Screenshot: Future Security Forum (YouTube)

The United States, over the years, has had many enemies. Britain. Germany (a couple times). Spain. Italy. Japan. The USSR. North Korea. Vietnam. Most of Latin America at one point or another. Iraq. Afghanistan. Iraq again. In the current world order, U.S. leadership sees China’s burgeoning economic and military power as a threat to its hegemony. Also, U.S. leadership would like to point out, isn’t it crazy that Chinese people aren’t “Caucasian?” Wild.

That was essentially the point of one of Kiron Skinner’s answers at Arizona State University’s Future Security Forum earlier this week. Skinner, a former Bush surrogate and author of multiple books about how great Ronald Reagan was, is currently director of policy planning at the State Department. Skinner was comparing the U.S.’s rivalry with China to the Cold War, and briefly slipped into a reductive, racist characterization of the Chinese.

“This is a fight with a really different civilization with a really different ideology, and the U.S. hasn’t had that before,” Skinner said.

“When we think about the Soviet Union and that competition, in a way it was a fight within the Western family. Karl Marx was a German Jew who developed a philosophy that was really within the larger body of political thought... that has some tenets within classical liberalism,” Skinner later added. “I think it’s also striking that it’s the first time that we will have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian.”

“You sound like Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations,” Skinner co-panelist Anne-Marie Slaughter interjected, referencing Samuel Huntington’s famously racist foreign policy theory. You can watch the interaction here, although the conversation is a bit meandering.

Obviously this is... demonstrably not true, and a ridiculously reductive way of viewing international politics. It’s a fallacy to even try to force world governments into some sort of “Western” or “Eastern” framing, when all of the major powers are operating under the same vast system of global capitalism and oligarchy to varying degrees of success.

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But sure, let’s keep pushing some weird-ass, racist West vs. East dialogue at the top levels of the State Department. I’m sure that’ll work out great.