In March 1985, Bettino Craxi, then Italy's prime minister, visited Washington. President Ronald Reagan greeted him with a firm hand-shake and a (somewhat) facetious question: "How's your crisis going?" Craxi replied, "Very well, thank you."
No doubt his other NATO allies had asked Craxi, the Socialist Party leader, the same question. When Americans or Canadians or Germans think of Italy, many imagine a sunny, picturesque Mediterranean land- scape whose inhabitants...