Inspired by his attendance at this year’s Bastille Day parade in Paris, President Trump has apparently decided we need a similar military parade here in Washington of the Fourth of July.
“I think we’re going to have to start looking at that ourselves,” he said yesterday while meeting French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. “So we’re actually thinking about Fourth of July, Pennsylvania Avenue, having a really great parade to show our military strength.”
Bad idea, Mr. President. Please don’t.
First of all, the United States doesn’t need a parade down Pennsylvania or any other avenue to show our military strength. We do that every day in virtually every clime all over the world.
Which nation leads the international coalition against ISIS? We do.
Who has four aircraft carriers at sea right now? We do.
What country contributes more than any other to the mission in Afghanistan and is about to increase that commitment? Yep, we do.
How many other nations have seven treaty alliances, five of them in the Asia-Pacific region? None.
And exactly what other military, anywhere, can boast more than two million volunteers in its ranks? That’s right, volunteers all.
By pretty much any measure — size, capability, reach, lethality, leadership and professionalism — there isn’t another military in human history that has ever come close. Ever. In human history.
We know it. Our allies and partners know it. And our foes, declared or not, certainly have no doubt.
Kim Jong Un doesn’t cast the struggle over his nuclear weapons program as “North Korea vs. the World.” He casts it as a conflict between North Korea and the United States. I think he does that because he knows, by dint of our military presence on the peninsula and in the region, we are the most consequential thing standing in his way. The United States is the biggest thing he has to fear.
And that’s why he likes to throw parades: to convince himself and his followers that they aren’t impotent against the threat they see from the United States, to make themselves feel good.
It’s great propaganda.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The Bastille Day parade is fantastic. I had the chance to attend last year, while in Paris with then-Secretary of State John Kerry. It is a heart-thumping, pulse-quickening patriotic display at its most ardent, no question.
But the Bastille Day parade isn’t designed only to commemorate the storming of the famous fortress on July 14th, 1789; it also commemorates the Fete de la Federation, a celebration of French national unity that was originally marked one year after that battle.
And the French have on many occasions invited foreign troops and dignitaries to participate in the parade, recognizing allied and coalition contributions to their security. This year saw more than 150 US military personnel in the parade, with American military planes flying overhead.
In other words, it’s not just about showing off French military wares. It’s about that country’s struggle for freedom and democracy, even against itself, throughout history.
In any event, I’m not French. And neither are my fellow veterans. We don’t need a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to recognize allied and coalition contributions to our own security.
As I said, our colleagues in active service right now are living it every day.
Nor do we need a parade to make us feel appreciated by the American people. I suspect most veterans want the same things every other American wants: meaningful work, an education, a home, and a chance to give their children a better life.
Just last Friday, at the end of the day, the Veterans Administration released a stark report about veteran suicide. According to their analysis, risk for suicide was 21% higher among veterans than non-veterans. Incredibly, the suicide rate for female vets was about 2.5 times greater than for American women who have not served in the military.
To your credit, Mr. President, you have advanced some important reforms for the VA. You should try tackling the suicide problem as well before spending resources on a parade.
You should also work harder with Congress to achieve something akin to budget certainty for the armed services. The Senate yesterday passed a roughly $700 million defense authorization bill for next fiscal year, but the bill failed to eliminate automatic spending cuts under the sequester mechanism that could still force unnecessarily tough choices on Pentagon leaders. And, as you well know, the military had been funded throughout most of 2017 by continuing resolutions that capped most spending at 2016 levels.
This uncertainty and fiscal instability makes it difficult for your military leaders to plan for the procurement of new weapons or the maintenance of old ones. It also makes it harder for them to ensure our troops get the necessary training they need before deployment.
Don’t throw them a parade, Mr. President. Give them a budget.
Unless, of course, the parade is really for you. The showman. The entertainer. The winner. You did tell President Macron you’d have to “try and top it,” didn’t you?
But that can’t possibly be. A parade for an audience of one.
Who’s the Rocket Man now?