News of President Trump’s planned military parade have elicited strong responses, but the practice isn’t that foreign in the U.S.
At President Donald Trump’s request, the Pentagon is actively planning a military parade for this year in Washington, D.C.
This all began when President Trump was invited to attend France’s Bastille Day parade by French President Emmanuel Macron. The yearly parade always features French military units.
At the time, Trump was impressed by the French show of force, saying “it was a tremendous thing for France and for the spirit of France.” Since then, he has repeatedly floated the idea to advisors to hold a similar parade in the District.
In April, President Trump will host Macron for his administration’s first official State visit. In addition to a lavish State Dinner, Trump is requesting that the Pentagon also plan a military parade.
Many are accusing President Trump of trying to go tit-for-tat with the French, a not-so-veiled attempt at “mine is bigger.” Others are accusing the President of taking a play out of playbooks usually reserved for third world dictators.
The prospect of a military parade, however, is not all that foreign in the United States.
After the Civil War, both World Wars, and the First Gulf War, American military parades were hosted in the nation’s capital. They were grand celebrations of the troops and what they accomplished.
During the Cold War, however, presidents incorporated military hardware into parades as an obvious show of force to the Soviet Union. President Dwight D. Eisenhower incorporated military tanks during his inaugural parade in 1953. Since news broke of Trump’s planned parade, old archival images of tanks rolling past Eisenhower’s grandstand have been posted to social media.
— 5gentexan😜🙀 (@5gentexan) February 7, 2018
With the nuclear arms race in full swing, President John F. Kennedy included mobile missile launchers during his inaugural parade. Defense analyst Stephen Schwartz posted images of past military parades on his Twitter account.
JFK's inaugural parade on January 20, 1961, included four (!) nuclear missiles: Pershing I IRBM, Lacrosse, Nike Hercules, and Nike Zeus. pic.twitter.com/KtVMhzuSWd
— Stephen Schwartz (@AtomicAnalyst) February 12, 2017
During JFK’s inaugural celebration, the military actually paraded nuclear missiles down the streets of D.C. Considering the geo-political realities at the time, it makes sense for the incoming administration to have wanted to show off America’s nuclear might.
President Trump’s parade seems to be an attempt to combine both types of America’s historic military parades. On the one hand, he is celebrating the military’s accomplishments. Front of mind is the U.S. military’s essential victory against the Islamic State, liberating practically all of the territory that ISIS once held. Yet, at the same time, the concept of a military parade is very clearly a show of force designed to intimidate America’s enemies, namely North Korea.
The most recent military parade in D.C. was held after Desert Storm. Returning troops marched through the streets of Washington. The nation’s capital wasn’t the only city to stage a military parade. In 1991, New York also put on a military parade involving 24,000 military personnel (roughly half of the Desert Storm force) as well as four million onlookers.
More than a quarter century has passed since tanks and missile launchers last rolled through Washington. The United States hasn’t become noticeably anti-military in that time, and despite the promise of peace through mutually assured destruction, nuclear armed countries still threaten our destruction. Perhaps the world needs a front seat to a modern American military parade.
What do you think? Would you attend a military parade this spring? Tell us in the comment section below!