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The Pentagon has confirmed that it is in the preliminary stages of planning a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue — one of President Donald Trump’s fondest desires.

Rich Lowry mug

Rich Lowry

Trump was, understandably, impressed in a visit to France last July by the pageantry of the Bastille Day parade. The parade dates back to the 1880s. Nothing the United States comes up with will match its resonance or its beloved, unifying nature.

Trump’s motivation for ordering up a parade anyway is pretty obvious. He likes big, brassy displays, and he gets a kick out of being the commander in chief of the most impressive military on the planet.

The president’s impulse itself shouldn’t be enough to roll the armor down Pennsylvania Avenue, but we don’t lack for reasons to honor our military. The Pentagon has already floated the idea of a parade on Veterans Day to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, an epic event by any standard. We’re also overdue to honor on a large scale the sacrifice of our troops over the past 15 years in the war on terror.

Trump’s critics sniff a dangerous authoritarianism afoot.

“We have a Napoleon in the making here,” pronounced Rep. Jackie Speier. Of course, coming to power in a coup, literally crowning himself emperor of France and conquering a swath of Europe tell us much more about Napoleon’s political character than any of his parades.

A columnist for the New York Daily News harrumphed that Trump “has no sense of American exceptionalism.” It’s odd to locate American exceptionalism not in the Bill of Rights or Declaration of Independence, but in the (relatively recent) absence of military parades.

It’s not obvious when it became untoward or dangerous for the United States to hold military parades. Are we supposed to believe that the integrity of American character has depended on having no military parades since 1991, when there were big honking ones in Washington and New York to celebrate the end of the Gulf War?

The unsatisfactory outcomes of the Vietnam and Korean wars meant we didn’t have parades to mark those conflicts (we should have). But it didn’t occur to anyone that it was inappropriate or undemocratic to display military hardware.

During World War II, there were big military parades in New York City, and self-propelled howitzers drove by the New York Public Library. Dwight Eisenhower’s first inaugural showcased an 85-ton atomic cannon, and the second, a Redstone ballistic missile. They broke out four nuclear missiles for JFK’s inauguration, along with an impressive battery of tanks, armored vehicles and self-propelled howitzers.

It’s true that leaders of Russia, China and North Korea exult in military parades. But it’s not military parades that make these regimes dangerous.

The parade controversy is another sign that the place of patriotism in our national life, and what that patriotism should consist of, is a Trump-era flashpoint.

Trump’s critics tend to think patriotism itself is atavistic, or that its locus should be only in our ideals. Trump’s patriotism is more grounded, and insists that we are a nation, not just an abstraction.

This is why a military parade once in a while is a healthy thing: We should be proud, not just of our troops, but of our military as such. We should be proud of our strength. We should be proud of our weaponry, highly proficient machines fashioned by the most technically adept society the world has ever known.

Ideally, everyone would realize this. Once upon a time, we did. But now the best argument against Trump’s parade is that it will become a cultural-war flashpoint and “the resistance” will try its utmost to ruin the affair. Just imagine a protester in a pussy hat in a Tiananmen Square-style standoff with an M1 Abrams tank.

Meanwhile, on July 14, the Bastille Day parade will in all likelihood come off once again without a hitch.

Syndicated columnist Rich Lowry can be reached at


(12) comments


And now Trump wants to get rid of heating assistance. Another Republican President that doesn't give a darn about the less fortunate. Get rid of Trump and then throw a parade.


I hate parades. I think they're pointless.


If Cadette Bonespur tRump wants to recognize and honor our military, he could initiate higher pay for the lower ranks, better care for veterans, implement tolerance measures for ALL who serve or served. This includes LGBT's, DACA (dreamers) serving. I realize Cadette Bonespur is still undergoing his on the job training as he must not have been informed of our Armed Forces Day that is celebrated every 3rd Saturday in May. Civilians and families are allowed to visit military bases to view certain equipment, visit with soldiers to offer thanks and support, view demonstrations of select weaponry. There are events of interest for all age groups. Our nearby Ft. McCoy has this open house every year. If Cadette Bonespur really cared about our soldiers currently serving, he would make wiser statements about North Korea and other countries in the world he makes petty, unflattering statements about. Those "$hithole" countries in Africa, Haiti, etc. The disparaging comments towards Muslims in general puts our soldiers and citizenry in danger every time he makes hateful statements towards them. My Dad served 24 years in the U.S. Army during Korea and Vietnam; I have the utmost respect for those who serve/served, also 2 nephews currently serving and other extended family & friends. Cadette Bonespur doesn't have a clue about what our Armed Forces members and their family members are about. His insults towards a Muslim Gold Star family in 2016 were beyond the pale. A parade of the size he proposes will cost million$ that we don't have. It's all about his narcissistic showboating he needs to feed his ego and to feed/provoke the troll in North Korea, nothing more.

Rick Czeczok

Really don't see a need for a parade. Who are we out to impress? What are adversaries don't know is what counts. Just thank a vet or soldier when you see them, and back them when they need our help. That's all the show that's needed.


Mr. Lowry tells us, "Trump’s patriotism is more grounded, and insists that we are a nation, not just an abstraction." This the same Mr. Lowry who for the past year has told us over and over again what a narcissistic lout Trump is, a man trying to divide voters to get his way. Now, for whatever reason (presumably the corporate and billionaire tax cuts) he is finding it convenient to defend the lout. Well, Mr. Lowry, a lout is a lout is a lout.


Interesting that draft dodger Captain Bone Spurs would want a military parade.


The money should be used to eradicate homelessness among veterans. What an American embarrassment it is to have the protectors of our freedom to be living in the streets. The parade is all about Trumps ego. Nothing else.

A Veteran

I say lets have a parade for the all the Military and police every year that left the Military or Police in the last year.No tanks or planes just a parade to honor those who chose to keep us safe.


Oddly, I find myself agreeing with A Veteran. But I think we do have these parades all over the country every year, already, particularly on Memorial Day, with retired military marching, and often, at least in larger parades in larger cities, with active military units marching, too. We should honor the military and the men and women who serve in it, but it should be honoring the people, not the hardware. Even a fly-over of military aircraft is okay, but we don't need tanks and artillery and rocketry rumbling down our avenues. Those are tools, the heroes are the people we ask to use them. Honor the heroes.


As a former soldier, here is some advice for you. Go join up. Lace up those combat boots and get that full battle rattle cleaned and wear it properly. Stand around for hours until it is time to "honor" yourself. My Lord, the list of things civilian chicken sheets don't understand about the military grows longer everyday!


every day 25 veterans take their own lives. Instead of wasting time and resources on a parade trump wants, let's focus on getting the Veterans the help they need to cope with their unique needs. Society owes them that.



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