President Trump has floated the idea that we should have a giant military parade, perhaps in Washington, D.C. or maybe New York, to show the world our military might. Thousands of troops marching, planes flying overhead, tanks and missiles passing a review stand. I think it is a bad idea.
We’ve seen a lot of film footage of soldiers on parade in other countries. It’s designed as a show of national might, usually staged to make a statement that the country is not one to be messed with. It’s also often a vehicle to prop up some ruling military dictatorship and keep the citizens in line. Moscow, Tehran, Pyongyang, and Beijing seem to be good places for this sort of thing nowadays. In earlier times, Berlin and Tokyo used to be the focus point for displays of military might, geared to impress the world. We all know how that ended.
Washington and New York aren’t not the kinds of places to showcase the troops. True, there were marches of troops military hardware after some of our wars. The one in 1865 that celebrated the end of the Civil War was a day and a half long. Crowds cheered as soldiers marched in American cities after World War II. That was a proper time and place. And in the two examples I’ve given, the troops were actually marching to be de-mobilized after victorious campaigns. They weren’t threatening anyone. Rather they were ready and eager to be civilians again.
President Trump’s call for a show of militarism by way of huge army, navy, and air force parades is not only wrong-headed but unnecessary. Most countries, probably all, know of our military prowess. There is no need to make an overt show of it with goose-stepping soldiers and missiles. At our best, we have shown that we are a people who resort to military solutions only when provoked to the point where all other options have been exhausted. We can show that conversely, when we resort to a military solution without letting all of the efforts play out, things do not turn out well.
When I was in the military, I remember liking marching. During boot camp, our drill instructor used to put us on the grinder to march for hours when we screwed something up. I actually enjoyed the measured cadence — boots all hitting the ground at the same time. It was no punishment to me. Perhaps Trump has a thing about the military and parades might would satisfy some of this need. I’d prefer though to see him marching himself down Pennsylvania Avenue, perhaps holding the hand of his youngest son, who like his father and his older brothers, will never put on a uniform and be called to march in a military parade.