To continue the Foreign Internal Defense series where Loren left off, I want to talk a bit about the concept of mirroring and why it is dangerous for Special Forces soldiers. Mirroring occurs when we imagine that foreign, friendly military units or unfriendly terrorist organizations are a mirror image of ourselves. We do this because we are locked into path dependency and have been deeply institutionalized in the military. It is also a matter of laziness. “This is like that” comparisons don’t really work.

What I mean by this is that you can’t say “Al-Qaeda has a rigid military hierarchy,” because if you look at the structure of that organization, it is much more horizontal than the U.S. military. You can’t say “China’s Ministry of State Security is the government’s main domestic and international intelligence organization performing functions similar to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation.” No, it really isn’t, and this is an intellectual shortcut. The MSS is a very different animal with a very different structure. To say that it is like the CIA or FBI gives a false impression of what it really is.

What about Iran’s Quds Force? Aren’t they Iranian Special Forces? Well, when you say that, it brings U.S. Special Forces to people’s minds, and they will immediately equate Quds Force to Green Berets. However, these units could not be more different in their approach to unconventional warfare.

I hope this begins to explain why mirroring is something that you have to be very aware of when it comes to intelligence gathering and briefing superiors who may jump to conclusions. Now, let’s talk about why mirroring is dangerous when conducting Foreign Internal Defense.