JOSEPH CANNING | email@example.com
It is a leaden November day; the washed-out sun glints off the helmets of thousands of gathered soldiers who march shoulder-to-shoulder in synchronized blocks down a wide road. Crowds look on. Behind the soldiers there are columns of tanks, artillery, missiles, cars, and behind them, more soldiers. Above it all, fighter jets are screaming and belching fire. Now, imagine those troops are Americans. Imagine that street is Pennsylvania Avenue.
That image may very well materialize in the coming months—United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis confirmed on Wednesday, Feb. 7 during a White House press briefing that deliberation was underway at the Pentagon for the first American military parade since the Cold War. In fact, five different versions of the parade are under consideration. One version suggests timing the parade with the First World War’s centennial.
The request for such a parade came directly from U.S. President Donald Trump. The Washington Post reported that his words to defense staff were: “I want a parade like the one in France.” The President was referring to the Bastille Day parade held in Paris each July.
But the prospect of a display of American military might is worrying given the current political climate. Tensions between Russia and the United States bear upsetting resemblance to the Cold War. On the same day Mattis spoke to the press, Russian mercenaries attacked U.S. troops and their Syrian allies openly. Russia later reported that American bombers had engaged Russian troops. Conflicts between nations guised as support for foreign allies, so-called proxy wars, were once a common occurrence between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The current war in Syria certainly fits that description.
Infamous for his sophomoric and provocative language online, Trump repeatedly goaded North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un last September by referring to him has “Little Rocket Man” and threatening that the dictatorship wouldn’t “be around much longer!” Those comments were in response to that country’s developing nuclear program and militaristic aggression.
Trump’s infatuation with atomic roulette puts millions of lives at risk. So does this military parade; it answers aggression with more aggression, and only makes the U.S. look weaker for it. Historically, America has hearkened to the sensible advice of Theodore Roosevelt: “speak softly and carry a big stick.” A capricious show of force now would suggest to the world that America’s stick is perhaps not as big as it used to be.
Such a military parade would also be contradictory to the values and national spirit that American soldiers and veterans have fought to protect; many veterans have already voiced their concerns. The U.S. may have been forged in an armed struggle, but it never carried the same military legacy as countries like France or Russia that still hold military parades. Both of those countries hold annual parades to commemorate pivotal wars in their nations’ histories. Trump’s motivations for his parade remain unspoken.
In addition to being disrespectful, provoking, and baffling, the parade would surely be expensive. A military source told NPR costs might be as high as $50 million, while the Washington Post quoted a more conservative figure of $10 to $30 million. Regardless, unjustifiable expenses and popular outcry seem sure to rain out Trump’s parade in time.