President Trump wants a military parade to top one he recently saw in France. So says this Washington Post story. “We’re going to have to try to top it,” he reportedly said.
There are several things I hoped Donald Trump would get over once he got into office, and he hasn’t really gotten over any of them. This is one of the most annoying. When you are the leader of the most powerful country in the world, you rarely need to overtly “top” anything. In my view, this is simply another manifestation of the defect that drives Trump to directly answer every little pissant that rubs him the wrong way.
Dude. You’re the President. You don’t need to acknowledge buzzing gnats.
Dude. We’re the United States. We don’t need to show our equipment off.
I am a lifelong supporter of the U.S. military. I deeply appreciate its fine men and women and the freedom they secure with their sacrifices. I further understand that they use fantastic machinery as part of that effort.
But there is a very big difference between, say, my children checking out a tank on static display at an appreciation event and that same tank rumbling through the streets of the capital to the sounds of cheers and patriotic music.
The military parade is a mainstay of crackpot dictators with ridiculously adorned “military” uniforms and fists in the air (and yes, for the record, I think it was an extremely poor choice for France too). They are, as Garry Kasparov poignantly noted, what weak leaders do to try to appear strong.
I am an unapologetic and proud American exceptionalist. As I’ve often said and written, if there’s going to be a biggest kid on the block, don’t you want to be him? And if there is one country in better position than others to propagate its values and customs, I think it ought to be the United States.
However, we must never lose sight of why we have a strong military. Part of that strong military are these weapons that would be on display in Trump’s parade. These things are fantastic, but they are also terrible. They are some of the most purpose-built machines in the world, designed to deliver death and destruction efficiently and effectively.
But do we build and possess them hoping to deliver death and destruction with them? Of course not. We build and possess them hoping that we won’t have to. We should appreciate that we have these things. But appreciation need not be celebration.
A military parade of the sort Trump envisions is not consistent with American values. I hope he realizes that before it happens.