Why does not the United States hold large military parades and what message would it send to the world if Donald Trump organizes one in Washington?

Why does not the United States hold large military parades and what message would it send to the world if Donald Trump organizes one in Washington?


An unusual image of tanks sweeping the streets of central Washington raised by Donald Trump sparked intense debate on Wednesday in the United States.

Supporters and detractors argued about this idea of the US president, who asked the Pentagon to organize a large military parade in the capital .

The newspaper The Washington Post, which was the first to give news later confirmed the White House reported that Trump made the request after being impressed by the parade on Bastille Day during his visit to France last year.

However, the initiative was harshly criticized by members of the Democratic Party, who believe that it would involve an absurd expenditure of money and that it would project a wrong symbol to the rest of the world.

Also the Republican William Cohen, Secretary of Defense of the United States. In the last term of George W. Bush, between 1997 and 2001, he told the BBC that Trump’s proposal is “unnecessary” and considered there are better ways to honor the military.

The Secretary of Defense of the United States, Jim Mattis
Copyright of the EPA image
Image caption The US Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, confirmed the intention of Donald Trump to organize a large military parade in the country.

Because right now?

Large-scale military parades are seen by many as a legacy of past times or the Cold War, but the truth is that they are still common in several places.

Those of North Korea, organized to the millimeter, are probably the best known. They are also common in Russia or China.

Military parade in North Korea
Copyright of the REUTERS image
Image caption The military parades of North Korea are some of the most famous and spectacular.

Countries such as Australia or Spain include military exhibitions as part of the celebration of their national days. In the United Kingdom, they are organized on the occasion of the Queen’s birthday.

The truth is that military exhibitions also exist in the United States, where they are used to periodically commemorate great military efforts made in the past as in the case of Memorial Day in honor of soldiers killed in combat at the end of May.

However, the large-scale parades like the one that President Trump is now planning are quite unusual in the country and his organization was historically reduced to moments when great wars ended.

The last one, for example, was held in 1991. Then, President George Bush decided to celebrate the end of the Gulf War with a big event in Washington.

The current situation, however, does not seem to have anything to do with these scenarios. And this is what has aroused some of the harshest criticisms of the initiative.

Military parade in the USA  in 1991.
Copyright of the AFP image
Image caption The last time the United States held a grand military parade was in 1991, after the Gulf War.

“The goal of these great parades in the United States has always been, almost without exception, to commemorate and thank the efforts of the troops after a war that has just ended,” the executive director of the Institute of International History told BBC Mundo. from Boston University, Cathal Nolan.

“But we are not in those circumstances, there are significant wars and conflicts in many places, it is not a time when the country has to celebrate a victory,” hesaid.

“I must say that this call to hold a parade is coming out of nowhere.”

What is the OBJETIVE?

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the Pentagon was outlining a series of potential plans for the parade that would be sent to the White House for approval.

In statements to the press, Mattis said that Trump’s goal with this project is to “show his affection and respect for the military.”

Parade of the Bastille Day in FranceCopyright of theAFPimage
Image caption “It was one of the biggest parades I’ve ever seen,” Trump said of the Bastille Day parade he saw in France last year.

But Professor Nolan, an expert in military history, considers that the celebration of these great parades in the world usually has two clear objectives.

“We see it in countries that try to intimidate others by showing their military strength, or trying to impress their own national population in the face of any attempt at rebellion in the country,” he said.

For the senior advisor of the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Mark Cancian, the goal of Trump’s plan is to show the world – and especially its enemies – the strength of the US military.

And if, as Mattis said, the idea is to show his support for the military, Cancian thinks that “of course a parade is not the best way”.

Professor Nolan agrees that trying to publicly support the army through “a parade in which the president will be on stage as the most outstanding person and adopting a victory role” is not appropriate.

“He is someone who has not visited many US troops in major conflicts abroad, after a year in office, he has not been to Iraq, he has not been to Afghanistan … and that is really shameful,” he criticized.

How will they react abroad?

Another big question is how this Trump initiative could be interpreted abroad, especially among countries not allied with the United States, such as North Korea, which will celebrate its grand parade on Thursday.

“I do not know what weapons would be included in the parade, but if for example there were ballistic missiles and I were North Korean, I would see it clearly as a threat ,” Nolan said.

Military parade in North Korea
Copyright of the REUTERS image
Image caption A US military parade could be seen as “a threat” to North Korea, which often shows its missiles in its displays.

Anyway, discards that the exhibition could become a decisive factor in the escalation of tensions between the two countries.

“He’s getting so much attention because it would be the first of his style, but it’s just a parade,” said Cancian.

However, Nolan believes that some countries critical of Washington would confirm his view that the United States is “a militarized society and empire.”

On the other hand, he believes that the allies may feel “disappointed” at the idea that the United States is diverting attention to other issues while not solving the real problems.

Is it a justifiable expense?

Another criticism of Trump’s idea is the high cost of organizing such an event and transferring all military equipment to Washington.

The one of 1991 needed a budget of up to US $ 10 million.

Parade of Veterans Day in New York
Copyright of the REUTERS image
Image caption Although the United States hosts other military parades such as the Veterans Day each year in New York, they are not as large as Trump’s proposal in Washington.

Retired military said Wednesday that the money would be preferable to invest in improving the conditions of retired veterans.

Cancian, who was a military man in the past and witnessed that last parade after the Gulf War, considers that organizing one now would attract a large number of people who “also want to see where part of their taxes goes” intended for military expenditure.

In his opinion, in fact, the biggest investment is the time and previous work of the troops that would participate in a one-day event.

“It’s a waste of energy and attention for the troops, who have more important things to do,” Nolan said.

The mayoralty of Washington already showed its absolute disagreement with the idea of hosting this parade , even if the federal government runs with all the cats.

“Unfortunately, the giant tank parade is canceled, permanently, ” he posted on Twitter.

However, the municipal authorities of the city have little power to oppose the event if, finally, the Pentagon and the federal forces decide to carry it out.

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.


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