February 14, 2018

On Parades and Politics

Our nation has a long history of honoring its servicemembers with public pageantry

By Jerry Hendrix

Last year President Donald Trump traveled to Paris to attend the Bastille Day parade as a guest of President Macron. He was very impressed with what he saw. In January, reportedly during a visit to the Pentagon to consult with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he expressed an interest in holding a similar event in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the nation’s military. Soon word of the parade leaked out of the Pentagon’s “Tank,” the secure meeting room of Mattis and his generals. The news media, intelligentsia, and the Twitterverse all went wild. The Washington Post headline read, “Trump’s Military Parade Panned by DC Officials.” The Atlantic announced that “Military Parades Are a Waste of Time and Money” and the New York Times made the awkward assertion that “The Military Is Not a Political Prop.” Concerns abound with regard to military displays in public. 

The reactions were not all that dissimilar to those we heard around this time last year when President Trump’s choices for cabinet and senior-level positions contained more than a few retired military officers. Vox asked, “Is Trump Hiring Too Many Generals?” and the Huffington Post suggested, “Trump Is Opening the Door to Military Rule.” The Nation, never hesitant to weigh in under such stressful circumstances, declared, “Trump’s Cabinet Is a Coup Waiting to Happen.” One lawmaker claimed, “We have a Napoleon in the making.” Militarism, it seems, has suddenly arrived in the United States. Certainly, one might think, the nation has never had so many retired military officers serving in high governmental positions before. Hardly ever, apparently, has the nation paraded its military through the streets of its major cities, and the military (or even retired military officers) has no role to play in the public square, according to many commentators.

Read the full op-ed in National Review.

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