Emilio Iodice is an award-winning author, presidential historian, executive, decorated American diplomat, and professor. He spent over three decades as a senior executive in the public and private sectors, educator, and university administrator. He is among the most decorated officers in American history with a gold medal for heroism, a gold and silver medal for exemplary service, nominations for the Bronze Medal, and numerous commendations and citations. At age 33, he was named by the President of the United States to the prestigious Senior Executive Service as a Charter Member. He was the youngest career public official to reach this distinction. After the Foreign Service, he was named Vice President of Lucent Technologies, in charge of operations in numerous countries. In 2007, he was named Director and Professor of Leadership of the John Felice Rome Center (JFRC) of Loyola University Chicago. He served as Director until 2016.
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Note: Voice-to-text transcriptions are not perfect, about 90% accurate.
Scott Allen 0:00
Okay, everyone, welcome to the Phronesis podcast. As always, thank you so much for checking in. Today I have Professor Emilio Iodice, who spent over three decades as a senior executive in the public and private sectors, educator, and university administrator. Those 30 years of experience include being a key official in Washington, working for several administrations, and reaching the top ranks of the civil service and the diplomatic corps. He remains among the most decorated officers in American history with a gold medal for heroism, a gold and silver medal for exemplary service, nominations for the bronze medal, and numerous commendations and citations. He served as a minister in key US missions abroad, including Brasilia, Mexico City, Rome, Madrid, and Paris, and departed after being named to the list of future ambassadors. Among his honors is being knighted by the former king of Italy. He received medals of honor from Spain and Italy. And at age 33. He was named by the President of the United States to the prestigious Senior Executive Service as a charter member. He was the youngest career public official to reach this distinction. After the Foreign Service, he was named vice president of Lucent Technologies in charge of operations in numerous countries and later taught full-time at Trinity College in Washington, DC. There's a lot more, and we will put all of that information in the show notes for you links to his many books. He has been on the podcast before, but today, we are exploring one of his latest works because if you know Emilio, you know that many works are in progress. There's a little Manfred kets de Vries, Emilio. That's always something happening. And you know, but today, we're gonna focus on his book on Mussolini, the return of Mussolini. And so Emilio, thank you so much for checking in from Rome. And I'm excited about the conversation. Now, maybe we start here. What are some themes that you kind of really explores in the book on Mussolini? And then how does that apply to our current times? Maybe we go there after that first little section; that sounds like a good path for us to go down? Yes, it does. Great. Great. So themes, themes from your work? I mean, what struck you? What did you learn in this process?
Emilio Iodice 2:33
He was a fascinating personality. And he was a man of enormous charisma and detail. Detail was everything for Mussolini, just like it is for many dictators. And Mussolini understood how to control and disseminate messages. He was a master at it, and we're talking about the 1920s. We're talking about the silent film era. Yet Mussolini was able to write the first manual on modern dictatorship during that era and how to use a capillary system of control command and fear, to get into the lifeblood of Italy, and to transform the country or during the 20 years that, that he was its leader, fascinating character, and one that is being imitated to some extent, in the world today.
Scott Allen 3:39
Talk about control, command, and fear. Let's go down. Let's go down that road for a little bit.
Emilio Iodice 3:46
First was censorship. He gradually instituted a system of censorship that reached into the homes of Italians; even their children became spies. Every document that was printed or published in the country had to be filtered through the fascist party, and many times, it even a fell into his hands. And part of his command was censoring ideas censoring opposition; I just finished looking at a very interesting book about Mussolini and censorship and his alliance with intellectuals at the time. He delved into the intellectual community of Italy and basically co-opted writers, artists, publishers, and editors, and brought them into the regime. He did it through persuasion, coercion, and event eventually, using the tactics of a mafia leader. But he was a master of this. He was a master at controlling communication from the top to the bottom, down to the school, and especially at the youngest ages. This is where Mussolini was building a generation, a generation that would follow him follow him anywhere. He did it really following principles, what I outlined in my book about Mussolini, which is also in an article about the startling rise of Mussolini, the power which was published in the Journal of values-based leadership, he lays out the basic principles of fascism, that he hit anything he said, he laid them out, enumerated them, and then he implemented them. And they were copied, of course, by Hitler, and they were copied by many tyrants. Later on. And today, in Russia, we have a leader who is following many of the same tactics and strategies that Mussolini created a century ago.
Scott Allen 6:05
Well, one thing that I want to explore a little bit genuinely just interested in your opinion, you know, you used a word in that last passage, you said gradually, I don't know that it's often that these people come out of the gates with some of these extreme tactics, extreme perspectives, extreme elements of control and command. Fear. It's a gradual process. And so would you talk to that a little bit, because when I think of Vladimir Putin, for instance, you know, it's been a gradual process of him solidifying that power or Barbara Kellerman might say, the same of Gigi ping in China, that it's been more of a gradual process of gathering power. What do you think about that?
Emilio Iodice 6:54
Yes. And Mussolini's case, Mussolini had two major institutions that were bulwarks of Italian history, that, to some extent, we're controlling factors. Even Hitler criticized him for allowing the Catholic Church to continue to exist in the country and allowing the monarchy to continue to exist because he said, these are brakes on your power, have an influence on your power. So Mussolini had to introduce his concepts and implement them relatively slowly. But sometimes, as he would say, it's better to be fortunate than competent. He was an opportunist. He was a tremendous opportunist and he could turn a great problem, a crucial crisis, into an opportunity when he and the fascist killed one of the deputies, one of the most popular deputies of the parliament, Mattel, in 1924. Well, he declared a crisis, and he declared martial law. Instead of resigning, which would probably happen today, he admitted responsibility, not that he said he was behind it. But they took responsibility. He turned that an enormous problem, a crisis, into an opportunity to coalesce his power, control the media, and also to eliminate the political parties, and eventually establish a single-party regime. But he did it with the assistance of the monarchy; the king had to sign off on so many of these executive decrees and so many of the new laws. So the king gradually was also taken in by Mussolini, and the monarchy at that time, like most European monarchies, was frightened by Bolshevism. Communism helped create Benito Mussolini the fear of communism. The monarchy was deadly afraid of ending up like the Romanovs that they would be assassinated and eliminated, just like the family of Nicolas the second. So Mussolini understood that he understood the fear that the monarchy had of communism. The church had this enormous fear of atheistic communism. So he came slowly, within three years after assuming power as prime minister, to deal with the church, and eventually, he signed the Lateran Treaty with the church, just like Mr. Putin, by the way, signed the treaty with his church to smooth out relations with the government. So Mussolini eliminates the threat of the monarchy eliminates the threat of the church, and he moved forward.
Scott Allen 10:17
In the States, there's a television show. And it's called Survivor. And it's been on for a couple of decades now; I think they're there; they run two seasons a year. And I think there's probably 40 some seasons. And in this series, you know, you try and become the last person standing. And, you know, you have to, in some cases, lie, cheat and steal. And some people try and play an ethical game. And some people use different strengths of a social game or, their strength, physical strength. What's interesting is, that the host has this has the saying that, oftentimes, you can find a crack. And if you can find that crack, and you can exploit that crack, you can work your way into some of these institutions or some of these partnerships or collaborations in the game. And it sounds like, in this instance, Mussolini, and individuals like Putin, or others, are masterful at finding those cracks. And using those as opportunities, regardless of how it aligns with their personal beliefs. They use it as an opportunity to secure and solidify that power and then gradually increase the command the control the fear. What's interesting to me is it's throughout history, it's over and over and over, right, it's humans being on some level,
Emilio Iodice 11:50
and it preys on our insecurities. It preys on the, on the constant, normal crises that we go through that every country, every economy faces. Democracy, of course, has its weaknesses. And we know what they are. The people that live in freedom also live in insecurity. And people like Putin, just like Mussolini, understand how to manipulate the thoughts of people who are living in insecurity; for instance, the parallels to the 20s to the early 20s and now are much greater than we believe. People had come through enormous conflicts that come through economic decline; people were losing jobs; what we faced in Italy, the 20s, parliamentary monarchy, that was old, older, in terms of the actual age of the parliamentarians, was also corrupt, and inefficient, it was difficult to get any laws passed. And when they were passed, they were implemented, not well. And the people faced this. They suffered from it, even though most of the people at the time were illiterate. So Mussolini also understood the weaknesses of the problem he was dealing with. So one of his first speeches, he referred to the problem as this hall, gray and death of gray men. And also, most of them were probably hard of hearing. But his point was that you've never heard the voice of the people; not hearing the voice of the people makes you weak, corrupt, and indifferent. And Mussolini will often say I am the people, I am the voice, the image of the people, the people, trust me, they know me, and I know them. And that was his strength. And because the problem was so weak, because the political parties were also weak, and fighting among themselves, it was easy for him easier for him to take control than under normal types,
Scott Allen 14:17
talk a little about this document that he produced, which provided the roadmap. I've never seen it. I'd love to put a link to it in the show notes. But would you talk a little bit about that he said that he just basically put out the blueprint as to what he was doing. Is that accurate?
Emilio Iodice 14:35
Yes. He actually wrote the manifesto of fascism. And in the manifesto of fascism, and this is a historic document i quote from it in, in the book, and it outlines the fascist state and how the fascist state will operate first, its basic principles. The Principles of a state governed by a dictatorship and the benefits of the dictatorship, you don't have opposition, and you don't have to listen to anyone. And also how the state is everything all-consuming, and how the state will provide for the people, that the responsibility of the steak is for the people. This almost sounds like communism, doesn't it? Yeah. But remember, Mussolini was a socialist; he believed in leftist ideology to the extent that it provided something for the people. So during his regime, he put in social welfare programs that the people had never seen before workman's compensation, for instance, and pensions, you had never seen these things before as well. So he gave something back in the form of some social responsibility. And in the fascist manifesto, we talk about ideas, ideas about Italy, about the country itself, the people themselves, and how everything must fit together in a mosaic, in a mosaic of one thought, one concept, one people, and that the fate of the people and the fate of the state are all intertwined. It's fascinating to read his ideas. And of course, the extraction of this, the follow-up to the concepts of fascism, basically goes into those of the master race that Hitler adopted. And that makes it Mussolini, also adopted when he instituted the laws against the Jews in 38. And most Italians felt it was just to appease Hitler. But I think he believed these things as well. And he did his best to implement it.
Scott Allen 17:00
What are a couple of other insights that you made in the process of researching for this book, anything else that you want listeners, to be aware of so that they can investigate more when they pick up a copy of the book? But what were a couple of other things?
Emilio Iodice 17:18
Well, people's thought processes during that era reflect so much of what's going on, even today. And I see it here in Europe; I listen to all the talk shows that I can, especially the debates about this war. Now during the 30s, in particular, people, and both in Italy, the United States, and elsewhere, for isolationists, I quote in the book, what was happening in the UK, during that time, about isolationism in the sense that millions of citizens would say, Why should my country be involved in a foreign war? I'm sure there are Americans right now. And I know some of them that I've been speaking with, saying, Why should we get involved in what's going on in Europe? They drag this into two world wars before now they'll drag us into another one. You're thinking, that kind of thinking exists, then it exists. Now, the talk shows here in Italy are divided among those who are saying this war is being created by Americans, by foreigners, by others by this? Why should we get involved, let them do whatever they want, versus those who understand that it's an enormous threat to democracy. And even in the 30s, we had those people who were shining lights in the darkness to say that Hitler, and Mussolini, were threatening our freedom. So we had it, then we have it now. So those are parallels that are that occurred at that time. And I believe as I know you, make that history doesn't repeat itself. But people repeat it. And they repeat it based on, again, the insecurities that we're all subjected to. Yeah, but the most important thing that we have to understand is the difference between liberty and dictatorship. And it's the word fear. And I've seen it. I've lived in dictatorships. And I've seen how fear can permeate everything, and you can live in fear, as the people in Russia are living through right now.
Scott Allen 19:35
Talk a little bit more about fear and the power of fear. Again, you have Mussolini; you said something very powerful that children were some of his strongest support mechanisms. Again, find a crack. And if you can find a child, there's potentially a crack.
Emilio Iodice 19:53
Again, in the book, I mentioned how Mussolini rewrote the textbooks the textbooks personified him in every single classroom. In Italy, you would see not only a photo of him with the king, but you would also see a great poster of Mussolini on buildings all over the country. There were slogans, some of his most interesting and most exciting slogans that would excite people. But the children, the children were regimented; they were given uniforms. And the uniforms made them feel special. They were given medals for doing important things. They lived a fascist life. It was a bit like Hitler Youth, but the Italian system was a little softer. Children had to devote themselves to fascism. It was called fascist Saturday; they exercised regularly. And with the exercises, they also went through classes, which were the fascist manifesto. Basically, that meant that this was loyalty to the state, loyalty to illusion. The illusion was like a father. He was the father. He was responsible. He was trustworthy. And he was there for them all the time. And very interesting Mussolini understood images. At night, he would leave the light on all night long, the spine, and say, You see, he's up there still working. It's midnight, the understood image imagery; he understood how people thought and what they needed. They needed work. So during the fascist era, the Public Works were incredible. But if you didn't join the pan-fascist party, and you were part of a major institution, you lose your job, or you could lose your job, or you had no future, fear, fear. All of this was connected; it was all tied together all the time. And this fear factor became slowly part of life, part of everyday life. And it became something that became normal. You didn't violate the rules. You didn't speak against the regime. You didn't turn on a shortwave radio listening to the BBC. Why? Because he was disloyal. But also inside was this sense of fear. And it was everywhere. Everywhere. You felt it as this great weight that became part of our society. And we must remember that Mussolini did everything he said he would. He said We have buried the corpse, the putrid corpse of liberty. And he assaulted democracy all the time, to freedom constantly. He had nothing; his agenda was always open. Just like Mr. Putin, the agenda has always been open; it's been very clear that he said exactly what he would do and when he would do it. And that's the same thing with Mussolini. He said, what he would do, what he would do.
Scott Allen 23:25
So what are some of your contemporary insights? If we go to Putin now? And we go to Ukraine and what's happening in Eastern Europe? What are some of your insights on that? While he's,
Emilio Iodice 23:37
he's following Mussolini's playbook. The manual is, I'm sure, on his desk somewhere, in one form or another. Mussolini took the country into wars, one war after another. And he felt that it was important to create an empire to create an image of an empire in the mind of every single Italian. Because Mussolini understood that he needed to maintain public support, even though there was no voting, he needed public support well put in is the same thing. Witnesses brightest country into one war after another; these are wars of conquest. And we know that and are finally in Ukraine. But if the democracies in the 30s mad, stood up against Mussolini and Hitler, we had warnings because these dictators would constantly do the same thing. To achieve their goals. They have to go into wars. You've seen it again and again, Putin, to manifest his strength as a person and a leader. He has to conquer others. And, of course, his images. In the Soviet Union of the past, Mussolini's was the Roman Empire. Here. I used to talk about Napoleon and Napoleon uniting Europe under one banner, under one currency and one set of laws. So Mr. Putin is parallel to Mussolini; as I wrote in a recent article, he may end up the same way that Mussolini did. Mussolini was ultimately assassinated by his people and hung up in a square. My seals, Mr. Putin also may face justice in one form or another, lose power, and his life. Because he's sowing hatred, just like Mussolini ultimately did. And I think the parallel to there, I hope that this doesn't lead us to a third world war, but it probably will lead us into a controlled conventional conflict that will lead to the end of Vladimir Putin.
Scott Allen 26:02
Well, it's a fascinating conversation, Emilio I, it's part of the human condition, part of the human condition that we are susceptible to; I just finished, I'm using all kinds of contemporary examples on you, whether it's the TV show Survivor, which was the very left field I'm sure for you. I just finished a documentary on WeWork. And there's also a television show right now called we crashed on Apple TV, but it's kind of chronicling and following those, the story of we work and, or whether it's the fire festival, or just some, again, contemporary examples of charismatics, individuals who take followers down a very tragic path. And we've seen it in faith-based organizations, we've seen it in corporations, we've seen it in societies. And I just continually reflect on what's the anecdote, us being less susceptible, especially when it's that gradual? When it's that gradual approach, right? There's, there are people in the world right now who that's just their existence, that's the world they're living in. And that's the regime under which they were born. In other instances, we have, again, faith-based organizations, and corporations, where people are actively kind of in the process of being brought into the fold gradually, and great damage will be done.
Emilio Iodice 27:42
I agree. What we're missing today, in our democracy in the United States, but I see it in Europe as well, is good, strong, honest, ethical leadership. And that's the solution to our problems. In a democracy, where we need to bring forward again, the Abraham Lincoln's, and that's not an ideal. The basic principles of Lincoln and the basic principles of other leaders that we've had in our history are the kinds of people that we need to bring forward. Again, we need to free up our political system to allow people of quality, competence, honesty, integrity, and patriotism. I think we have certain controls. And I know very few people ever discussed this, but certain controls on our democracy will make it very difficult for honest individuals to want to participate in the political process. And I think we need to do that in the United States; we need to reevaluate how we're helping to groom future leaders. This is essential. We need to bring them into the process. And we need to do whatever works at the lowest level from the schools, the elementary schools to the universities; you have to encourage this process.
Scott Allen 29:11
Well, the system, the system right now is not emerging necessarily, at least in large quantities. Those individuals have a more balanced perspective, who can collaborate and keep the larger vision of the country in mind it there is a lot of infighting, a lot of bickering, and a lot of looking at protecting our own versus prioritizing the hole in the benefit of the whole, which to your point makes us vulnerable. It clogs the process it people lose faith in the system. And that itself can prove fertile ground for individuals to emerge and enact pretty toxic agendas.
Emilio Iodice 30:09
Absolutely. And, of course, we've seen it before in our society, and we'll see it again in the years to come, a well-educated population of people who are well informed, have to make choices in a democracy. And they have to be informed about it. That's why I wrote the book about the return of Mussolini. It's extremely important for all of us to reflect, think, and understand that the lessons of the past are just as valid today,
Scott Allen 30:44
As they were then. Well, and you had mentioned Lincoln. And I know that I will put a link to, to the article that you have posted on your website about Lincoln right now. But is that a future work in process? Are you writing about his leadership right now?
Emilio Iodice 31:03
I wrote a long article that will be published in the Journal of values-based leadership, great in the summer, and it's about the leadership of Lincoln and why it matters today. To us. Lincoln is not really, for me, a distant model. He's, for me, a leader that has those qualities that we can all look up to, that is the antithesis of a dictator. Mussolini and Lincoln are opposites, absolute opposites. The thought process the actions opposite of each other. Were a Lincoln trusted, the people most had no trust whatsoever? People are in their judgment; Lincoln believed in eliminating fear as much as possible in governance. Mussolini, of course, felt that that was his strongest, most important tool. So you have these enormous opposites. And then Lincoln leaves us a legacy of good governance, ethical leadership and humility, and utility on the part of leaders; Mussolini, Hitler, and all dictators are enormously arrogant. This is a common denominator of the Sunnah, as well as the leader, waken completely humble, self-deprecating, and with that humility, he showed enormous strength. He matters; it matters today. And it matters for us to think to reflect. And not to say, as I've heard so many people say, Lincoln today could never survive with social media the way it is and with the media. Today, I don't believe that. I don't believe that.
Scott Allen 33:05
My daughter right now is learning the Gettysburg address in our community on Memorial Day at the cemetery. One child in sixth grade reads the Gettysburg Address. So she's learning that right now and memorizing it. And yesterday, we spent some time on YouTube exploring the meaning behind those words and the context in which those words were delivered. And it's just powerful. It's incredibly powerful. I was lucky to have a really fun conversation; I'll put up the conversation, and the show notes with an expert on Lincoln. A few weeks ago, we posted that episode. And I couldn't agree with you more. I think you have an individual who is the polar opposite of someone riding bareback, shirtless on a horse. You have an individual who, again, to that, to my earlier comment I think, kept the larger perspective and the larger whole insight and was a force for good, right? Yes, absolutely.
Emilio Iodice 34:21
Absolutely. A force for good and also had a vision for the future. I was rereading his first investor Congress which said the future will look to us. He knew the importance of what was happening during his time and that the generations to come would look back, look back to him, his leadership, and that Congress and their leadership. And a leader has to have that in mind, that vision in mind, you know, remembering that there are generations ahead, who will back?
Scott Allen 35:06
Well, sir, I am excited to read that article this summer; I think that it will be a lot of fun to read your perspectives on Lincoln's leadership, especially juxtaposed with, you know, some of the conversations we just had regarding Mussolini, and put a link in the show notes to the episode with Jonathan white. He wrote a book called a house built by slaves, which, again, was just a fascinating conversation with someone very passionate about Abraham Lincoln and has extensively written on the topic. And it was just a wonderful opportunity to learn because, again, a force for good and an individual who could keep the larger perspective in mind, we navigated that very, very difficult time in our history. And as we close out and wind down for today, what are you consuming right now? What are you listening to or reading that's caught your attention in recent times, Emilio.
Emilio Iodice 36:09
What I'm reading constantly is information about the war in Ukraine during Rome. It's an important topic for us. But I'm also looking carefully at things about the Second World War, I just launched a book that's a best seller. It's a USA Today bestseller called liberation. It's a novel about World War Two, based on true stories. And I'll be publishing a new book called my soldier, which is an again, a story about World War Two, which I've been researching. And it's a true story about the love affair between a little girl and an American soldier on an island here in Italy. And so I've been reading more about war, more about war and society. I'm sort of a reluctant reader. But I felt that it's necessary right now to be looking at what happened then, to try to understand what happens next. We need to try to visualize what will happen over the next few months, and maybe the next few years; this situation is a tremendous catastrophe that seeps into our lives. It's in our lives now. But it will be part and parcel of how we live for many years and decades.
Scott Allen 37:38
I have great respect for your curiosity, and your productivity, but again, in search of that answer to the question of what happened before and how that informs what happens next. And better understanding those dynamics and sharing those dynamics with the world. So as you said, an informed and educated public is probably one of the best defenses against some of what we've discussed today. There's an awareness of what's happening. There's an awareness of the tactics being used, an awareness and an understanding that some of those tactics play to our basic instincts and emotions of fear and anger. And, that's not going to get us anywhere good. It's just; it's, I'm gonna go back to another. This isn't a contemporary pop culture example. But the band Rush, a Canadian band, has a song called Witch Hunt. It always had one of my favorite lyrics towards the song's end. And it went like this, it went - "quick to judge, quick to anger, slow to understand, ignorance, fear, and prejudice walk hand in hand." And for a rock band, that's some pretty wise words.
Emilio Iodice 39:05
Yes, they should be chiseled in stone, and they should be a part of every textbook. Yeah, because that's exactly what happens. That's the fertile ground. To me, right there.
Scott Allen 39:21
Well, sir, until our next conversation, I appreciate your work. And thank you for your time today. And I will put a lot of resources into the show notes. So for listeners, you can learn more about Emilio's work by just clicking the links in the show notes. And it's an incredible, incredible library of resources on leadership. So thank you, sir. Have a wonderful day.
Emilio Iodice 39:48
Thank you, Scott.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai