Since America became an international power, every generation has had its bogeymen. These have not just been enemies we confronted on the battlefield. In virtually every case such a foe or potential foe existed, we sought not just to stand up to them in geopolitical or military terms, but to vilify them. We have time and time again waged wars not just on nations but nationalities.
We need to understand this because we are in the process of doing it again—this time as part of emerging rivalry and deeply complex relationship with the People’s Republic of China.
The consequences have been profound both at home and abroad. America has had a powerful impulse to wage war not just on the air or land and sea, but via the airwaves, in churches and classrooms and newspapers. Virtually all of our major conflict and rivalries have been accompanied by culture wars. Racism, ugly stereotypes, dehumanization, and othering have been used to build political will to support defense expenditures, dangerous overseas adventures, wars of choice and wars we could not and should not have avoided.