What’s really behind America’s objections to Trump’s military parade
Part of the objection, however, seems to stem from an unspoken embarrassment – that such a military display shatters American democratic pretensions, at home and around the world.
Surprisingly for a nation that repeatedly boasts about having the most powerful military force on the planet – and, indeed, ever in the whole of recorded history – there was scant enthusiasm this week for Trump’s reported proposal for a full-scale military parade to be held later this year along Washington DC’s Pennsylvania Avenue.
Planning details are still in the works for the proposed event, which is only being sketchily discussed at this time, and may not even materialize.
Trump is said to have been wowed by the military procession he attended in Paris last July on France’s annual Bastille Day. Ever since then the American president has been prodding his aides to stage a similar martial spectacle in the US.
America’s Independence Day on July 4 or Veterans Day on November 11 have been suggested as possible dates to hold the event, which would see columns of troops and weapons filing down the iconic avenue stretching from the Congressional government building on Capitol Hill and the president’s White House residence.
The New York Times reported with a tone of misgiving: “Tanks, jets and other killing machines painted olive-drab and tan could be rolling the routes of the nation’s capital later this year for a peacetime parade inspired by President Trump.”
But, it added: “Few lawmakers – if any – said they loved the idea of Mr Trump’s parade. Some shrugged it off. Others called it undemocratic. Many lamented the use of the military’s time and money.”
Politico reported: “Trump’s military parade draws bipartisan rebuke.” It said lawmakers on both sides of the aisle decried such an event as “a break with democratic traditions.”
Senior Democrat Representative Adam Smith is quoted as saying: “A military parade of this kind would also be a departure from the values of our constitutional democracy. A military parade like this – one that is unduly focused on a single person – is what authoritarian regimes do, not democracies.”
Other commentators focused their objections on what they said was such an event pandering to Trump’s notoriously outsized ego.
CNN pundit Chris Cillizza said: “Of course Trump wants a big shiny parade… Bigger is always better in Trump’s world. And might usually makes right. He with the biggest toys wins.”
A Washington Post commentary said that Trump’s penchant for pomp and grandiose ceremony makes him a sucker for “the sort of martial display these days more associated with single-party states and irredentist autocrats.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is well connected to the military establishment and often espouses hawkish militarist foreign policy, seemed uncharacteristically coy about the parade idea. He said: “I’m not looking for a Soviet-style hardware display. That’s not who we are. It’s kind of cheesy. I think it shows weakness, quite frankly.”
Politico, again, added: “Two Democratic military veterans in Congress – Reps Ruben Gallego of Arizona and Ted Lieu of California – wrote Defense Secretary James Mattis in a letter Wednesday that just because authoritarian regimes like Russia and North Korea hold massive military parades does not mean that we must as well.”
Some of the public’s opposition appeared to be genuinely based on sound practical reasons.
Military Times, a US publication, cited a survey it conducted among its readers showing that nearly 90 percent of them were against Trump’s idea. They reportedly objected because, they said, it was “a waste of money” or because “our troops are too busy” to participate in such a large-scale spectacle, one which presumably would take a lot of logistical planning and funding to organize.
Nevertheless, what seems to be concerning many among the political establishment is the overt American militarism that such an event would reveal.
Reading between the lines, the stated concerns from politicians and media commentators about maintaining the form of “constitutional democracy” and not being associated with “authoritarianism” are not, one discerns, primarily motivated by genuine constitutional democratic principles. Rather the unspoken concern is the embarrassment about what such a major military display in Washington DC would reveal – the fact that the United States is a massively militarized state.
It is true that big centralized military spectacles are rather rare in the US. Commentators noted that the last event of this kind that took place in Washington DC was nearly 27 years ago, back in the summer of 1991, when then President George Bush Sr held a “victory march” following the First Gulf War against Iraq.
Nonetheless, it can be fairly remarked that military culture is rife across the US in myriad daily and weekly events, from school assemblies saluting the national flag, to veterans marching through every small town jamboree, to fighter jet flyovers at football games.
Arguably, why the military in the US does not participate in annual showpieces in the capital is for the tacit reason of trying to maintain a public appearance of a constitutional democracy amid such rampant militarism endemic to its society. A big display of the kind that Trump is proposing is an awkward demonstration of just how militarized American society is.
The irony over the past week is that while many lawmakers and media outlets were squirming over Trump’s gaudy military plans, the US Congress just voted through a Budget Bill for an extra $160 billion spend on the military. The final military budget comes to some $700 billion and represents over half of the total annual federal spend.
Republican and Democrat lawmakers are wrangling over financial cuts to public services and welfare, nearly shutting down the government again from the impasse. But, evidently, politicians of all stripes, whether conservative or liberal, have no problem whatsoever about splurging $700 billion on military. That expenditure is said to be the highest level ever – exceeding even the heights of the Cold War.
This gargantuan year-on-year allocation of economic resources by the US – greater than the combined expenditure of the world’s next 10 biggest military powers, including Russia and China – is a stupendous testimony to the hyper-militarized state that is the US.
It is a self-evident corollary that the grotesque militarization of the American economy is its permanent waging of overseas wars and bellicose foreign policy.
No other nation comes close to the record of American war-making around the planet. Currently, US forces are bombing seven countries simultaneously, including Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Over the past quarter century since its “victory parade” in Washington DC for President Bush Sr, over a million people have been killed in American wars, and a litany of countries have been reduced to rubble or “failed states.”
The real reason why Trump’s plan for a military parade is causing such discomfit among the political class is this: they know the spectacle will only serve to illustrate starkly to the American public and the rest of the world that the United States is a rogue military regime.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.