You’ve got to hand it to Donald Trump: he can wind people up like just about no one else. Last week, the Washington Post reported that Trump had asked the Pentagon to begin plans for a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to imitate the French military parade that celebrates Bastille Day each year. Liberals–and others–howled with outrage at the prospect.
untoward or dangerous for the U.S. to hold military parades[?] Are we supposed to believe that the integrity of American character has depended on having no military parades since 1991, when there were big honking ones in Washington and New York to celebrate the end of the Gulf War?
A bit of history may be in order here. It became untoward and dangerous at the founding of the Republic. As I wrote previously, drawing on the work of Arthur Ekirch Jr,
In 1783, Revolutionary War veteran Aedanus Burke warned, “military commanders acquiring fame … are generally in their hearts aristocrats, and enemies to the popular equality of a republic.” John Randolph saw no serious threats to the Republic and accordingly denounced the Army as “loungers, who live upon the public, who consume the fruits of their honest industry, under the pretext of protecting them from a foreign yoke.” Randolph sneered at the idea that a country of virtuous and self-sufficient republicans would be forced to seek “the protection of a handful of ragamuffins.” Benjamin Rush suggested placing signs above the entrance to the Department of War reading “An office for butchering the human species” and “A Widow and Orphan making office.”
So Lowry might want to ask his question again.
Further, I always thought conservatives disdained participation trophies, and the modern tendency to celebrate not achievement but mere effort among our children. But Lowry thinks we should give participation trophies to the military:
The unsatisfactory outcomes of the Vietnam and Korean Wars meant we didn’t have parades to mark those conflicts (we should have).
This is infantilism and military-worship, plain and simple. And it is a view at odds with the military itself: a Military Times poll revealed that 89 percent of their 51,000 respondents oppose Trump’s parade. To glimpse what I suspect is a consensus of clear-thinking among military personnel on the subject of a parade, look at the /Army Reddit thread on the matter, where this was a representative take that bears quoting at length:
Imagine the amount of time spent cleaning, painting, transporting and maintaining all the equipment for the parade. The hours and hours of pass & review practice. The time spent polishing and shining all the bits. The inspections. The re-inspections. The re-re-inspections. Everyone putting equipment on trains to get to DC, cramming into busses, sleeping on cots in some gymnasium while waiting for the trains to arrive.
Then you unload, clean the equipment again, re-polish everything, get inspected, inspected again, practice more and then, finally, it’s time for the parade.
It’s hot, everything is a total cluster-f**k at the initial point of the parade route, you march, you get to the rally point and now you have to move all this sh*t back to base…
Oh yeah, you got to do this all on a holiday weekend you’d normally have off and one day after the parade, the news cycle will move on and no one will remember it.
So to recap: there’s no indication that the American military deserves, wants, or needs a parade, and it would be expensive and pointless. So why have one? In Lowry’s words,
Trump’s motivation for ordering up a parade anyway is pretty obvious. He likes big, brassy displays, and he gets a kick out of being the commander in chief of the most impressive military on the planet.
This is an argument, it is just not a good argument or a conservative argument. It is the argument of an apparatchik.
What the military needs isn’t a parade, it’s better leadership, from both civilians and uniformed officers. Instead, what it gets is more war, more often. One exchange featured Trump pushing back after asking why he needed to send more troops Afghanistan and expand the undeclared war against terrorist groups in North Africa:
“You guys want me to send troops everywhere,” Trump said, according to officials in the Situation Room meeting. “What’s the justification?”
“Sir, we’re doing it to prevent a bomb from going off in Times Square,” [Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis replied.
If someone wanted to do something to benefit the American military, he should find a way to keep people who make silly arguments like Mattis’ away from the president.