Exemplary murder by criminal organisations is very familiar to the Italian state. Mafia acts of the utmost ferocity have been suffered. The North African fundamentalist scenario is not that of gunned-down magistrates, of mass executions in stables and cellars, of disrespect shown to the remains of the slaughtered that no-one needs to read of again here; instead we see the borrowings from popular media representations of the religious wars of centuries ago.
The immediate response to the murder of tens of Christian hostages on the North African coast has settled into a weary recognition here that Italy is dealing with another Mafia scenario, different in its imagery but identical in its criminality and the level of threat it presents to the state; to be met with police action, not the war response so eagerly sought by the criminals.
The Italian state must deal with two flows from North Africa: oil and gas - to be secured and maintained, and migrants - to be saved, controlled and channelled out of the Peninsula and across the entire European area where there are more resources to deal with more reasonable, spread out numbers.
The oil and gas needs a sensible interlocutor to be installed in Libya who can maintain order round the fields and pipelines and guarantee the security of the technicians. The migratory flow requires an international response, first to save the migrants from drowning in the winter waters onto which they are being driven at gunpoint, thousands of them (and the Italian coast guard and navy deserves every recognition for the determination and courage with which they have saved so many); second to sift some very deprived people from the criminals among them and then to find them settlement. They cannot be left to continue through Italy and on, into the European countries with the highest social wage, and there be no concerns or response from the recipients other than to keep them out if possible. Keeping them out is neither possible nor Christian.
None of this is war. Apart from the glaringly obvious that war in North Africa needs tanks and soldiers on the ground (when the World was made North Africa must have been designed for tank warfare) war implies a post-war colonial status for Libya that is acceptable neither to northern Africans nor to Europeans. Europeans can no more want the reinstatement of a colonial 18th, 19th and 20th century world than they will accept a medieval culture and mindset expressing itself over the lives of others.
The Italian government fully recognises the need for international intervention, in Libya, on the high seas, and to cope with the migrants, and is ready to take its part. Europe, perhaps, is fortunate in having a front line state so experienced in dealing with primitive honour and shame social groupings devoted to criminality.
Yesterday's Italian newspapers report a warning from Calabrian magistrates that the jihadist people-traffickers are attempting to link-up with 'Ndrangheta to provide secure bases for both in north Africa and on the Peninsula.