JSOU Paper – SOF Quills for the Porcupine

SOF Quills for the Porcupine

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has failed for the most part – Kyiv still stands and Ukraine has recaptured much of the territory it had lost in the initial phases of the war. The remarkable resistance of Ukraine has surprised many national security observers, caused embarrassment to Russia, and have had many looking to apply lessons learned to a future Taiwan conflict.

In April 2022, General Richard Clarke (Ret.) – former commander of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), stated that many U.S. officials share the desire that “Taiwan, just like Ukraine has been, to be an indigestible porcupine.”

The U.S. and other nations have been reluctant to directly engage in open conflict with Russia or China. This leaves some strategic deterrence gaps – areas that special operations forces can fill. Many studies have been done on how the Ukraine conflict can provide some lessons on how to deter the People’s Republic of China from invading Taiwan. However, most of these are focused on conventional warfare and seem to omit the applicability of SOF.

This JSOU paper aims to fill that research gap by gathering lessons from SOF activities in Ukraine and applying them to Taiwan – adding quills to Taiwan’s defensive capability. The lessons gathered include the strengthening of resistance capabilities, fostering long-term alliances, and dominating the information war.


SOF Quills for the Porcupine: Applying Lessons from Ukraine to Taiwan, by Scott Simeral, Lieutenant Colonel Steven Skipper, and Lieutenant Colonel Giovanna Espegio, Joint Special Operations University Press, March 2023, PDF, 18 pages.

Image from the cover of the paper cited above. A porcupine with quills containing the Fairbairn-Sykes dagger, an international symbol for Special Operations Forces, against a backdrop of Ukraine and Taiwan flags. Claire Luke for JSOU Press.

About John Friberg 201 Articles
John Friberg is the Editor and Publisher of SOF News. He is a retired Command Chief Warrant Officer (CW5 180A) with 40 years service in the U.S. Army Special Forces with active duty and reserve components.