By G. Bruce Strang
By the 1930s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini reached the conclusion that Italy faced a clear choice: expand its power at the expense of the British and French Empires or face stagnation and decline. He believed that the regimes in the democratic West would not be able to contain their inherent hostility toward fascist dynamism, while their demographic and political weaknesses provided the opportunity for the younger, demographically virile fascist Italy to carve a new empire in the Mediterranean status quo.
Through his intervention in the Spanish Civil War and his attempts to challenge French Power in Europe and British imperial domination of the Middle East and East Africa, Mussolini sought to decisively change Italy's long-standing position as the least of the Great Powers. Although the Pact of Steel did not always function smoothly, Mussolini remained loyal to its principles, eventually throwing Italy into the Second World War, where he would belatedly discover that his regime had signally failed to prepare his legions for fighting in a modern war.