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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Lil’ Donnie Wants a Big Ol’ Military Parade

Posted by on Wed, Feb 7, 2018 at 9:17 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.

Last month, Donald Trump—who has, as of yet, not done anything of substance military—ordered the Pentagon to start making plans for a military parade in Washington, D.C., which will cost millions and, as best I can tell, serve no earthly purpose except making the president of the United States feel powerful. [WaPo]
  • “Surrounded by the military’s highest-ranking officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Trump’s seemingly abstract desire for a parade was suddenly heard as a presidential directive, the officials said. ‘The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,’ said a military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the planning discussions are supposed to remain confidential. ‘This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.’”
  • “Shows of military strength are not typical in the United States—and they don’t come cheap. The cost of shipping Abrams tanks and high-tech hardware to Washington could run in the millions, and military officials said it was unclear how they would pay for it.”
  • “With a few exceptions—such as President George H.W. Bush’s 1991 parade down Constitution Avenue celebrating victory in the Persian Gulf War—presidents have avoided displays of military hardware that are more associated in the American mind with the Soviet Union’s Red Square celebrations or, more recently, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s efforts to show off his Taepodong missiles.”
  • Here’s White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s explanation for the president’s demand: “President Trump is incredibly supportive of America’s great service members who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe. He has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation.” Another White House official “rejected the suggestion that some associate a military parade with strongmen, saying it would be a ‘celebration of the men and women who give us freedom. That’s the opposite of a totalitarian government,’ the official said.”
  • Here’s what really happened: “The inspiration for Trump’s push is last year’s Bastille Day celebration in Paris, which the president attended as a guest of French President Emmanuel Macron. Trump was awestruck by the tableau of uniformed French troops marching down Avenue des Champs-Elysees with military tanks, armored vehicles, gun trucks and carriers—complete with fighter jets flying over the Arc de Triomphe and painting the sky with streaks of blue, white and red smoke for the colors of the French flag. Aboard Air Force One en route home from Paris in July, aides said Trump told them that he was dazzled by the French display and that he wanted one at home.”
  • The military wants to do this on Veterans Day, which will coincide with the hundredth anniversary of the end of WWI, to give this thing the veneer of not being a political affair cooked up by a flagging president.

WHAT IT MEANS: There are lots of considerations here, from the practical (tanks would chew up D.C. streets) to the political (military officials have been complaining about readiness, and here we’re going to pull troops and equipment off the line) to the geopolitical (North Korea may not respond well to a show of strength). But Trump wants his parade, because Emmanuel Macron had one in France. In other words: the president is jealous.

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