Posts Tagged ‘Strategy’

by Steve Young, Lt Col (ret’d), Canadian Army

The following is a guest post by my good friend, Steve Young. It’s his estimate of the situation, and pretty darn good. Enjoy. And please let me know if you like these guest reports. I have a lot of friends and colleagues who can provide unique and deep insight into the war in Ukraine and other strategic topics.

Executive Summary

Ukraine has strategically held their lines since reclaiming land in the fall, preparing for a counter-offensive against Russia. Ukraine’s plan involves a highly coordinated assault using various military assets to break Russian defences and exploit the breakthrough. The operation requires significant resources and coordination. Ukraine’s forces are better trained and globally supported, while Russia faces challenges with poor equipment, training, and leadership. The conflict’s outcome looks unfavourable for Russia, with the situation in Crimea remaining uncertain.

Ukraine Estimate

I have been getting some questions on what is happening, so I thought I would post something a bit long. 

So what has been happening since Ukraine took back a large chunk of land back in the fall?  Well, basically, Ukraine chased the Russians back as far as they thought prudent without exposing themselves to counter-attack. Russia went on the defensive and managed to stabilize their lines. When the New Year began, Russia started attacking all across the lines of contact, but more particularly in the regions of Bakhmut and Vuledar. Vuledar didn’t go so well – the Russians lost the bulk of their mechanized forces in several amateurish attacks that failed spectacularly. They had some limited success with dismounted infantry in Bakhmut but have lost most of their gains over the past week. And Russia is losing between 750 and 1,000 soldiers a day with little to show for it. Bakhmut holds. 

Ukraine is caught between trying to hold their lines with as few resources as possible while building up for an eventual counter-offensive. It must be heartbreaking to see all the casualties come back from the front lines while fresh troops and equipment are not committed to the fight, but Ukraine has a sound plan and they must persevere.  We call such operations Economy of Effort, but that doesn’t make it any easier to see the casualties pile up. 

The eventual counter-offensive will require a mix of reconnaissance, combat engineers, heavy tanks, artillery, mechanized infantry and wheeled logistics, plus any air and aviation assets they can muster. I figure Ukraine will require somewhere North of 500,000 soldiers, likely double that if they can field that many forces.  Offensive operations, properly done, are resource intensive. Some of the initial moves may have already begun. You may have noticed that Ukrainian reconnaissance activity has picked up of late, and that they are targeting artillery and air defence assets as a priority. 

The first step will be a highly choreographed assault to break through Russian defensive positions.  They’ll likely try to break through in two places, hoping to get at least one. You will see the heaviest equipment used here:  Abrams, Challenger and Leopard tanks, Bradley and Marder fighting vehicles, lots of artillery and even air support. My guess is that they have been practising all winter. It takes training and a lot of coordination to get everything done properly. That part should go well, and Ukraine is likely to slice through the Russian lines without much difficulty, albeit at the cost of considerable expenditure of scarce resources. 

The next step is to try and exploit the breakthrough, to change the initial tactical success into something more, hopefully something that would cause the Russian line to collapse entirely. This part will see the older Leopard 1 tanks, the French AMX-RC wheeled “tankettes”, jeeps, armoured personnel carriers and anything armoured and fast. All supplies, fuel and ammunition will need to be on wheels, so a lot of trucks will be required. The job of this second force is to destroy supply dumps, staging areas, repair depots, command posts and, most importantly, air defence systems. They’ll need to move quickly but should be mostly unopposed since Russia hasn’t kept much in Reserve for such contingencies. I am guessing that there will be no small amount of partisan support to assist along the way. 

Importantly, they’ll need to do something decisive such as cut the Russian forces in two or surround a large number of troops.  

This second part can’t be rehearsed as much. Commanders will have to rely on the initiative of their subordinate leaders, and trust that they will do the right thing. It will likely be quick and chaotic, hopefully causing the poorly led Russians to cut and run and/or surrender.  If, somehow, that second part doesn’t work out, it might be some time before Ukraine could muster the necessary resources to try again. For me, I’ll be watching this second part closely. 

My guess is that they’ll head to Mariupol.

Anyway, for what it is worth, some things have not changed much. Russia has poor equipment, little to no training, poor leadership and poor doctrine. They have quantity on their side, which has a quality all its own (Stalin’s words), but little else. The only possible way they could capture Kiev is to walk the whole 600 km. They continue to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, breaking conventions to which they are signatories. Ukraine has the support of most of the world, their training outclasses the Russians and they are unified in their aim to expel Russia. This isn’t going to end well for Russia. 

And what about Crimea? If indeed the the Russian defence collapses, it may not be necessary to fight over Crimea. Let’s hope so.

©️Steve Young

A quick review by Richard Martin

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): If you have any interest in, or concern about, collective and individual security, prosperity, cyber defence, psychological warfare, and/or the defence of our Western way of life, then you MUST read Jason Lowery‘s Softwar: A Novel Theory on Power Projection and the National Strategic Significance of Bitcoin.

Jason has developed and disseminated this thesis as a “deliverable” (his term) under the terms of a DoD sponsored Defense Fellowship at MIT. Defense fellowships are highly sought after and require sponsorship at the highest levels of the defense forces. They are intended to explore the implications of new technical developments, among other topics, for national security, defense policy, and the grand strategy of the US and its allies.

With that said, there are caveats (or rather factors) to consider, although they don’t take away from his fundamental thesis and the conclusions he derives therefrom. So, I’ll just come right out and say this. The document is a mixture of sound argumentation, infuriating over-generalizations, polemical statements, and rhetorical flourishes. As an academic thesis, it is extremely long, convoluted, repetitious, sometimes sophomoric. However, that’s MIT’s business, not ours.

But, and this is crucial, it is also filled with brilliant nuggets (almost on every page) that generate profound insights and epiphanies which in turn lead the reader to explore and reflect further. I predict that this work will have a significant influence within the national defense and collective security communities in the USA, Five Eyes, and NATO alliances.

by Richard Martin

I’ve started reading Jason Lowery’s master’s thesis on the national security implications of Bitcoin (Softwar: A Novel Theory on Power Projection and the National Strategic Significance of Bitcoin). I’m a little over halfway through the work, and I find that the insights I’m gaining on almost every page are mind-blowing.

This article in not intended as a full review of Lowery’s book or a critique of his thesis. My purpose is to start reacting in writing to his overall thesis and providing commentary and analysis of the insights I’ve been gaining from it. I’m inspired to do so by the impact his thesis is having on my thinking as well as those “reaction” videos that are so prevalent on YouTube®. I will address these to Jason through Linked In and Twitter, in the hope of starting a fruitful dialogue.

With the publication of Softwar, Lowery presents a novel theory on power projection in nature, human society, and the cybersphere. The latter is where Lowery gets into the national security aspects of Bitcoin. I’ve not yet gotten to that part of his thesis, so I will leave that aside for now.

With that said, there is plenty to digest in the book about power projection in nature and society and its implications for peace, security, and prosperity. In a nutshell, Lowery claims—convincingly—that power projection is fundamental to the genesis, evolution, and survival of life in general and of all organisms.

This may seem self-evident, but his formulation of what he calls “primordial economics” is compelling, as he bases it on physical power. Physical power is measured in watts, the amount of energy transformed or, alternatively, work performed in each second (1 watt equals 1 joule per second; the joule is the unit of work produced by a force of 1 newton to displace a mass by 1 meter; 1 newton is the force required to accelerate a mass of 1 kilogram at a rate of 1 meter per second per second). In other words, physical power is defined as the rate of displacement of mass over distance.

As we can see, basic physical concepts are all based on mass, energy, space, and time. Lowery equates the physical with the real. If there is no displacement of mass, or transformation of energy, then the phenomenon isn’t physical and is within the realm of human imagination and mentation, and therefore abstract. While we could possibly quibble about these conceptions, Lowery’s purpose is to advance the discussion by providing functional definitions of physical power and abstract power, and he succeeds in that respect. I will address abstract power and its relationship with physical power in a future installment of this series, as I’m still digesting it.

To survive and prosper, organisms must project power so they can acquire and consume resources while simultaneously protecting themselves from being attacked and consumed by other organisms. This is summarized in a simple mathematical expression:

BCRA = BA / CA, where

  • BCRA stands for Benefit-Cost Ratio of Attack. The higher an organism’s BCRA the greater the likelihood that it will be attacked and consumed by another organism.
  • BA stands for Benefit of Attack and represents the resource payoff for an organism of attacking or consuming the prey organism or object of consumption. The higher an organism’s BA for any given value of CA, the higher the BCRA.
  • CA stands for Cost of Attack and represents the “price” the prey organism or object of consumption imposes on attacking or consuming organisms. The higher an organism’s CA for any given value of BA, the lower the BCRA.

An organism with BCRA greater than 1 is attractive to a predator, and the higher the ratio, the more attractive it is as prey. Conversely, an organism with a BCRA between 0 and 1 is unattractive as a potential object of attack and is much less likely to fall prey to a predator trying to consume it for its resources. In simple terms, an organism with a BCRA below 1 is likely to inflict a high cost and even potential death on the predatory organism. The closer the ratio gets to 0, the higher the probability that the organism will survive attack by another organism. This is the essence of what Lowery calls “primordial economics.”

Now, I’d like to propose that Lowery’s formulation can in fact be construed as a formal statement of what Ludwig von Mises called “praxeology,” the science of human action. Mises theorized that human beings act to relieve felt uneasiness. Resources (food, water, vitamins, etc.) for energy and matter and the imperative to survive and prosper are the driving forces of human action, and life in general.

In this sense, Lowery’s primordial economics can be viewed as a more general statement of Mises’s notion of praxeology (human action), one that applies to the entire living world. Organisms must survive and thrive, and to do so they must feed and breed, and secure their existence against predators and entropy. The basis for this is power projection.

I won’t address the details of his exposition and argument, but it strikes me as a way to reconceptualize the relationship between war/politics and exchange/economics. Austrian economists, especially the more libertarian types, tend to see war/politics and exchange/economics as mutually exclusive categories. However, Mises always saw economics as being the most well-developed part of praxeology.

For Mises, praxeology is the science of human action, and economics is part of praxeology, specifically the tool to analyze market exchange (catallactics), the division of labour, and other categories of human action unhindered by coercion. This approach then undergirds the analysis of the effects of coercion—i.e., politics, violence, and war—on unhindered economic action.

The following diagram summarizes how I see the relationships between each of these concepts. Power projection includes praxeology, which includes economics, which includes catallactics (the study of market exchange).

There are implications of this conceptualization for peace, security, and prosperity. I will address these in another instalment along with other insights and reactions to Lowery’s thesis on power projection.

By Richard Martin

There is a widespread belief that Russia’s war of aggression and conquest in Ukraine was somehow caused by the US and, especially, NATO enlargement. This is false. Russia’s aggressive and provocative stance has been consistently driven by its leadership’s drive to reestablish its suzerainty over its former Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact countries.

Russia justifies its hegemonic and imperialist aims and actions by claiming that NATO threatens it. This is a complete lie, one that, moreover, is reinforced by ethically-challenged so-called “realist” historians and theorists, including Henry Kissinger and, especially, John Mearsheimer.

The basis of Russia’s claims and actions and that of the “realist” geopolitical hacks is that nations and people within Russia’s “sphere of influence” must respect Russia’s right to dominate them and exploit them as its leaders and people see fit. If there is a more anti-liberal and anti-democratic stance in the world today, I don’t know of it. Russian imperialists are one thing, but the fact that supposedly well-informed Western intellectuals like Kissinger and Mearsheimer still uphold these values is beyond the pale.

People, many of whom should know better, need to reacquaint themselves with the founding principals of Western, liberal, democratic values and ethics, and the political, economic and social consequences derived therefrom. It is also crucial to be aware of the FACTS about Russian claims, instead of sound bites, disinformation, and propaganda injects into Western media, corporate and social. To this end, I’m including a list of useful links to factual information and reports concerning NATO, Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia.

If you want to share your views, go right ahead, as I believe in free speech and open debate and dialogue. With that said, it should be done from a position of knowledge and understanding of actual facts and events, not uninformed commentary on the basis of fears, uncertainty, and doubt.…/20120705_0919-12-Fiche-Info-NATO…

par Richard Martin

Il existe une croyance répandue selon laquelle la guerre d’agression et de conquête de la Russie en Ukraine a été en quelque sorte causée par les États-Unis et, surtout, par l’élargissement de l’OTAN. C’est faux. L’attitude agressive et provocatrice de la Russie a toujours été motivée par la volonté de ses dirigeants de rétablir sa suzeraineté sur les anciennes républiques soviétiques et les pays du Pacte de Varsovie.

La Russie justifie ses objectifs et ses actions hégémoniques et impérialistes en affirmant que l’OTAN la menace. Il s’agit d’un mensonge total, qui est d’ailleurs renforcé par des historiens et théoriciens dits “réalistes”, contestés sur le plan éthique, dont Henry Kissinger et, surtout, John Mearsheimer.

La base des revendications et des actions de la Russie et des apologistes géopolitiques “réalistes” est que les nations et les peuples de la “sphère d’influence” de la Russie doivent respecter le droit de la Russie à les dominer et à les exploiter comme ses dirigeants et son peuple l’entendent. S’il existe une position plus anti-libérale et anti-démocratique dans le monde d’aujourd’hui, je ne la connais pas. Les impérialistes russes sont une chose, mais le fait que des intellectuels occidentaux soi-disant bien informés comme Kissinger et Mearsheimer défendent encore ces valeurs est inacceptable.

Les gens, dont beaucoup devraient être mieux informés, doivent se réapproprier les principes fondateurs des valeurs et de l’éthique occidentales, libérales et démocratiques, ainsi que les conséquences politiques, économiques et sociales qui en découlent. Il est également crucial de connaître les FAITS concernant les revendications russes, au lieu des extraits sonores, de la désinformation et de la propagande injectés dans les médias occidentaux, commerciaux et sociaux. À cette fin, j’ai inclus une liste de liens utiles vers des informations et des rapports factuels concernant l’OTAN, la Russie, l’Ukraine et la Géorgie.

Si vous voulez partager vos opinions, allez-y, car je crois en la liberté d’expression, au débat ouvert et au dialogue. Cela dit, il faut le faire à partir d’une position de connaissance et de compréhension des faits et des événements réels, et non pas à partir de commentaires non informés fondés sur des craintes, des incertitudes et des doutes.……/Relations_entre_la_Russie_et…


Here is my current assessment of the situation post liberation of Kherson.

See the diagram I’ve attached (map courtesy of Institute for the Study of War’s interactive map; hand drawn markings are mine).

The thick green line shows where the Russians have apparently developed extensive defensive positions on the left bank of the Dnipro. Open sources claim they have built three lines of defence, which is classic Soviet doctrine.

The thick red circle around Donetsk is where the Wagner Group has been active over the last several months, with many failed attacks against the small city of Bakhmut. The Ukrainians have successfully held them off over at least 2 months. It’s not clear to me what the Russian intent is, but I believe the aim is to fix Ukrainian forces so they can’t redeploy to other parts of the front while keeping them as far away from Donetsk as possible, and possibly even push them back. Donetsk is very important and symbolic for the Russian attempt to conquer and annex Ukraine.

The thick red oval east of Kharkiv shows a number of small scale Russian attempts at attacks and reconnaissance in force missions. I suspect the intent is also to fix Ukrainian forces while buying time to build up the defences of Svatove, a major communications hub.

The thin blue circles show the areas of major Ukrainian partisan activity. As you can see, it is extensive in the area of Melitopol with a lot also in Berdiansk and Mariupol, and also in the eastern area north of Lysichansk.

I believe the Ukrainian main effort will move to the centre, east of the Kakhovka Reservoir and into Zaporizhzhia Oblast. They might make for Melitopol and even Berdiansk and try to cut the lateral lines of communication near the coast. I don’t think they will try an assault crossing on the lower Dnipro because of the Russian defences on the left bank and the fact they have had several weeks to prepare, not to mention the fact that it would take significant bridging and amphibious capabilities by Ukrainian forces.

© Richard Martin

Source: Institute for the Study of War Interactive Map ( accessed 12 November 2022. Hand drawn additions by Richard Martin.

By Richard Martin

Many people seem to assume that democratization of Russia will solve the main problem, which is Russian imperialism and expansionism. The immediate aim is to support Ukraine in its struggle to free itself from Russian occupation and agression through military action by supplying the physical means and resources to do so. Whether Russia becomes democratic as an outcome or through the workings of these actions is irrelevant from the standpoint of the grand strategic aim of winning the war.

I don’t think there is necessarily a need for an “internal drive” toward democracy. The current mindset of the majority of Ukrainians proves the point. Ukrainians have pretty consistently sought national self-determination throughout their history, regardless of the form of government or constitution. They were resigned to live under Russian hegemony since at least the early 19th century. The turnabout started in 1991, before which there was no more a history or tradition of Ukrainian democracy than in Russia or any of the other Soviet satrapies.

If the Ukrainian people can change their mindset in the space of 30 years then, so can the Russians. But that should give us an idea of the time that is needed to effect the transition.

The Japanese, Germans and Italians adopted democracy after WWII as a result of total defeat and humiliation. The likelihood that Russia will be in such abject straights at the end of the current war is, for all intents and purposes, nil.

Russia is currently deterred from further escalation by NATO and, especially, the US nuclear umbrella and material support to Ukraine. The Ukrainians are training and preparing for a long-term struggle and, even more significant, the need to continue deterring Russia post-liberation of their country.

We in the West and NATO must accept that whatever the immediate outcome in Ukraine, Russia (and its dubious allies) will have to be contained and deterred for the foreseeable future. And that’s regardless of what happens to Putin and his henchmen.

© Richard Martin

By Richard Martin

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resistance of the Ukrainian people, government and armed forces have provided the world and especially NATO countries with the focus and resolve to assist Ukraine in defending its independence and security in alignment with the fundamental NATO values of freedom, democracy, law, and rights. 

Russia is seeking to undermine these values by dominating Ukraine and its people while attacking the same values in other countries, and specifically within NATO and the EU. Russia has been consistently employing “hybrid” warfare techniques to undermine the resolve and morale of the peoples and nations that oppose Russian ways and means of achieving its aggressive ends. The attack on gas pipeline infrastructure in the Baltic is just one example of this.

Beyond this, Russia has been conducting information warfare and psychological operations against NATO, the EU, and the West in general. The main approach involves using disinformation and other hostile information activities. There are two main goals. The first is to present the Russian point of view, to convince citizens, decision-makers, and influencers in NATO and EU countries to either support Russia’s war aims in Ukraine, or to undermine their support for their own nations’ commitment to supporting Ukraine and countering Russia. The second goal is to sow chaos, confusion, discord, and conflict within and between NATO/EU countries.

The first of these goals is familiar and is traditionally called propaganda. Although it is not pleasant, it is relatively easy to counter with facts and rational argument. The second goal is less familiar and resembles in many ways classic disinformation, misdirection, and active measures adopted by the Soviet Union and other Communist powers during the Cold War. It is much more insidious, as it aims at nothing less than eroding the ability of free-thinking individuals and groups to act effectively and efficiently in the face of threats to peace, security, and prosperity. In a nutshell, disinformation and active measures are forms of epistemological warfare.

Young people are probably the most vulnerable to epistemological warfare, as their ideas and habits of mind are still in development. They are highly vulnerable to disinformation, ideologies, and nihilistic questioning of the values and structures that uphold the values of freedom, democracy, rule of law, and human rights. Young people are idealistic, with many hopes and dreams about the future, both collective and personal, but these ideals are not tempered by the experience of living and the knowledge of history, values, and goals of our societies.

Epistemological warfare throws contradictory and inflammatory statements, observations, and opinions into the infosphere, especially social media, and sees what will stick. There is not necessarily an ideological standpoint that is upheld. The aim is not to say one side or opinion is better than another, but instead to sow doubt about what is real, and whether anyone in authority or with expertise is to be trusted. Disinformation about COVID-19, the actions of powerful and/or wealthy people, conspiracy theories, etc., are all grist for the mill.

The threat goes well beyond cyberattacks, disinformation, and misdirection. In fact, I believe we have entered a new phase of information warfare which I call “epistemological warfare.” The aim of epistemological warfare isn’t just to attack nations and their populations with false, misleading, obfuscating, or confusing information and propaganda. It goes much further by launching a full-scale assault on the critical faculties and judgment of friendly nations, populations, and leaders.

The techniques are many but focus mainly on eroding critical thinking by overwhelming the public sphere, especially through social media channels and platforms, with false, doubtful, or contradictory information presented in sound bites, images, video clips, and Internet “memes” that exploit and reinforce well-known cognitive biases and fallacies. These include everything from non sequitur and tu quoque fallacies, to psychological heuristics such as the primacy effect, the bandwagon effect, and others too numerous to list.

The goal is to erode the ability of individuals to judge what is true and false, who and what to believe, and who to support. This results in a cynical and nihilistic attitude toward the facts, intentions, and objectives presented by and for contending powers and forces and undermines support for a strong defence against hostile intent and activities.

© Richard Martin


Richard Martin, Président, Académie canadienne de leadership et développement du capital humain

La situation

Dans nos sociétés, les individus consacrent beaucoup de temps et de ressources à regarder ou à lire des médias et des contenus en ligne. Nous ne reviendrons pas à l’époque où les choix télévisuels étaient limités et où il n’existait que quelques sources d’information (inter)nationales. Chez les jeunes générations, l’ampleur de la participation en ligne est stupéfiante par rapport aux générations plus âgées. Cela s’explique par le fait que les jeunes ne se fient pas aux sources d’information traditionnelles, “grand public”. Ils vivent dans le monde éphémère et évanescent des médias sociaux et des plateformes de contenu d’origine collective, dont la provenance et l’intention sont souvent douteuses.

Il en résulte que les jeunes sont inondés d’idées, d’idéologies et d’influences concurrentes ou contradictoires par le biais des médias sociaux, amplifiées par des influenceurs à l’association et aux intentions douteuses, des ouï-dire, des établissements d’enseignement, des organisations de la société civile, de la publicité et des différents modes de vie. Ces messages ne sont pas nécessairement (bien que beaucoup le soient) négatifs ou corrosifs pour les valeurs civiques fondamentales, bien qu’une partie importante d’entre eux offrent un récit qui ne soutient pas ou remet en question nos démocraties stables, sûres, libérales et prospères. Certains canaux et sources d’information favorisent le désordre social et la subversion dans le but de saper la résilience, la défense, les valeurs et les objectifs de l’Occident.

Les principales plateformes de médias sociaux sont les principaux (mais non les seuls) canaux permettant la promotion d’idées et de concepts qui peuvent éroder l’engagement à créer et à maintenir des sociétés pacifiques et sûres qui valorisent la liberté individuelle, la démocratie, les droits de l’homme et l’État de droit et qui sous-tendent les sociétés les plus prospères de toute l’histoire. Je crois que ces valeurs méritent d’être soutenues, entretenues et, au besoin, défendues. Cela dit, la censure et le contrôle centralisé de l’information, qu’elle soit publique ou privée, ne sont pas la solution, car ils vont à l’encontre des valeurs fondamentales de l’ordre libre, démocratique, fondé sur les règles et les droits.

La menace

Des puissances et des forces hostiles se livrent sans relâche à des opérations d’information pour saper le moral, la résilience et la détermination des nations occidentales et de leurs populations. La sensibilisation du public à cette menace et à ses effets s’est accrue depuis l’invasion de l’Ukraine le 24 février 2022, mais l’accent est mis sur la Russie, laissant d’autres acteurs étatiques et parrainés par l’État opérer relativement sans entrave sous le radar du public, des politiciens et des entreprises. D’autre part, cette prise de conscience est floue, limitée et non spécifique. Les individus et les organisations comprennent mal les intentions hostiles, les stratégies, les approches opérationnelles et les techniques, tactiques et procédures spécifiques utilisées pour atteindre des objectifs hostiles.

La menace va bien au-delà des cyberattaques, de la désinformation et de la mauvaise orientation. En fait, je prétends que nous sommes entrés dans une nouvelle phase de la guerre de l’information que j’appelle “guerre épistémologique”. L’objectif de la guerre épistémologique n’est pas seulement d’attaquer les nations et leurs populations avec des fausses informations et de la propagande trompeuses ou déroutantes qui obscurcissent plus qu’elles n’éclairent. Elle va beaucoup plus loin en lançant un assaut à grande échelle contre les facultés critiques et le jugement des nations, des populations et des dirigeants.

Les techniques sont nombreuses, mais elles visent principalement à éroder l’esprit critique en submergeant la sphère publique, en particulier par le biais des canaux et des plateformes des médias sociaux, d’informations fausses, douteuses ou contradictoires présentées sous forme d’extraits sonores, d’images, de clips vidéo et de “mèmes” Internet qui exploitent et renforcent les biais et les paralogismes cognitifs bien connus. Il s’agit notamment des sophismes non sequitur et tu quoque, des heuristiques psychologiques telles que l’effet de primauté, l’effet d’entraînement et d’autres trop nombreux pour être énumérés. L’objectif apparent est d’éroder la capacité des individus à juger ce qui est vrai et faux, qui et quoi croire, et qui soutenir. Il en résulte une attitude cynique et nihiliste à l’égard des faits, des intentions et des objectifs présentés par et pour les puissances et les forces en présence, et cela sape le soutien à une défense forte contre les intentions et les activités hostiles.

La stratégie

Les efforts visant à renforcer la résilience de la société, en particulier pour les générations futures, dépendent de la capacité à fournir des outils concrets pouvant être utilisés rapidement et efficacement pour résister, contrer et évaluer les affirmations, les preuves, les déclarations et les arguments qui constituent la base de la désinformation, de la propagande et d’autres activités d’information hostiles. Cela exige une approche rationnelle et systématique du problème, fondée sur des résultats, des produits et des méthodes clairs.

La clé d’un succès durable et à long terme dans la construction de la résistance sociétale est de se concentrer sur la génération montante de leaders actuels et potentiels qui deviendront des influenceurs, des formateurs d’opinion et des décideurs dans les domaines de la politique et de l’administration publiques, de la diplomatie, des communications, des affaires, de la finance, de la sécurité publique et de la profession des armes.

Le centre de gravité de cet effort est de développer et de diffuser une boîte à outils intellectuelle et psychologique à l’intention des jeunes leaders actuels et futurs, afin d’étayer les analyses et évaluations individuelles et collectives concernant la solidité logique et la validité des diverses affirmations, preuves, propositions, rhétorique et arguments qui sont insérés et diffusés dans le domaine public.

La meilleure façon d’équiper nos jeunes pour qu’ils résistent aux attaques féroces de la guerre de l’information et de la guerre épistémologique est de les aider à reconnaître les différents types d’activités, en vue de les reformuler selon des principes logiques pour évaluer leur probabilité et leur validité globale. De cette manière, les leaders de la génération montante seront mieux équipés pour appliquer leur propre jugement par le biais de processus et de méthodes de raisonnement éprouvés, résilients et invariants dans tous les domaines, sujets, plateformes et contenus.

© Richard Martin


By Richard Martin, President, Canadian Academy of Leadership and Development of Human Capital

The Situation

Individuals in our societies spend significant time and resources watching or reading online media and content. We are not going back to the days of limited television options and a few (inter)national news sources. In younger generations, the scale of online participation is staggering as compared to older ones. This is because younger people do not rely on traditional, “mainstream” sources of information. They live in the ephemeral, evanescent world of social media and crowd-sourced content platforms, much of which is of doubtful provenance and intent.

The result is that younger people are flooded with competing or contradictory ideas, ideologies, and influences through social media, amplified by influencers of questionable association and intent; word of mouth; educational institutions; civil society organizations; advertising; and variant lifestyles. These messages are not necessarily (though many are) negative or corrosive of core civic values though an important portion do offer a narrative unsupportive or questioning of our stable, secure, liberal, prosperous democracies. Some channels and sources of information favour social disorder and subversion with the goal of undermining Western resilience, defence, values, and objectives.

Prominent social media platforms are the principal (though not exclusive) channels enabling the promotion of ideas and concepts that can erode the commitment to creating and sustaining peaceful and secure societies that value individual liberty, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law and which underlie the most prosperous societies in history. I believe these values are worth upholding, sustaining, and as required, defending. With that said, censorship and centralized control of information, whether public or private, are not the solution, as these go against the core values of the free, democratic, rules and rights-based order.

The Threat

Hostile powers and forces are relentlessly engaged in information operations to undermine the morale, resilience, and resolve of Western nations and their populations. Public awareness of this threat and its effects has increased since the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, but the focus is on Russia, leaving other state-based and state-sponsored actors to operate relatively unhindered below the radar of the public, politicians, and businesses. On the other hand, this awareness is hazy, limited, and non-specific. Individuals and organizations have little understanding of hostile intentions, strategies, operational approaches, and the specific techniques, tactics, and procedures that are used to achieve hostile ends.

The threat goes well beyond cyberattacks, disinformation, and misdirection. In fact, we believe that we have entered a new phase of information warfare which I call “epistemological warfare.” The aim of epistemological warfare isn’t just to attack nations and their populations with false, misleading, obfuscating, or confusing information and propaganda. It goes much further by launching a full-scale assault on the critical faculties and judgment of friendly nations, populations, and leaders.

The techniques are many but focus mainly on eroding critical thinking by overwhelming the public sphere, especially through social media channels and platforms, with false, doubtful, or contradictory information presented in sound bites, images, video clips, and Internet “memes” that exploit and reinforce well-known cognitive biases and fallacies. These include everything from non sequitur and tu quoque fallacies, to psychological heuristics such as the primacy effect, the bandwagon effect, and others too numerous to list. The apparent goal is to erode the ability of individuals to judge what is true and false, whom and what to believe, and whom to support. This results in a cynical and nihilistic attitude toward the facts, intentions, and objectives presented by and for contending powers and forces and undermines support for a strong defence against hostile intent and activities.

The Strategy

The effort to build societal resilience, especially in succeeding generations, depends on the ability to provide concrete tools that can be used quickly and effectively to resist, counter, and evaluate the claims, evidence, statements, and arguments that form the basis for disinformation, propaganda, and other hostile information activities. This requires a rational, systematic approach to the problem, one based on clear outcomes, deliverables, and methods.

The key to long-term, enduring success in building societal resistance is to focus on the succeeding generation of current and potential leaders who will become influencers, opinion formers and decision makers in the areas of public policy and administration, diplomacy, communications, business, finance and banking, public safety, and the profession of arms.

The centre of gravity in this effort is to develop and disseminate an intellectual and psychological toolkit to current and future young leaders to undergird individual and collective analyses and evaluations concerning the logical soundness and validity of the various claims, evidence, propositions, rhetoric, and arguments that are inserted and disseminated in the public domain.

The best way to equip our youth for resilience in the face of withering attacks of information and epistemological warfare is to help them recognize the different types of activities, with a view to reformulating them according to logical principles to evaluate their probability and overall validity. By this means, leaders of the successor generation will be better equipped to apply their own judgment through proven processes and methods of reasoning that are resilient and invariant across domains, topics, platforms, and content.

© Richard Martin