Isodarco
since 1966
International School on Disarmament
and Research on Conflicts
Italian Pugwash Group


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Short ISODARCO History



1. The Beginning

The idea of organizing residential courses on the problems of international security, arms control and disarmament, originated in a conversation held at Villa Monastero, at Varenna on the Lake of Como, between two physicists, Edoardo Amaldi and Carlo Schaerf in the Summer of 1962. The two scientists were attending a residential Summer course for young physicists, organized by the Italian Physical Society. These courses brought together 10-15 senior lecturers and 30-40 junior researchers who stayed together for 7-14 days and took advantage of the casual and friendly atmosphere in the beautiful villa to discuss current topics in science and senior and junior participants' most recent research activity.
Against the backdrop of the construction of the Berlin Wall and the tense superpower relations, the conversation fell on the dangerous international situation and Schaerf suggested to organize a course similar to the one they were attending but devoted to the problems of international security and the dangers of the nuclear arms race. The nuclear arms race and the risks of nuclear war are essentially political problems, however, their correct understanding requires a wealth of scientific and technical knowledge that is not available or hard to access to the general public and sometimes even politicians, practitioners and other interested persons.
The underlying idea was to reproduce the easy and casual atmosphere found at Villa Monastero conducive to relaxed and open discussions among people of different ideological, political and national affiliations.

At that time, Amaldi was one of the most prominent Italian scientists. Before the war, he was a member of the Enrico Fermi group in Rome and after the ravages of the war and the forced emigration of many scientists, he led the renaissance of Italian physics contributing also to the establishment of CERN (European Center for Nuclear Research), ESA (European Space Agency), and INFN (Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare).
He was a member of the Pugwash Continuing Committee, a group of international scientists from the East and the West who met regularly to discuss the dangers of nuclear war and the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation. The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs convened for the first time in Pugwash (Nova Scotia) in 1957 following the 1955 Russel-Einstein Manifesto. For many years during the Cold War, scientists of both sides of the Iron Curtain would use the Pugwash Conferences as the main platform for discussions on international security issues.

During the years 1960-1963 Schaerf was a research associate at the High-Energy Physics Laboratory of Stanford University directed by Wolfgang K. H. Panofsky. A famous scientist and member of the President (Kennedy) Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) Panofsky was also involved in the strategic developments of the period. Those were critical years for the Cold War and the nuclear arms race. With the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 that was one of the most dangerous times of the Cold War when nuclear war appeared to be a concrete possibility. With superpower relations at a new low and the expanding nuclear arsenals, scientists sensed danger. At Stanford, some faculty members and staff were building fallout shelters in their backyards.

The scientists were not the only ones concerned. Influential people close to the Kennedy Administration similarly worried about this trend and sought to encourage a more open and broader discussion on international security and arms control outside the limited circle of expert advisors. In response, a Faculty Forum on Arms Control was established at Stanford, which held open meetings about once a month. At these meetings, an expert from academia, a think tank or the defense establishment would give an introductory presentation that kick-started open discussions. Schaerf attended these meetings and became interested in the subject.

When Schaerf returned to Italy in the Fall of 1963, Amaldi and he started to work on this idea. The first course of the International Summer School on Disarmament and Arms Control finally convened at Villa Falconieri in Frascati (Rome) on June 13-25, 1966. There were eight invited lecturers, three visiting officials, 23 participants and 11 observers. In total 45 people from 11 different countries. The invited lecturers were: Gaetano Arangio Ruiz (It), Rolf Björnerstedt (Sw), William Epstein (UN-Ca), Bernard Feld (USA), Karol Lapter (Pl), Mihailo Markovich (Ju), Bernardus V. A. Röling (Nl), Tom Stonier (USA), and Paolo Sylos Labini (It). The Ministry of Public Education arranged for the meeting to be held at Villa Falconieri. The Geneva Office of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Office of the Italian Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs financially supported the organization of the event.

Amaldi delivered the opening and closing remarks presenting the initiative as an educational complement to the activities of the Pugwash Conferences. Among the topics discussed were the effects of nuclear weapons and the consequences of nuclear war, military decision making and nuclear strategy, the prospects for disarmament, challenges of inspections and control, peaceful coexistence, the role of international organizations and the economic aspects of disarmament

As the first advanced course devoted to the scientific, technical, economic, political and military problems of the nuclear arms race and disarmament, the course was a success especially taking into account the participation of scholars from both sides of the Iron Curtain in the tense international situation.


2. Early History and Constitution of Isodarco

A second course took place from 15 to 27 July 1968 at Collegio Ghislieri in Pavia. Two eminent Russian scientists participated in it: Oleg Reutov, member of the Russian Academy of Science and Vasily Emelyanov, former Chairman of the USSR Atomic Energy Commission. Other lecturers included Jules Moch, former Prime Minister of France, and legal scholar Louis Sohn. Ever since the second course, eminent scientists from the USSR including natural and political scientists, retired generals and diplomats, and politicians continuously participated in Isodarco, including: Alexei Arbatov, Georgy Arbatov, Nadezhda Arbatova, Sergei Batsanov, Dmitry Chereshkin, Vassili Goldanskii, Sergei Kapitza, Ruslan Khasbulatov, Eugene Miasnikov, Mikhail Milstein, Alexander Nikitin, Vladimir Orlov, Vitaly Tsygichko, and Alexei Vasilyev.

The third Isodarco course, August 17-30, 1970 was hosted in the magnificent Duino castle near Trieste kindly made available by its owner: Raimondo Prince of Thurn und Taxis. Participants included Emelyanov, Reutov and Moch, Mary Kaldor, Anatol Rapoport, Julian Perry Robinson, and Kosta Tsipis. Among the topics discussed were chemical and biological warfare, the security of developing countries and the application of game theory and simulations to international politics. The proceedings were published by Gordon and Breach Science Publishers.

After three courses, it had become clear that Isodarco was playing a limited but useful international role in post-graduate and continuing education in the field of international security, arms control, and disarmament and in particular, the role of nuclear weapons and the scientific and technological aspects of the arms race. At this point, to continue its work, it was necessary to create a more formal structure that could take over the direct personal commitment of Amaldi, Schaerf and other friendly colleagues and provide a formal framework for the handling of the limited funds necessary for the organization of the courses. On January 18, 1972, the non-profit association Isodarco was registered in Rome in front of a public notary according to Italian law.

Article 2 of its Statute says: "The Association is non-political and non-profit. The aim of the Association is to foster interest for the scientific problems related to disarmament and peace with all available means and in particular it organizes, participates and contributes to meetings, seminars, conferences and professional and cultural refresher courses on these problems." Members of the Board of Directors and first officers of the association were: Edoardo Amaldi (President), Francesco Calogero (Board Member), Alessandro Pascolini (Secretary), Armando Reale (Board Member), Carlo Schaerf (Director). Minor modifications to the Statute were introduced in 1991 and 2015 to improve its compatibility with International and Italian regulations related to non-profit institutions.

The fourth course in Padua (1972) had one of the most impressive faculties with David Carlton, Francesco Cavalletti, Alan Dowty, Joseph Goldblat, Hans Morgenthau, George Ratjens, Jack Ruina, Thomas Schelling (2005 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences), and Herbert York (former Director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Defense Research and Engineering). The main topics were the impact of new technologies on strategic and political doctrines and prospects for disarmament negotiations.

The success of the first four Isodarco courses confirmed that its underlying idea to provide correct information on the scientific and technical developments conditioning the arms race, shaping the strategic thinking behind it and influencing the relations between the superpowers and their allies, was well received. There was an acute need for information not just among people professionally involved in international security and international relations and trained in political and social sciences but also among peace movement activists seeking a more professional role in their activities. Moreover, the field of international security involves a large spectrum of different disciplines including economics, international law, human rights and ethics that had to be introduced in the presentations. That way, discussions became increasingly multi-dimensional in response to perceived current trends. In the context of détente and the rise of domestic terrorism in Europe, it became apparent that the Cold War between the superpowers and their allies was only one of the aspects of international security, hence Isodarco turned its attention to asymmetric forms of warfare, conflicts among smaller states and the role of sub-state actors like terrorist organizations.


3. Isodarco Basic Course Structure

The typical length of an Isodarco course is 6-10 days. It hosts 12-16 invited lecturers and 30-60 participants. Each session consists of a 45-minutes presentation followed by a 45-minutes discussion among all participants. There are about four 90-minutes sessions a day, which leaves ample time for special seminars offered by the lecturers and participants, round tables, working groups and more extended discussions on topics emerging during a session. The lecturers receive no honorarium. They are offered hospitality for them and a companion. Normally, home institutions take care of the travel expenses. In spite of these limitations due to Isodarco's scarce financial resources, eminent scholars continue to participate. They value in particular the intellectually stimulating, informal and friendly atmosphere created by staying in the same place and participating in the same discussions. From the beginning, Isodarco attracted a heterogeneous mix of people with an average of twenty different nationalities at each course from different ethnic and ideological backgrounds and disciplines ranging from the natural sciences to social sciences and the humanities. Occupations ranged from university students, mostly senior or graduate students, to researchers, faculty members, and junior professionals at the start of their career in diplomacy, administration, police, military, and senior officials who bring the experience of important responsibilities in their countries or international organizations. It was this stimulating mix of people and its lively and interesting contributions to the discussions that pushed for an equal division of session time between the lecturer's presentation and the following discussions. To encourage more junior members to express their opinions, session chairpersons are instructed to give priority during the discussion time to younger participants and non-lecturers.


4. Terrorism and Human Rights

The fifth Isodarco course (Urbino 1974) introduced the topic of international terrorism as a source of international insecurity and the problems posed by the fight against terrorism to human rights, rule of law and democracy. Terrorism in Europe, had been mostly a domestic problem with the emergence of groups like the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), Spain's Basque separatists (ETA), German Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF), and the Italian Brigate Rosse (BR) and Nuclei Armati Proletari (NAP). While some of these groups shared an extreme-left revolutionary ideology, others had more nationalistic goals. All worked mostly independently. Therefore, their threat to democratic institutions was mostly indirect since they encouraged the promoters of more authoritarian forms of government and more aggressive police actions and less respect for human rights and democratic freedoms. A later Isodarco research analyzed political violence in Italy during its peak years, 1969-1988.

At the Olympic games, Munich 1972, the Palestinian terrorist organization Black September kidnapped and killed the Israeli Olympic team. Their actions highlighted the potential of terrorist actions to attract media attention and provide a forum from which terrorists could communicate ideology, advertise grievances, and advance requests. Moreover, the German government's handling of the event and its rush to liberate the terrorists captured during the operation evidenced the difficulties faced by democratic governments in managing these situations to the great advantage of the perpetrators. In conclusion, international terrorism appeared as a new form of asymmetric conflict that deserved intellectual consideration. In particular, questions concerning its potential impact on international stability and security in addition to the risks it posed to democratic institutions and human rights were heavily debated. The Urbino course not only focused on topics central to the current situation but unfortunately also anticipated debates that became more and more important in the following decades.

Lecturers at the course included experts on traditional (nuclear) and new (terrorism) threats. Among others these included: Gaston Bouthoul, John Bowyer Bell, Victor Gilinsky, Pierre Hassner, Brian Jenkins, and Ciro Zoppo. The course attracted a total of 60 participants (including lecturers) with a wide spectrum of professional expertise coming from twenty different countries. The material presented produced an influential book: International Terrorism and World Security edited by Carlton and Schaerf and published by Croom Helm (London) and John Wiley (New York). In 2015, Routledge Library Editions reprinted the volume in their series on Terrorism and Insurgency. Carlton directed several Isodarco courses and edited many of its books often in collaboration with Schaerf.

The next course devoted to terrorism was held in 1978 at Ariccia, a small town near Rome, with the participation among others of Jonah Alexander, Alessandro Silj, R. Rajan Subramanian, and Frank Wright. Routledge recently reprinted also the book resulting from this course.

In the wake of the traumatic events of 9/11 (2001), the topic returned on the Isodarco agenda in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008. In these courses, particular attention was paid not only to terrorism but also to the fight against terrorism and the challenges posed to the critical equilibrium between the war on terror and respect for democratic institutions and human rights. Lecturers at these courses were among others: Jürgen Altmann, Jillian Becker, Luigi Caligaris, Malcolm Dando, Matthew Evangelista, Dennis Gormley, Virginie Guiraudon, Paul Ingram, Sandra Ionno Butcher, George Joffé, Zia Mian, Steve Miller, Maati Monjib, Amos Nadan, Laura Reed, Takao Takahara, Giancarlo Tenaglia, and Steve Wright. Evangelista, and Tenaglia directed several Isodarco courses.
During these courses, participants were able to discuss in a relaxed academic atmosphere this sensitive topic from many different perspectives with input from participants from many regions of Africa and the Middle East, including Algeria, Iran, Israel, Morocco, Palestine and Zimbabwe.


5. The Nuclear Arms Race and Other Sources of Conflicts

At the same time, Isodarco maintained its connection to its traditional aims - to understand the impact of technological innovations on the arms race, nuclear and conventional with courses in Nemi (Rome, 1976), Venice (1980, 1984, 1988), Verona (1982), San Miniato (1986), and L'Aquila (1990). Faculty included important scholars in this field: Alexander De Volpi, Wolf Graf von Baudissin, Lawrence Freedman, Bhupendra Jasani, Catherine Kelleher (director of several courses), Pierre Lellouche, Sverre Lodgaard, Jorma Miettinen, Robert Neild, Enid Schoettle, Dietrich Schroeer, Herbert Scoville, Jane Sharp, Shu Yuan Hsieh, Olga Šukovi?, Hylke Tromp, and Frank von Hippel.

The 1978 course in Ariccia and the 2001 Candriai (Trento) edition centered on the quest for energy and other strategic materials and its relation with international conflicts. The latter course further explored its conjunction with the problem of climate change. Lecturers included Mirco Elena, Harold Feiveson, Venance Journé, Joseph Rotblat (who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Pugwash in 1995), and Robert Williams.


6. Expansion of Activities

In 1988 two novel initiatives were added to the activities of the association:
    The first Isodarco Winter course took place at Vanezze di Bondone (Trento) on January 6-13;
    The first Isodarco Beijing Seminar on Arms Control convened in Beijing on April 4-7.

The idea to organize a seminar in China was born at San Miniato in the Summer of 1986 during a conversation among Hu Side, at that time Director of the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics, his two colleagues, Hua Xinsheng and Chen Xueyin, and Schaerf. Hu Side and his companions attended the Isodarco course there and appreciated the opportunity to discuss critical issues of arms control, disarmament and international security in a free and relaxed atmosphere with international experts, students and junior researchers, interested in the topic. During an informal conversation, Hu Side proposed the organization of a similar meeting in Beijing to provide Chinese natural, political, and social scientists the opportunity to meet with "Western" colleagues and freely confront their ideas on problems of critical strategic relevance similar to those discussed at San Miniato. In the long life of Isodarco, several participants have proposed similar initiatives in their countries but the results have been limited by the difficulty of rising the necessary financial resources, finding an adequate location and attracting qualified people. But Hu Side and his collaborators succeeded and on April 4-7 the First Isodarco Beijing Seminar on Arms Control convened in Beijing. There were 8 "Western" and 45 Chinese scholars from a large variety of disciplines and several institutions including the Army. The foreign delegation included four participants from the USA, Richard L. Garwin, Eric C. Ravenal, Shu Yuan Hsieh and Frank von Hippel, Jane Sharp from SIPRI and three Italians, Franco Duprè, Pascolini, and Schaerf.

The language barrier reduced the possibility of many direct contacts between the Chinese hosts and foreign participants but the result of the meeting was considered a success since it was the first opportunity for Chinese scholars to discuss in a free and relaxed atmosphere politically critical issues like international security and arms control with Chinese colleagues of different disciplines and institutions and foreign experts. A biennial series of similar initiatives followed and the 15th seminar was held in Suzhou, November 1-4, 2016 with 126 participants including 35 foreigners from 12 different countries. After 2004, the seminar series was renamed PIIC to include the initials of the traditional sponsoring institutions: Program for Science and National Security Studies (PSNSS), Institute of Applied Physics and Computational Mathematics (IAPCM), International School on Disarmament and Research on Conflicts (Isodarco), and Chinese Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR). Recent Seminars have also been cosponsored by the Chinese People's Association for Peace and Disarmament (CPAPD), and the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). This Chinese-Italian collaboration has contributed to a continuous presence of Chinese scholars at the regular Isodarco courses in Italy.
In his book, Reluctant Restraint - The Evolution of China's Non-Proliferation Policies and Practices, 1980-2004, Evan S. Medeiros devotes several pages to the role of the Isodarco seminars in the development of Chinese strategic thinking in the field of non-proliferation.

The first Isodarco Winter course was organized at Vanezze di Bondone (Trento) in January 1988 following a suggestion by Mirco Elena and Giuseppina Orlandini of the Isodarco Trento office. Since 1996 the Winter courses have been held in Andalo (Trento) where the 30th edition took place on January 2017. When financial constraints forced a reduction of Isodarco activities the annual Winter courses remained the main initiative in Italy. Sessions take place early in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening after dinner. This leaves a few hours when the sun is high and the temperature outside is not too cold for a walk in the snow, some skiing on the easy slopes of the Paganella mountain or spontaneous intellectual activities like a special seminar or a working group or the informal continuation of the discussions or the screening of a movie relevant to the subject of the course.


7. New Military Technologies

With the end of the Cold War and the unjustified reduced perception of the risks of nuclear war and of the nuclear arms stockpiles, attention shifted to non-nuclear wars and local conflicts and the international transfer of novel and traditional military technologies.
Courses were organized at Folgaria (Trento) in 1993, L'Aquila in the same year, the Chartreuse of Pontignano (Siena) in 1996, Rovereto in 1999 and Trento in 2002. Among the lecturers were: Ruth Adams (who directed three courses), George Bunn, Gary Chapman, Carl Kaysen, Cui Liru, Virginia Gamba, Bruce Larkin, Patricia Lewis, Karlheinz Lohs, Götz Neuneck, Judith Reppy (director of five courses), Tariq Rauf (director of two courses), Richard Ullman, and Jean Pascal Zanders.

The dissolution of the socialist block and the Soviet Union opened the way to new conflicts between former communist states and raised the question of an internal reconfiguring of Western and Eastern European security. Courses were devoted to these topics with the participation of, among others: Ioan Mircea Pascu (Vice-President of the European Parliament and former Minister of Defense of Romania), Jan Prawitz and Lamberto Zannier (OSCE Secretary General).

The breadth and pace of development in computers, networks, robotics and artificial intelligence suggests the emergence of new generations of weapons, in cyberspace and in the physical world. This weapons will be compact, unmanned and, perhaps, with independent decision-making capability. New hybrid warfare scenarios include:

The first Isodarco course devoted to the role of emerging technologies was held in Rovereto in 1999 and has been followed by courses in Trento (2002) and Andalo (2012, 2013, and 2017). Lecturers included Gary Chapman, Peter Dombrowski, Denise Garcia, Giampiero Giacomello, Seymour Goodman, Chunmei Kang, Li Hua, Herb Lin, Eric Roberts, Gian Piero Siroli, Carlo Trezza, Moshe Vardi and Dorothy Zinberg.


8. Nuclear Arms Reductions and Nonproliferation

President Barack Obama's encouraging 2009 Prague speech ushered a period of optimism for the reduction and future elimination of nuclear weapons. This climate was reflected in three courses (2009, 2010, and 2011) devoted to these new developments. New experts joined Isodarco faculty for this occasion: James Acton, Avner Cohen, Paolo Cotta Ramusino, Giorgio Franceschini, Rebecca Johnson, David Holloway, Jeffrey Lewis, Harald Müller, and Tom Sauer.

The problems highlighted at the 2015 NPT Review Conference and the Iranian nuclear developments were discussed in three consecutive courses in 2014, 2015 and 2016 with presentations among others from: Hamad Alkaabi, Jacek Bylica (EEAS Special Envoy for Nonproliferation and Disarmament), Mark Fitzpatrick, Paolo Foradori, Alexander Kmentt, Hannu Kyröläinen, Martin Malin, Grégoire Mallard, Benoît Pelopidas, Joseph Pilat, Jenni Rissanen, Laura Rockwood, Ali A. Soltanieh, Mark Suh, Tibor Tóth (former CTBTO Executive Secretary), and Jiang Yimin.


9. Isodarco at 50

Isodarco, founded in 1966, in 2016 celebrated its Golden Jubilee with 50 years of continuous activity. It has organized 54 residential courses (53 in Italy and one in Germany directed by Klaus Gottstein), two seminars in Taipei, one in Amman, and one in Venice and 15 seminars in China in collaboration with our Chinese colleagues and several Chinese and American institutions. About 3000 lecturers and participants from 80 different countries attended these meetings. Born out of a core of scientists, mostly physicists, Isodarco has sought the help of experts from other disciplines and professions for the organization of its courses and broadened the intellectual exchange among its diverse participants. The 27 different course Directors from Italy, the US, the UK, Germany, and Canada, shared with Isodarco the responsibility of selecting lecturers and discussing with them the substance of their presentations.
The material presented at the courses has been published in 29 books by UK and US publishing houses like Croom Helm, John Wiley, Macmillan, St. Martin's Press, Dartmouth-Ashgate, Palgrave, Stanford University Press, and Bloomsbury.
With several lecturers and participants joining more than one event, some collaborating as editors of Isodarco books, some participants returning later as lecturers and some lecturers taking responsibility as course Directors, Isodarco has created a community of experts on the problems of international security and in particular in the risks of nuclear war and nuclear proliferation and with special attention to the scientific and technological developments critical to the evolutions of the field.
To commemorate its fiftieth anniversary Isodarco has collected an anthology of the most relevant contributions to its meetings in the field of nonproliferation and disarmament. The volume edited by Paolo Foradori, Giampiero Giacomello and Alessandro Pascolini will be published by Palgrave-Macmillan.

Isodarco's main research effort, supported financially by the Italian National Research Council (CNR), focused on political violence in Italy. The research analyzed 14591 events of political violence, large and small, resulting in 419 fatalities and 1181 casualties during the twenty more active years 1969-1988. The events have been divided into six groups according to the most likely political affiliation of the perpetrators with a seventh group for events non-attributable. The six groups produced six time series that have been submitted to statistical analysis among themselves and with six socio-economic indicators with the result of six autocorrelations, 15 crosscorrelations among the violence series, 36 correlations with the six socio-economic indicators and their frequency spectra. The main conclusion was that Italian political violence has been an autogenous phenomenon disconnected from the socio-economic reality of the country. The research has been published by the University of Rome - Sapienza in two volumes of 1446 pages.

Faithful to his statutory role as an educational and non-political institution, Isodarco has never issued a political statement or supported a political position. It is respectful of the constitutional right of its member and collaborators to express freely their opinions under their personal responsibility. Presentations delivered at its meetings by its lecturers and participants are made under the personal responsibility of the speaker and do not represent the opinion of Isodarco or the organizations to which the speaker belongs. Reports published by members or participants at a course or seminar can include the topics discussed and the opinions expressed but without any specific attribution of the opinions to any participant in particular.


10. Acknowledgments

Half a century of Isodarco continuous activity has been made possible by the many people who have volunteered their free time and by the financial support of major foundations like the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Financial support has also been received from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Volkswagen Foundation, the Italian National Research Council (CNR), the universities of Roma "Tor Vergata" and Trento, several local institutions in the Trentino region and some individual donors. The home institutions of several lecturers and participants have provided substantial indirect support through the travelling expenses of their affiliates.

For its Golden Jubilee Isodarco received a letter from US President Barack Obama and a Medal from Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

March 3, 2017


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