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Crosstalk: Is a military parade good or bad?

President Donald Trump, after witnessing a military cavalcade in Paris last Bastille Day, has instructed the Pentagon to plan a military show of American might in the nation’s capital that features active-duty service members and a wealth of tanks and other weaponry, according to reports confirmed by both the White House and the Pentagon.

The Bastile Day military parade in Paris has been held on the morning of July 14 each year in Paris since 1880, almost without exception. It is one of the oldest military parades in the world.

Trump’s proposal appears to be an attempt to project strength by showcasing the might of our armed forces and the depth and breadth of our arsenal. As reportedly proposed, the parade, in typical Trump fashion, would be the “biggest ever.”

Currently the “largest active-duty U.S. military parade in Washington D.C. award” goes to President Andrew Johnson, who with then-General Ulysses S. Grant sat in the VIP review box for the Grand Review as roughly 150,000 Union soldiers in full regalia marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in 1865, according to a historical report by Joshua Zeitz for Politico magazine.

The 1865 parade marked the return to civilian life of those soldiers who served the Union in the Civil War and was the last hurrah for the massive army President Abraham Lincoln had raised.

The 1865 review was one of three mass military parades — 1919 (WWI) and 1945 (WWII) — that marked the wind-down of wartime mobilization and the return of a majority of active troops to civilian life.

Why are military parades so rare? Aversion to brute displays of military force is well-ingrained in American history. Our founding fathers viewed “standing armies,” formed of professionals rather than volunteers, with suspicion. In the 1790s, Congress even debated whether the nation should have a standing army at all.

Americans have grown comfortable with the idea that permanent armed forces are a necessity in the modern era, and citizens have cheered the permanent “standing army” in military parades as recently as 1991, when 200,000 onlookers converged in Washington, D.C. to celebrate professional service members — following their resounding military triumph in the Gulf War.

I am all for honoring our active-duty service members and veterans, and their participation in our Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day parades are very important.

But Trump’s suggestion appears to me more along the lines of a “Red Square” parade the likes of which we see in Russia and North Korea: A sort of military “Mr. America” pageant meant to highlight who is sitting in the oval office more than the troops serving us daily in this time of war.

Conservative Rep. John Kennedy (R-La) is correct in opposing President Trump’s proposed parade: “I think confidence is silent and insecurity is loud,” he recently told reporters. “America is the most powerful country in all of human history; you don’t need to show it off.”

Many others have come out against the idea in whole or in part. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told CNN, “I don't mind having a parade honoring the service and sacrifice of our military members. I’m not looking for a Soviet-style hardware display. That's not who we are, it's kind of cheesy and I think it shows weakness, quite frankly.”

I agree, the president’s proposal does show weakness. And that weakness isn’t in our military.

Yet given that such a parade is likely to occur, what should day should such a parade be held?

Veterans Day would be an obvious choice, as would Memorial Day. All have historical meaning, but all have current, living meaning as well: They are days in on which we honor our military servicemembers.

As part of those celebrations, such a parade would have value beyond the VIP review box in Washington D.C.

— Mark Gibson

Whether or not it is a good idea for President Donald Trump to hold a military parade depends entirely upon his motivation: whether he is truly doing it to honor the men and women who serve, or is posturing to intimidate dictators in hostile nations, such as North Korea.

Trump was, understandably, impressed in a visit to France last July by the pageantry of the Bastille Day parade, which dates back more than a century.

Our president likes big, brassy displays and seems to take great pride in being the commander in chief of the world’s greatest military, so it doesn’t seem implausible that he would want to show off our might in a parade.

The Pentagon has already floated the idea of a parade on Veterans Day to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, an epic event by any standard.

I no longer listen to all the squealing from the Left because they would hate anything that Trump proposed. I am interested in learning exactly what the White House has in mind because having an American military parade is not unprecedented.

Though it’s been quite a while since a military parade was hosted in Washington, D.C, it used to be a fairly common practice. Once upon a time we were proud of our troops and our weaponry that is the most technically advanced in the world.

James Carafano, a national security and foreign policy expert at The Heritage Foundation, recently stated that there is a clear difference between a military parade thrown by the U.S. and one thrown by an authoritarian regime.

“Democracies hold parades because they are proud of their armed forces and the role they play in defending freedom,” he said. “Anyone who can’t tell the different lacks a sense of proportionality and common sense.”

Some of America’s first presidents attended parades for the Fourth of July, includes Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

America’s spectacular parades involving troops came to a halt during the Vietnam War due to the rise of anti-military attitudes.

Unlike other eras, there was no national parade to welcome American soldiers home after they fought in Vietnam (part of this nation’s shameful behavior).

The last military parade in Washington occurred in 1991 at the close of the first Gulf War in Iraq. It was hosted by President George H.W. Bush to thank returning veterans for a job well done.

Although there have been requests to host a large military parade for returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, that has not happened. It is so much easier for Americans to go with the current apathy and not even pay attention to what is happening with the families of these warriors after almost 17 years of combat.

The disgusting part of the entire discussion about Trump holding a military parade are the public plans being made by Leftists to lay down on the roadway to disrupt the proceedings.

If we do have a national military parade, the troops who are marching in it don’t need this added insult from a nation already disconnected from their sacrifices.

At that point, it does not matter what the motivation of their leader was. Just like when they were sent to war, our men and women in uniform are following the directive of their commander-in-chief and they are to be thanked and honored, not disrespected by immature and self-centered activists.

It is important that Trump not put our troops on display unless he can guarantee they will not end up abused.

While it’s true that leaders of Russia, China and North Korea exult in military parades, that is not what makes these regimes dangerous.

In America, protesters can line the streets because of the men and women in uniform marching past who protect their right to do so.

Try doing any type of a public protest in the three other countries mentioned above!

— RaeLynn Ricarte


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