Military parades

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. 









The DACA Dilemma

President Trump’s move to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) has caused a backlash from supporters of the so-called “Dreamers” — those people who were brought here illegally as children. During the 2016 campaign Trump was quick to latch on to his base’s anger at what his supporters saw as an amnesty program for people who broke the law by coming into the country. He repeatedly said that he would immediately end the DACA program that he claimed had been illegally enacted by an executive order drafted by Barack Obama. Taking such a hard line helped him get elected. But once in office, he seemed to soften his position saying that he sympathized with the dreamers and they had nothing to fear. He has said that he has a love for these people and that he expects that things will turn out all right for them once Congress come up with a “responsible” immigration plan.  It’s no wonder that the individuals who are caught in the middle of this issue are confused by the mixed messages that have come out of the White House. An estimated 800,000 young people are in the crosshairs.

I’m guessing that I’m like most Americans when trying to figure out what to do about immigration. I recognize that we are a country made up of immigrants. My grandparents on my mother’s side were born in Italy. But it’s the “illegal” that stops me from supporting such things as local non-compliance with federal immigration authorities and sanctuary cities. I want the border secured. Obviously, each case is an individual matter and has to be considered as such. But by and large, I believe that if a person did not follow the lawful procedures related to entering this country, I don’t think they should be here.

That said, I don’t favor hunting down people and dragging them out of their homes and separating families. It is not only cruel but it is wasteful of manpower that could be doing more productive things. And I believe that these dreamers deserve the protection that Obama’s executive action gave them. When you look at the situation of a child who was brought to this country illegally, I can’t see a crime that could be ascribed to them.  Yes, the parents committed a crime. But the children did not. They had no choice and there was no criminal intent on their part. This is the only country that they know.

Shifting the responsibility of solving this conundrum to Congress seems the logical thing to do. It is the legislative branch of government that makes the laws, not the executive branch. The move also conveniently gives the president cover if that body cannot deliver a reasonable solution. He can deny that he was the one who was responsible for the fate of the dreamer program. While it doesn’t demonstrate a lot of  presidential leadership, it’s a politically safe strategy.  A deeply divided Congress, however, seems unlikely to come to any agreement on immigration reform in the near term and that leaves the dreamers in Limbo. And that is the real shame of it all.