct stability operations will emerge again to achieve our political ends, especially post conflict, and forming a constabulary is one option we should reconsider.