In France last summer, Donald Trump saw a parade. Now, in true Trump fashion, he wants one of his own.
Back before he called members of Congress who refused to clap for him “treasonous,” Trump traveled to France at the request of French President Emmanuel Macron to take in the country’s annual Bastille Day military parade. There was pomp, circumstance, and of course, a bunch of big guns that go boom. Trump was thrilled, publicly talking about how much fun he had months later — but that’s not all. According to a report in the Washington Post, he’s been privately obsessing over the idea of ordering the military to throw him the same sort of parade, right here in Washington.
“The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,” the Post quotes a military official.
There’s a big difference between the Bastille Day parade and whatever it is that Trump wants for himself — namely, tradition.
The Bastille Day parade dates back to 1880 and has a rich tradition. While it is heavily intertwined with the country’s military, it’s not in itself intended as a display of toughness or signal of warning to other countries. At the United Nations General Assembly in September, however, Trump spoke about how the parade was such a great show of “military might,” pledging to top it. In other words, he completely missed the point.
In fairness to Trump, there’s actually a really long history of world leaders obsessed with demonstrating “military might” by way of parade — and they’re not exactly as chill as Macron.
Check out a few highlights below.
Hitler and Stalin were both big fans of military parades.
Saddam Hussein considered himself a bit of a parade connoisseur as well.
And be sure to remember Lebanon, Belarus, Nicaragua, Romania, and finally, “little rocket man” himself, Kim Jong Un in North Korea.
If these types of parades all seem like a huge waste of time, energy, and money in a purportedly democratic nation like ours, that’s because they are.
Throwing parades to demonstrate “military might” seems to be a common thread among insecure male world leaders desperate to prove the size of their “gun” is bigger than their rival’s. The last time the U.S. held a military parade of any sort was in 1991 when soldiers returned home to declare victory following the Gulf War. The cost that time around, according to The New York Times, was about $12 million, with $7 million paid with federal funds.
There’s little doubt Trump’s proposed parade would be even more expensive.
Another concern people are already bringing up is the effect that rolling a bunch of 70-ton tanks down Pennsylvania Avenue might have on the roads themselves. The Washington Post suggests that Trump will try to frame this as a show of appreciation for our military, but when you consider that his rationale for trying to ban transgender troops from joining the military was the “tremendous medical costs” and realize that the cost of this parade (assuming it runs on roughly the same budget as the 1991 edition) would exceed even the top-end estimates of what trans people actually cost the military or that he once brushed off criticism over a fallen soldier by saying “he knew what he signed up for,” it becomes clear this isn’t about showing support for troops at all. It’s about throwing himself a big proto-authoritarian party.
No, Trump’s occasionally authoritarian musings don’t make him equivalent with any of the countries or leaders in the list above, but it’s becoming inarguable to suggest that he doesn’t share a bit of their autocratic flair.
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