Strategy of tension
The strategy of tension (Italian: strategia della tensione) is a theory that Western governments during the Cold War used tactics that aimed to divide, manipulate, and control public opinion using fear, propaganda, disinformation, psychological warfare, agents provocateurs, and false flag terrorist actions in order to achieve their strategic aims.
The theory began with the Cold War Soviet hoax document called US Army Field Manual 30-31B, where the term was first published. It was made more broadly dispersed by an Italian parliamentary committee, and later popularized by Swiss academic Daniele Ganser.
The so-called strategy of tension may also have its roots in Carl von Clausewitz's treatise On War, which heavily influenced Cold War thinking and modern military strategy. Book 3, Chapter 18 of On War pertinently describes the psychological and sociological effects of fear and their relationship to the furtherance of military objectives, "If a state of tension exists, the effects of the decision are always greater, partly because a greater force of will and a greater pressure of circumstances manifest themselves therein; partly because everything has been prepared and arranged for a great movement." Further explanation by Clausewitz lends to the idea that officials were alluding to this section of the book, "Now the real use which we derive from these reflections is the conclusion that every measure which is taken during a state of tension is more important and more prolific in results than the same measure could be in a state of equilibrium, and that this importance increases immensely in the highest degrees of tension." These effects are immensely important to the development of public policy, which makes a "strategy of tension" a highly effective way to manipulate such policy.
This section has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages)(Learn how and when to remove this template message)
The term strategy of tension recurred during the trials that followed in the 1970s and 1980s Years of Lead ("anni di piombo"), during which terror attacks and assassinations were committed by apparently neofascist terrorists allegedly related to Operation Gladio.
It was primarily members and international supporters of the Italian Communist Party who invented and popularized the term "strategy of tension". They meant to draw attention to the crimes of the Italian right and far-right parties who were allegedly supported by the foreign belligerents.
A 1995 report from the Left Democrats (the rebranded Communist Party of Italy, PCI) to a subcommittee of the Italian Parliament first stated that a "strategy of tension" was followed by Gladio and had been supported by the United States to "stop the PCI, and to a certain degree also the PSI, from reaching executive power in the country". Members of the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS), part of the Commission on Terrorism headed by senator Giovanni Pellegrino and created in 1988, also described the Italian peninsula since the end of World War II as a "country with 'limited sovereignty'" and as an "American colony". The centrist Italian Republican party described the claims as worthy of a 1970s Maoist group. Aldo Giannuli, a historian who works as a consultant to the parliamentary terrorism commission, sees the release of the Left Democrats' report as a manoeuvre dictated primarily by domestic political considerations. "Since they have been in power the Left Democrats have given us very little help in gaining access to security service archives," he said. "This is a falsely courageous report."
General Gianadelio Maletti, commander of the counter-intelligence section of the Italian military intelligence service from 1971 to 1975, stated that his men in the region of Venice discovered a rightwing terrorist cell that was supplied military explosives from Germany, and he alleged that US intelligence services instigated and abetted rightwing terrorism in Italy during the 1970s.
- Operation Gladio
- Paladin Group
- Propaganda 2 (Propaganda due), a masonic Lodge
- Licio Gelli, P2 leader
- Reichstag fire
- Operation Northwoods
- "Interview with Daniele Ganser" (PDF). (154 KB), December 29, 2006, on Voltaire network's website (in French): "It is a tactic which consists in committing bombings and attributing them to others. By the term 'tension' one refers to emotional tension, to what creates a sentiment of fear. By the term 'strategy' one refers to what feeds the fear of the people towards one particular group".
- "Carl von Clausewitz: ON WAR. Book 3, Chapter 18". www.clausewitz.com. Retrieved 2017-01-26.
- The Guardian, 25 March 2001, "Terrorists 'helped by CIA' to stop rise of left in Italy", http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/mar/26/terrorism
- The Strategy of Tension on libcom.org