U.S. President Donald Trump once again has a great idea: He wants an annual military parade through Washington. But no one else.
Will there be more? If it’s up to Trump, absolutely Photo: reuters
Since U.S. President Donald Trump was allowed to watch the great military parade on Bastille Day in Paris last year, he also wants one in Washington. "We must be able to top that," he is reported to have said. What initially sounded like the envious "What he’s got, I want too!" familiar from every sandbox in the world has since become a presidential order to top U.S. military brass: Organize a big parade, find an occasion, any occasion.
Since then, the Washington Post reports, planning has been underway as to where and when such a parade might take place in the U.S. capital. Trump probably wanted Memorial Day on May 28 or Independence Day on the 4th. July – the military prefer Veterans Day on November 11.
What the whole thing is really about, however, no one currently understands apart from Trump himself – who, incidentally, would like the parade to pass by the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. For indeed, as firmly as the military and support for fighting troops are ingrained in U.S. patriotism, there is no tradition of large military parades unless the U.S. had won a war.
The last one took place in 1991, when then-President George W. Bush celebrated victory in the Gulf War by liberating Kuwait from Iraqi troops.
More regularly than the U.S., residents of West Berlin used to be able to see U.S. troops and tanks parading down the street – on Allied Forces Day, they rattled down the Strabe des 17. Juni along with British and French troops. A Cold War show of force in the frontline city, counter-demonstrations were banned. Does Trump want to go there again?
Gigantic waste of money
Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who confirmed the Washington Post report when asked, said, "President Trump is giving incredible support to America’s great soldiers who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe. He has directed the Department of Defense to design a celebration where all Americans can show their gratitude."
Critics, and at the moment that’s most of those who are speaking out publicly, think it’s unnecessary. "I don’t think there’s a lack of love and respect for our armed forces in the United States," historian Douglas Brinkley tells The Washington Post, but "what are they doing? Stand still while Donald Trump waves at them? This smacks of something you’d see in totalitarian countries."
Democratic congressmen have already spoken out, castigating the idea as a gigantic waste of money. "Trump is acting more like a dictator than a president," Congressman Jim McGovern railed on Twitter. And even in military circles, the idea doesn’t seem to be going over very well. Former Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling told CNN, "I don’t know many soldiers who like parades. The military will do whatever the commander in chief orders – but it’s not a good idea for us."
Meanwhile, military officials are pondering how to get all the war materiel to Washington in the first place, how to pay for this expensive operation, and what gaps it might tear. Currently, the U.S. is bombing targets in at least seven different countries and has troops stationed around the world.
If you parade in Washington, at least on that day you can’t do any mischief abroad – but that’s exactly what military officials see as a serious problem if Trump seriously wants a giant parade that exceeds at least the French military display, but possibly also the Soviet ones of yesteryear and the North Korean ones of today. But a president who already fantasizes about record turnouts at his inauguration and first State of the Union address that aren’t even true won’t want it any smaller.