Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word "othering" as an act wherein a race or culture is made to appear as "a large, uniform mass, rather than a diverse group of individuals… treating people from another group as less human than one's own group." Historically, "othering" has served as a conditioning mechanism to dehumanize US adversaries, preparing normally empathetic men and women to act with less discrimination and greater brutality in war.
During WWII, US othering of the Japanese involved weaponizing disinformation and propagating racist stereotypes. It was considered as effective at setting the necessary psychological conditions for the controversial internment of Japanese Americans, firebombing of Tokyo, and dropping of atomic bombs on Japanese cities merely to deter the Soviet Union. Conceivably, left unmodified, a soldier's empathy for non-combatant human beings otherwise could have placed those ruthless American operations and their objectives at risk.
Othering of the Chinese people is evident in recent US news media in the form of a mix of unverified rumors, disinformation, and selective exclusion of contradictory facts. It has been reported that China-averse special interests have even paid US journalists to publish stories biased against China's policies, to include encouraging a US-China confrontation. Meanwhile, the island of Taiwan's secession champions in the US Congress have nurtured the absurd public perception that the US-emulating people aboard the island of Taiwan are "non-Chinese" in ethnic identity.
The apparent sophistication and coordination of Chinese othering are indications that some in the US are working to desensitize Americans to the certain horrors of a war with China over Taiwan. Its effects are already being witnessed in American society. Despite a presidential-level denouncement, racially motivated assaults on Chinese and Asians generally are sharply increasing. The dehumanization of our future foe is in full swing to the delight of China-averse special interests.
Some argue that a US war with China over Taiwan would be a just war, claiming the "non-Chinese" island citizenry deserves our protection, not just ideological support. Others will go further and assert that the US nuclear umbrella needs to be extended to encompass the island. They try to make the desperate case that the island of Taiwan is the last bastion of American values in Southeast Asia, and the final barricade that contains China.
The nuclear weapons theme deserves a closer look. Senior US military leaders at different times in the 20th century glibly suggested the employment of nuclear weapons to regain initiative in conventional conflicts with non-nuclear Asian nations. In addition to the island of Taiwan, these included conflicts in and with Vietnam, Korea, and China. Similarly, the employment of firebombing and nuclear weapons against a densely populated Japan was rationalized without significant opposition.
This was not so in the European theater. The firebombings of Dresden, Hamburg and elsewhere were emotionally contested even at the time of their planning, although the fanaticism and atrocious behavior of Imperial Japan was on a par with that of Nazi Germany. In fact, Winston Churchill went so far as to write: the destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing. Tokyo, Nagasaki and Hiroshima did not benefit from such a distinguished Western advocate, and evidently neither does China.
Today hawkish members of Congress, most of whom have not served their country in uniform, casually resurrect such options as it pertains to supporting the island of Taiwan's split from China. It is easy for them to talk tough on the matter as most don't know the sacrifices of Service, and perhaps because of lacking ethnic identification with Chinese and other Asian races and cultures. This thoughtless devaluation of Asian casualties to mere nuclear attrition statistics results from the same sort of American othering seen in the 20th century.
In a war, the small island of Taiwan would erupt into a battleground with an intensity unknown since the world wars. All parties have known that the island's citizenry would be devastated far beyond the value of attempting to secede from China. Since this is known by the US Congress in advance, it illuminates the reality that the Chinese aboard the island of Taiwan are expendable. The issue of the island province is not and never was about protecting its people. Instead, it is all about the US striving to maintain its hegemonic reach during a period of decline in global influence.
This difference in the US perspectives on Asian and European lives is nothing new to any overseas or indigenous Asian citizen. To contort the present American devaluation and othering into a dubious justification for violating China's internal affairs and sovereignty is futile and transparent. It also portends that a fight over the island of Taiwan will rapidly devolve into a primitive, brutal, unrestricted war that has every appearance of, and is at its core an imperial US expedition.
As an American, my priority is US national interest. Attempting to support the renegade island of Taiwan's secession is directly contrary to the US national interest as we know in advance we will lose. Even in defeat many politicians, conservative ideologues, financially incentivized journalists, and special interests such as the US defense industry would benefit, just as a similar cabal did after Vietnam. But Taiwan secession is a transparently shallow cause with no path to victory. In fact, historical precedent shows that the US will lose primarily because the American public will see through the fraudulent deadly farce, but only after the unspeakable tragedy unfolds.
In the end, China' Province of Taiwan will always mean more to the physically proximate, ethnically identical, and nationalistically fueled China of over 1.4 billion, than it will to the distant, over-extended, and above all falsely incentivized US of 350 million. The heaviest burden of the tragedy of war will fall on the young, patriotic men and women who volunteered to serve in the US military in the faith that an assigned cause is legitimate and worthy of their sacrifice. Unfortunately, a war between the US and China over the island of Taiwan would be a complete betrayal of their good faith.
The author is a retired Marine Corps infantry officer who now serves as a US civil servant in the Pentagon. Opinions are of the author and do not represent the US government. firstname.lastname@example.org