President Donald Trump is in France today, attending ceremonies to mark the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War.
That's a far, far better way for him to spend his time (and our tax dollars) than what originally had been penciled into his calendar for today: a military parade through Washington, D.C., that would have been completely unnecessary, ridiculously expensive, and symbolically awful.
Trump canceled the plan for such a parade in August, citing cost overruns after Pentagon officials leaked to the press that the parade was on track to cost $92 million—about three times the initial budget. That was three months before the parade was supposed to happen, and this is the Pentagon we're talking about, so there's really no way to know how large the final price tag would have been. It's true that $92 million is a drop in the bucket of federal spending—heck, it's not even 0.01 percent of the Pentagon's budget—but America is going to face trillion-dollar annual deficits over the next few years, and you can't start saving money until you stop wasting it on frivolous displays of militarism that accomplish nothing.
When Trump initially conceived of the parade—after returning from a visit to France for Bastille Day in July 2017—he pitched the idea as a show of American military force and a way to honor the men and women of the armed forces. The problem? Veterans groups, members of Congress, and top military officials said it was a bit too much militarism for their tastes. Paul Rieckhoff, the CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told Politico the idea was "overwhelmingly unpopular" among "folks from all political backgrounds."
Polls show that a vast majority of American military personnel are opposed to the idea of having such a parade. Presumably, the America they volunteered to risk their lives for isn't the type of place where this sort of thing happens.
To be clear, an American military parade should not happen at all, but scheduling it for the weekend of Veterans Day just added insult to injury. Veterans Day, of course, is celebrated in November because it was originally Armistice Day—back when we were foolish enough to believe that November of 1918 was indeed the end of all wars. The name has changed, but the purpose of the day remains the same: a somber remembrance of the horrors that war has inflicted, not as a celebration of the terrible tools used to kill, wound, and maim human beings.
Let it be said that Trump is doing the right thing today by celebrating peace, rather than indulging his fetish for America's power to make war.
He gets credit even though he ended up canceling plans to visit an American military cemetery in France because of bad weather, and even though he may have mistakenly believed he was going to see another military parade in France like the Bastille Day one that he so enjoyed, and even though he's leaving France one day before the opening of an international peace conference hosted by Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron.
He gets credit for all that because at least he's not holding a parade celebrating war on a day that should be a reminder of how awful it is.
If the president returns from France determined to have a parade anyway, it should be, as Rep. Justin Amash (R–Mich.) has suggested, a parade celebrating the men and women who have fought during the 17-plus years of American's seemingly interminable War on Terror. And it should coincide with the ending of those largely unauthorized conflicts. The last time tanks went rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue, the justification was the end of the First Gulf War. If Trump brings the troops home, he should get his parade.
In the meantime, no. Just no.