A wry reconstruction of the overblown Fascist domain of Mussolini and its Anglo-American admirers, by a prominent Oxford specialist in modem Italian history. ""Used to living in cloud-cuckoo-land where words, not facts, mattered,"" Mussolini touted the nonexistent riches a North African grab would yield, the army which was to enter WW II with 1891 rifles and no trousers, and an air force buildup which proved smaller than WW I's. All this was papered over by the propaganda ministry until the 1941 defeats in Greece, with which the book essentially ends. Others, of course, have punctured Mussolini's bloody bombast; Smith also tallies Atlantic support for Mussolini--plaudits from publishers Hearst and Rothermere as well as material aid from J. P. Morgan and from Scotland Yard, which handed anti-Fascists to Mussolini's police torturers. And the book examines German looting of the Italian economy by depression of agricultural prices, creation of dependency on German coal, and importation of Italian labor. Not a searing documentary like Mussolini's Italy (1973), by Max Gallo, which focused on II Duce's consolidation of domestic power, this is a donnish, sometimes impish exposition of his international buildup and his peacock follies.