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Information warfare

The newly established Rideau Institute* has it wrong.

Just recently a media outlet got hold of an old (2005) DRAFT copy of a proposed new counterinsurgency manual – a long overdue tool for training Canadian soldiers and planners. The story was a ‘one day wonder’ because most reporters dealt only with the fact that the DRAFT version makes mention of armed groups within Canada’s first nations. Reporters went after first nation leaders looking for some controversy – they got a bit, but not enough to give the story ‘legs.’

Only the CBC appears to have understood one of the keys to counterinsurgency: winning the information war. The Ruxted Group dealt with part of this nearly a year ago. CBC Radio went to well known anti-military activist Steven Staples of the Rideau Institute for a comment. He understands the issue but, predictably, he used the opportunity to further his efforts at hamstringing the ongoing development of effective, combat capable, Canadian Forces. The Rideau Institute appears incensed because the DRAFT document advocates using the media, all media – mainstream and new, ours and theirs – as part of an ‘information warfare’ campaign which has amongst its aims: maintaining the public will to continue the fight until our national objectives have been accomplished.
The Rideau Institute calls that “spinning” the news to shape public opinion – and so it is. The Canadian Forces understands that it needs the support of Canadians to prosecute the tasks assigned by the people of Canada. It also understands that it needs to explain the “who, what, where, why and how” of those assigned tasks to Canadians and it uses the media to do so. Where The Rideau Institute got it wrong was when Mr. Staples went on to tell the CBC that DND should not be allowed to do that because such ‘spinning’ would mislead Canadians. Since such "spinning" by our declared enemies generated no comment from the Rideau Institute’s friends and fellow travellers, we presume, only the anti-military and anti-capitalist and anti-globalization ‘left’ can be trusted to “spin” the media.

Ruxted commends DND for understanding the importance of information management and for being open and honest in declaring that one of the targets is Canadian public opinion which is influenced through the nation's commentariat.

Information – true, false, or indeterminate – is a weapon. Consider, for example, the ‘disinformation campaign’ which former political press-agent Scott Reid launched a few weeks ago – trying to convince Canadians that Afghanistan is “Harper’s war” – that’s a classic example of the old adage that a lie, even a big lie, repeated often enough can become the truth for some people. Have no doubt, the average Canadian is more comfortable with a short, well-crafted sound bite than with informed discussion.

While the Canadian Forces is on the right track, it needs to better understand information warfare and use information as a weapon – the targets will, sometimes, include Canadians, through our Canadian media. The CF needs to continue using information as a tool because the enemy is, and has been doing so for some time - - and it is not only the enemy whose use of information harms our troops in Afghanistan. Well intentioned but seriously misguided Canadians – like Steven Staples and his friends at the Rideau Institute and – are also trying to undermine our national efforts to give principled effect to our widely accepted “Responsibility to Protect.”

The Ruxted Group wishes to be very clear: The Rideau Institute is NOT the enemy. The Institute’s staff and supporters are honest Canadians who have a sincere point of view about what sort of country Canada should be, what sort of institutions it should have (including what sort of military), and what sorts of policies it should follow. The Ruxted Group believes that the Rideau Institute and its fellow travellers are misguided and are ‘spinning’ the media to spread their misguided views to what they hope are gullible journalists and opinion leaders. The Ruxted group is also concerned that such “spin” is knowingly or unknowingly strengthening the hands of our declared enemies -- the very people the original DRAFT counterinsurgency manual prepares our government and military to deal with.

The Rideau Institute appears to want Canada to return to some sort of baby-blue beret wearing, ‘Pearsonian’ peacekeeping. Many of the Rideau Institute's key players have made their political and literary careers within the disarmament movement. Such people would have us believe that Canada's defence and security requirements are best met by unilaterally disarming the CF and relying upon the armed might and moral suasion of the United Nations to protect us; Canada's military would be used only in a constabulary role within UN peacekeeping missions.

While the Rideau Institute may pine for such mythical halcyon days, saying that it wants to “put the UN back on Canada’s agenda,” such days no longer exist; there is no going back. It appears to believe that the NATO-managed ISAF mission in Afghanistan is something other than UN peacekeeping. They are wrong; but despite being wrong Mr. Staples is sufficiently media savvy that his misguided views are given credence by the media and passed on, uncritically, to Canadians.

The ISAF mission is the UN’s new style of peacekeeping. The UN itself recognizes that it cannot manage complex, mid-intensity operations - those requiring forces from nations with capable military forces such as Canada. That is why Security Council resolutions have repeatedly asked ISAF to conduct peace building operations in Afghanistan on the UN’s behalf. Canada’s mission in Afghanistan is UN peacekeeping – only the helmet colour has changed. To say otherwise is to spread disinformation. It (spreading disinformation) is a form of information warfare because it involves ‘spinning’ the news. Apparently The Rideau Institute feels that only it can do what it says DND cannot: ‘spin’ the news.

To be clear: The Ruxted Group, too, is trying to wage information warfare – with the objective of making Canada a better, more capable nation, and Canadians, more honestly informed, in helping the United Nations to save future generations from the scourge of war.

* Just recently established by the indefatigable Steven Staples and spun off from the familiar Polaris Institute.


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John Siebert on :

Who are you? What are your names? Why do publish anonymously as the Ruxted Group?

Mike Bobbitt on :

Hi John,

As I'm sure you have already read (, The Ruxted Group is comprised of a number of people with various backgrounds, but a common interest in Defence.

Some members prefer to remain anonymous for various reasons; for others it is not a concern. There is no membership list for The Ruxted Group, in part because this desired anonymity, but also because the individual contributors to each editorial differ based on the scope of the piece and the experience of the members involved. As a result, there is no easy way to identify "ownership" for a given editorial. It is a collaborative process that involves a number of contributors who change on a regular basis.

As a group, we rely on the strengths of our editorials to convey the message rather than the "personalities" behind them. In the end, the editorial is either well balanced and backed by fact, or it's not. We feel that the individual authors should have no bearing on the credibility of the message.

I hope that helps.

Mike Bobbitt

Anon on :

Is it the messenger of the message that is important to you John?

Having googled your name I feel fairly safe in guessing who you are, and why you would feel a need to know who we are.

Incidentally that need just reinforces the desire for anonymity of some of our members. Some are sure your intent is more nefarious than curious. I'm one of them if you haven't drawn that conclusion already.

Others will tell you the who and where and why. That is their choice, I won't... Trust is earned, not given.

But to get back to the meat of the issue I would encourage you to comment on the message, refute it if you can. Pull at any straw men you imagine and see if they come apart like grass or are made of sterner stuff.

The art of war is of vital importance to the state; a road to either safety or ruin, hence under no circumstances can it be ignored...
Sun Tzu

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