That eye-catching possibility was raised by this Daily Beast article by Barbie Latza Nadeau: “Italy Fears ISIS Invasion From Libya.”
Last weekend in Italy, as the threat of ISIS in Libya hit home with a new video addressed to “the nation signed with the blood of the cross” and the warning, “we are south of Rome,” Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi shuttered up the Italian embassy in Tripoli and raised his fist with the threat of impending military action. Never mind that Italy has only 5,000 troops available that are even close to deployable, according to the defense ministry. Or that the military budget was cut by 40 percent two years ago….
I am not sure what “deployable” means; the Italian Army is said to number more than 100,000 active duty personnel. Still, it is easy to imagine that the Italian armed forces, in their depleted state, would have a hard time dealing with ISIS.
[T]wo days later, when no one volunteered to lead the charge, [Renzi] backtracked. “It’s not the time for a military intervention,” Renzi told an Italian television station Monday night and said the United Nations had to lead the way. “Our proposal is to wait for the UN Security Council. The strength of the UN is decidedly superior to that of the radical militias.”
The U.N. as a first line of defense? Good luck with that. Still, how practical is the idea of an ISIS invasion? Ms. Nadeau notes that Libya is only “109 miles away from the island of Lampedusa and 300 miles from Sicily.” Further, boatloads of illegal immigrants have been making the crossing of the Mediterranean, and terrorists could easily conceal themselves among them. That is all true, but an invading army is a totally different proposition. ISIS has no navy, although it could easily commandeer a few boats. But it would take more than that to mount a real invasion.
The fact that Europeans are worried about Islamic invasion, for the first time in hundreds of years, is striking. That said, my guess is that the invasion will take a more peaceful form. Italy, like a number of other European countries, is in a terminal demographic decline. The reason is simple: Italians don’t have enough children. As the Italians die out, someone is going to occupy Italy. Who? The obvious candidates are the North Africans who are willing to risk (and often lose) their lives in order to reach what, to them, is the promised land. If ISIS is patient, it may make good on its pledge to fly the black flag of Islamic extremism over St. Peter’s Basilica, without having to fight a battle.