How successful was Mussolini in increasing the international prestige of Italy in the years 1922 – 43
Between the years 1923 – 43, Benito Mussolini tried to create an international prestige to rival that of the historical image set by the grand Roman Empire. He introduced many policies and waged many wars over the years, to achieve this goal but inevitably Italy of the 20th Century could not compete with its former self and this led the fall of their dictator. When discussing the international prestige there are four main areas that need to be considered.
There are successes and failures in Africa and the Mediterranean, their relationship with Britain, France and Germany as well as what happened with the League of Nations. Italy’s campaign in Africa did more damaged than good despite the claimed territory. In Libya, for example the Fascists did not win any support in the international community for the way they killed Libyans civilians in their campaigns. This was again repeated in their invasion of Somaliland and Abyssinia where they resorted to gassing the local population and the bombed local aid shelters that had been set up, such as Red Cross.
Furthermore, the campaigns in Somaliland and Abyssinia dragged on for longer that expected, which really didn’t help Mussolini’s image both outside the Italy and in
However, there were only positive effects for this campaign with Germany and strengthening the relationship with Hitler, after such a rocky start with the Dollfuss murder and the Stresa point. The rest of the international community, especially members of the League of Nations, condemned the Blitzkrieg actions, which were taking place in Spain. The League also didn’t agree with Mussolini’s, seemingly rash decision to invade Corfu following the assassination of an Italian General. The only reason Italy withdrew her forces was from severe pressure from Britain and their Mediterranean naval fleet.
The only real positive from Italy’s excursion in the Mediterranean was their attack on Yugoslavia with an aided hand from Albania. The League was not particularly concerned about this and Hitler was pleased that Italy was taking action as she pleased. Throughout these two campaigns in the Mediterranean and Africa, the relationship between the Nazis and the Fascists had continued to go from strength to strength, especially when the two sides supported one another in Abyssinia and the Spanish Civil War.
This eventually led to the signing of two alliances between the two nations. The first was the Berlin-Rome axis, which was an agreement between the Nazis, the Fascists and the Japanese to join one another in the fight against the Allied Forces should war ever break out. The second was the Pact of Steel, which was an agreement between the Fascists and the Nazis to support each other in military action against Britain and France should war break out.
This increased Italy’s prestige in Japan and again boosted their reputation in Germany, however these pacts did not improve their relations with the other members of the League of Nations. Despite the continued support from the Nazis, during the build up to World War II, the Italians continued to alienate them selves from Britain and France. At the time this quite understandably did not bother Mussolini, especially since how the Italians had been treated at the Treaty of St.
Germaine following the end of the last World War. As we know from the out come of the war, Mussolini must have thoroughly regretted the distasteful relationship between the Fascists and the Allies. This had serious repercussions and due to the fact that the only country that fully supported Mussolini’s Italy was defeated, any chance of international prestige worldwide was gone. Overall, Mussolini was successful initially in improving Italian prestige, but this was a trend that did not continue.
The consistent military failures of the Italian army, and Italy’s dependence on new-ally Germany (Pact of Steel 1939) undermined this and failed to bring Fascist Italy out of the shadows of its militarily stronger ally. By placing reliance on Germany, Italy isolated itself from the international community, and could never hope to achieve high levels of prestige whilst in the dark with Europe’s greatest threat of the time. Mussolini had the mouth of a prestigious European power, but lacked the military and resources to back it up.