EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING

While the Centre will continue its basic research and analysis, as well as publish its findings for the use of “experts,” its principle means of education for political and military leaders will focus on the experiential learning provided by analysis, simulations and war games. According to the Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov, New Generation Warfare places the weight of effort on avoiding “overt kinetic warfare” such that “the focus of applied methods of conflict has altered in the direction of the broad use of political, economic, informational, humanitarian, and other nonmilitary measures – applied in coordination with the protest potential of the population.” As a result, Gerasimov concludes, “all this is supplemented by military means of a concealed character, including carrying out actions of informational conflict and the actions of special-operations forces. The open use of forces – often under the guise of peacekeeping and crisis regulation – is resorted to only at a certain stage, primarily for the achievement of final success in the conflict.” As a result, as explained by the Kremlin propagandist Dmitry Kieselev, “information war is now the main type of war, preparing the way for military action.” Also, being less of an escalation continuum than a “hybrid” mix of many types of aggression, the Centre’s, research, analysis, simulation and war gaming, approach provides the opportunity to unlock the tension between political and military leadership by bringing them together.

The focus on experiential learning encourages critical analysis of one’s own thinking since simulations and war games allow for an examination of situations that, like real life, don’t always follow a logical narrative because real people are not always rational actors. As observed by Admiral J. C. Wylie, “controlling the pattern of war begins with an understanding of the objectives of the strategist and his adversary from which actions and choices are made.” As has been well documented by TNO Defense, Safety & Security, which operates as a strategic partner for the Dutch Defence Ministry, “people do things that are not in their best interest hence, involve emotions, beliefs and personality.” This fact has been abundantly evidenced in the research by Matt Caffrey, who has identified the following common sense (but wrong) assumptions: “fiction and pop-culture should have minimal impact on foreign policy; policymakers are too busy to read novels, watch movies, play video games, etc.; decision makers have access to better information and/or advice than fiction; it is easy to distinguish between fact and fiction; and policymakers would never admit to using fiction.” In fact, Vladimir Putin is a perfect illustration of each of these common sense, but incorrect, assumptions.

The Centre Team has conducted senior-level simulations/war games in Washington D.C., Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Great Britain, and Romania; and during each of these events encountered some level of resistance to examining the enemy course of action that was either the most likely thing the enemy might do or the most dangerous thing the enemy might do. “Willful ignorance” is the term John G. Hines once coined to describe the determination to dismiss unpleasant possibilities. The Centre’s simulation and war gaming approach refuses to allow civilian players to avoid culpability for inaction, uniformed players responsibility for failing to capture the interplay between strategy and terrain (operational art), and both civilian and military players from the consequences of having developed force structure independent of the combat potential necessary to fight if required.