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Raining on Trump's Military Parade

We must find a way to rekindle the antimilitarist spirit that hysteria about imagined enemies has extinguished.

Erik McGregor / Pacific Press/NewscomErik McGregor / Pacific Press/NewscomOf course Donald Trump wants a military parade. I'd be surprised if he didn't. It's just what an insecure narcissist would want. A parade would be the national equivalent of his strutting around like a peacock, dying to turn heads. Even a politician can see that: "I think confidence is silent and insecurity is loud," Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy said. "America is the most powerful country in all of human history; you don't need to show it off."

But harbor no doubts: Trump's parade will be the biggest, best, and most-watched military parade in history—guaranteed. And I don't mean just American history.

Let's not forget that Trump declared himself the most "militaristic" candidate in the large Republican primary field. That was no small boast, considering that field included Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. Trump couldn't express his awe of the military, the marvelously murderous weaponry, and the valiant veterans often or heartily enough. Nothing animated him more.

Trump may have teased the voters with intimations of military retrenchment and nonintervention (like his two predecessors), but some of us knew he was not to be taken seriously. It was a pose, pure and simple. His opponents were parroting the establishment war-party line (with the occasional exception from Rand Paul), so Trump had to break from the pack. Every president had been an idiot, he said, getting us into all those stupid wars (each of which he favored before the fact) and spending all that money, which could have been spent here in America. He didn't mean it. He's a bullshitter—is there anyone left who does not know that?

You want evidence? Look at his first year in office.

He's hiked (with Congress's enthusiastic help) the military—not "defense"—budget by an amount that exceeds Russia's entire military budget: $81 billion versus $70 billion. He's blurred the line between civilian and military by putting generals in key civilian positions. He's shown an eerie fondness for tactical as well as strategic nuclear weapons. He has put troops—under NATO's banner!—on Russia's border. (Some Putin puppet he turned out to be.) He's arming the government of Ukraine. His formal national-security strategy targets Russia and China. He has provoked Iran and North Korea.

He's doubled down everywhere his two immediate predecessors became embroiled militarily, including Syria, where his imperial stormtroopers are not welcome by the government of Syria. ISIS may be kaput, but Trump's people say we'll be hanging around to get rid of President Assad. So much for Trump's repeated condemnation of regime change and his paeans to national sovereignty before the UN. They mean bupkis. What a conman he is. How did any libertarian fall for the guy?

So about that parade: I don't know how the public will receive it. Of course the Trumpsters will love it, but so might many others who have zero stomach for the abominable one. The safest thing to do in America today is to express reverence for the military and thank the troops for their "service." But what they do is no service to regular people—it's downright dangerous actually—though it's important service to the custodians of the empire, Trump included.

Oddly, demanding the troops be taken out of harm's way is more often than not branded unsupportive and even disloyal.

At any rate, the sight of costumed—forgive me—uniformed men and women in serried ranks, accompanied by missiles, tanks, and artillery, proceeding down Pennsylvania Avenue would likely send chills down the spine of many an American.

But perhaps things are not as bleak as I suspected. Politico reports that "members of Congress from both parties joined retired military leaders and veterans in heaping scorn Wednesday on President Donald Trump's push to parade soldiers and weaponry down the streets of the nation's capital — calling it a waste of money that would break with democratic traditions."

Politico also quoted Paul Rieckhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which the publication calls "the largest group of post-Sept. 11 veterans", saying: "This is definitely not a popular idea [with his members]. It's overwhelmingly unpopular. Folks from all political backgrounds don't think it is a good use of resources." Rieckhoff expressed concern with "anything that politicizes the military."

Will that deter Trump, the self-proclaimed champion (but cynical user) of veterans? Not bloody likely. Politico adds, "[Defense Secretary James] Mattis told a White House news briefing that preparations for a celebration are underway."

Here's the thing: a military parade that's not even linked to the end of a war strikes me as deeply un-American. I say this despite my revisionist view of American history, for as the classical-liberal historian Arthur A. Ekirch Jr. wrote in The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition (1956), "The tradition of antimilitarism has been an important factor in the shaping of some two hundred years of American history. This tradition, with its emphasis upon civilian against military authority, is accepted as an essential element of American freedom and democracy. Though involved in numerous wars, the United States has avoided becoming a militaristic nation [remember, this was written in 1956.], and the American people, though hardly pacifists, have been staunch opponents of militarism." Ekirch is supported by the fact that the last three presidential winners called for a more "humble" (to use George W. Bush's word) foreign policy, although they did not deliver.

After the Revolution the standing army was an object of popular suspicion, and it engendered opposition in Confederation Congress. When the Society of Cincinnati was organized to honor the revolution's officers, the opposition was swift and widespread. "Almost at once," Ekirch wrote, "the Society was criticized as an attempt to establish the former Revolutionary officers as a hereditary aristocracy, and the volume of protest soon reached impressive proportions." Some Americans feared its members were planning a coup, and the immensely popular George Washington had to distance himself from the Society.

Unfortunately, the Constitution of 1789 did not forbid a standing army, and one was assembled. (Reluctance to be in the militia led some men to support a professional army.)

"Three members of the Convention who refused to sign the final draft of the Constitution, Edmund Randolph, George Mason, and Elbridge Gerry, gave as one of their reasons its failure to set any limitation on a standing army…. The lack of more specific limitations, such as might be included in a bill of rights, plus the failure to prohibit a standing army in time of peace, were viewed as the two chief defects of the Constitution from the antimilitarist point of view," Ekirch wrote.

James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, authors of The Federalist Papers, sought to allay fears that the Constitution would empower a menacing military establishment, Ekirch noted. But "after the Constitution was adopted, its staunchest supporters readily forgot the interpretation of the document that they had offered in the heat of the struggle for ratification. While the proponents of a strong centralized government lost no time in presenting to Congress their plans for a regular military establishment, the anti-Federalist opponents of the Constitution united to prevent the creation of a standing army." The militarists did not get everything they wanted, but they got enough, and things grew from there with only occasional setbacks.

Meanwhile, generations of hysteria about imagined enemies, not to mention the pro-military propaganda in the government's schools, the cinema, and the news media, extinguished the antimilitarist spirit that Ekirch documented. We must find a way to rekindle it.

Some people have proposed that Trump's parade be postponed until all the wars the U.S. government is waging are finished and the troops are back home. That would indeed be an indefinite postponement, and I wouldn't want to see a parade even then. But if that's the price for ending those imperial wars, I'll take it.

This piece was originally published by The Libertarian Institute.

Photo Credit: Erik McGregor / Pacific Press/Newscom

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  • hpearce||

    "It's just what an insecure narcissist would want."

    Sheldon need to cool the name-calling.
    He sounds more and more like a social liberal - maybe how he wants to sound.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    You would prefer he sound more like a half-educated, belligerent wingnut than a libertarian?

    Why?

  • hpearce||

    I would prefer he not talking his superior attitude where everyone but him is a fascist pig

    He's gone so-fare left over recent years, I barely consider the guy a libertraian

  • Tony||

    Because Trump is clearly a stable genius.

  • CE||

    You know who else wanted the military to parade by so he could salute them?

  • SQRLSY One||

    POTUS Trump wants pomp (Trump-pomp?) & ceremony to Honor Hisself... It is NOT about "honoring the troops!"

    As a former "troop", I can assure you, just read this question, and ye will know the answer...

    "Hey, trooper! We would like to honor you! Would you rather...

    A) Get dressed up and then march around, in the heat or cold?, Or...

    B) Take the day off, and here's a 6-pack?

    ("B" is a lot cheaper, to boot!)

  • SQRLSY One||

    Yeah man I like it!!!!

  • WoodChipperBob||

    As a retired troop, my answer would be...

    D) come home from the waste of time and money in Afghanistan, have a parade to celebrate that, and then take a couple days off and here's a 6-pack.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    But what they do is no service to regular people—it's downright dangerous actually—though it's important service to the custodians of the empire, Trump included.

    Oh, my.

  • The_Hoser||

    If the author were any more of a douche, he'd have a nozzle coming out of his neck.

  • cja||

    Have we reached a point where we can no longer discuss policy?

    Why must e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g start off with a partisan hackery?

  • JoeBlow123||

    Yes. The answer is yes.

    About half this article was like a Facebook rant. I forgot what the subject was about half way in.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "We must find a way to rekindle the antimilitarist spirit that hysteria about imagined enemies has extinguished."

    Even more important, we should find a way to extinguish imagined hysterias.

    This isn't a parade that's actually happened. We still don't know if this parade will actually happen.

    Sheldon Richman is running around in circles in this piece screaming like a chicken little about something that hasn't happened, may never happen, and wouldn't change anything about anything even if it did happen.

    There are medical terms for people who can't distinguish between their own fears and reality. Maybe he should get a check up.

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    Reinstate the draft.

    We done here?

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    He has put troops—under NATO's banner!—on Russia's border. (Some Putin puppet he turned out to be.)

    That's exactly what he wants you to think. Never forget that Russia hacked the election to install Drumpf. #TrumpRussia doesn't magically go away because of some minor military maneuvering.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Wouldn't a parade of bigots, wife-beaters, and Neo-Nazis be more appropriate for our Draft Dodger in Chief?

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    Shut up, Weigel.

  • What's that smell?||

    Was he at Oxford too?!?

  • Tony||

    Clinton whataboutism might work better if Clinton weren't 10,000 times the president Trump is.

  • Don't look at me.||

    Citation needed.

  • mpercy||

    Probably not, seeing as how she couldn't even manage to win the election.

  • mpercy||

    And don't go on about the "popular vote" as there's no such thing.

    The campaigns and elections were based on the rules of the Electoral College. Everyone planned their strategy for campaigning based on garnering EC votes. Voters in locked-in states made their Election Day decisions to perhaps stay home knowing their candidate had basically already won (or lost) their state.

    Based on the final score of a football game played under the current rules you can't say who'd have won if 2 points were also awarded based on each first down gained, because team strategies would change based on the different rules in effect at the time of the game. If fouls in a basketball game resulted in 2 points being deducted from your team score rather than allowing the other team the chance to shoot 1+1 or 2 free throws, think the game would be played differently?

    If we had different rules for elections, then the result may have been different and the campaigns may have been different.

    It is true that when aggregating the votes across all states, that they had pluralities. But that's like saying Clinton had 658 yards of total offense (she had 68.5M votes) and Trump had 629 yards of total offense (62.9M votes), and saying she should have won. But the fact is, that despite moving the ball up and down the field somewhat better than Trump, she turned the ball over 5 times (lost 5 state that Obama carried twice) and failed to score points when it counted.

  • mpercy||

    And while we're presumably "what-if"-ing...

    Electoral College magic trick...let's pretend that a few years ago California passed legislation that allows the governor to simply appoint the state's electors. Perfectly Constitutional. In this case, there is no popular vote for President in California in 2016.

    We can assume Jerry Brown would have appointed 55 Democrats for Sec. Clinton. Which is to say, she still gets all 55 of California's EC votes but without a single "popular vote" having been cast for her in the state.

    The EC remains results remain unchanged, Trump still carries the EC 304-227, but the "popular vote" swings to Trump by about 1M. Without popular votes from California, Sec. Clinton would have 8.7M fewer popular votes and Mr. Trump would have 4.4M fewer popular votes. So the final tally would be Clinton with 57M and Trump with 58.5.

    I notice that Democrats have no problems with Sec. Clinton winning 3/5ths of the California vote but getting all the 55 of the state's electoral votes...the will of the people only goes so far, I suppose.

  • mpercy||

    It is true that Sec. Clinton received more popular votes than Trump. But not a majority (as many have claimed), at 65.8M to 62.5M with about 6M "other".

    And again, so what? EC votes are all that count, in the rules of the game. Which she knew going in. She lost 5 states that Obama carried twice.

    If this were a football game, an analogous case might be: Clinton had 658 yards of total offense while Trump had 625 yards, but Clinton lost by 4 touchdowns after having 5 turnovers. She simply failed to do the things necessary to score.

    The rookie Trump strategically and tactically outplayed the veteran--her, the career master politician and, according to Pres. Obama "the most qualified person to ever run for the office"?!

    And he is perhaps the most vilified person (and not without cause) ever to run for the office and before the election Mr. Obama had campaigned more for Democrat Hillary Clinton than any modern sitting president had for his party's nominee.

    And she still couldn't muster the win?

    She had 33 more yards of total offense, so she can take some comfort in that, a "morale victory" (yes, morale). But she lost on the scoreboard, the only thing that matters.

  • Tony||

    I was referring to Bill.

  • vek||

    ZING!

    Is even Tony beginning to bag on Hildog more? We can only hope!

  • Ecoli||

    Obama's staff is busy.

  • Aloysious||

    ..."members of Congress from both parties joined retired military leaders and veterans in heaping scorn Wednesday on President Donald Trump's push to parade soldiers and weaponry down the streets of the nation's capital — calling it a waste of money that would break with democratic traditions."

    Now they start to care? Or, to put it differently, a parade makes them care? Despite agreeing with these people, whoever they are, I doubt their sincerity.

  • Wonsil||

    I heard that President Trump is reconsidering the Military Parade after realizing that last year he kicked out the group that best knows how to do a parade.

  • chemjeff||

    All together now:

    Imagine If Obama Had Asked For A Military Parade...

    The screams about "Nigerian Nero" would be deafening.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    A parade to show off US military might is so libertarian, isn't it? And bringing back trillion dollar deficits too. And $200 billion budget increases.

    Yes, this is the libertarian moment.

    And the TEAM RED! idiots here think I am crazy for wanting political gridlock.

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    Shut up, Weigel.

  • Murray Rothtard||

    Lol. You only want gridlock when team red is in charge. The test of the time you want progress. I hate both teams,and you are squarely in one. Don't pretend otherwise.

  • WoodChipperBob||

    To be fair, I don't think he's pretending otherwise. He's just trying to slam people to his right by using libertarianism as a big stick to hit them with, since this is a libertarian site and therefore such arguments might carry some weight. But such arguments carry more weight when wielded by someone who actually believe them.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    You're full of shit. I advocated for gridlock on this site during the Dubya, Obama and Dotard years.

  • Deflator Mouse||

    Are you still claiming not to be a leftist and putting forth this "poor persecuted Obama" shit?

    If you're serious with the thought experiment, most conservatives would be shocked at Obama displaying anything but contempt for the military, and think maybe he wasn't such a bad guy after all.

  • Tony||

    Conservatives have no principles. That was demonstrated quite plainly in November 2016. Obama could have given a tax cut to fetuses and conservatives would have become pro-abortion. They are dumbfucks and they suck and they are ruining our country.

  • Don't look at me.||

    Good, good! Let the hate flow through you..

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Conservatives have no principles. That was demonstrated quite plainly in November 2016

    Or liberals who suddenly forgot we were still fighting in two theaters in January 2009-January 2017.

  • Tony||

    Not this one. Do you know that we are still doing that and ramping up the civilian deaths per Trump stated policy?

  • vek||

    Correction: Elected conservative politicians have no principles... Plenty of rank and file do. Not all, but many.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Imagine If Obama Had Asked For A Military Parade..

    Why would he want to show off something that he despised?

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Is there nobody here with enough self-awareness to understand that Trump proposed a military parade just so that the right people would publicly freak out about it? And for no other reason?

    Things were getting a bit slow, he was worried his enemies might have calmed down enough to think rationally and become dangerous, so he gave them something to go crazy over. He does this on a regular basis, haven't you noticed?

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Go back to Bratfart.

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    Shut up, Weigel.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Go get fucked by an African machete.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    No, Drumpf really is a fascist, and a military parade is something he'll probably make happen because militaristic nationalism is one of the defining characteristics of fascism.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Probably the simplest test to determine whether or not your country's leader is a genuine fascist: Are you afraid of the consequences of saying so publicly?

    If the answer to that is "No", your country's leader isn't a fascist.

  • Delius||

    No, that's the test for a successful fascist. Luckily for this country, Trump is too incompetent to make it stick.

  • Delius||

    Trump has made it clear, though, that he would like to make people afraid to criticize him, e.g. his treason "joke" about the Dems' refusal to applaud at the SOTU address.

  • Don't look at me.||

    It wasn't his joke.

  • Pat001||

    Fascists don't tweet. A fascist would be arresting reporters, shutting down newspapers, censoring films, nationalizing television networks, arresting protesters and executing/torturing political opponents.

    Trump has done none of those things except in your dreams.

  • Delius||

    Trump is not playing N-dimensional chess. Unless N=0, of course.

  • Deflator Mouse||

    Pushing your opponents' obvious buttons is not 3 dimensional chess. Even five year olds are masters at it. Especially with an entity with as many buttons as the left and its media.

  • Pat001||

    What's the difference between a gun and a SJW? A gun has only one trigger...

  • vek||

    The freak out fest may well be part of it on purpose. I really do think with at least some of these things, he's intentionally being outlandish to make the lefties come out of the woodwork and act crazy, knowing that most right leaners and centrists will just get more and more turned off. Even a lot of left leaners I know have said they think most of the SJW stuff is batshit crazy. So it seems to be working on a lot of people at least!

  • Delius||

    Some Putin puppet he turned out to be

    Putin doesn't care about Russia any more than Trump cares about America. Being Putin's puppet means furthering Putin's interests, not Russia's. The money-laundering service Trump has been running for the last couple of decades is a start.

  • Sevo||

    "The money-laundering service Trump has been running for the last couple of decades is a start."

    OK, brand new case of TDS.
    You lost, loser. Grow up and get over it.

  • mtrueman||

    "He's doubled down everywhere his two immediate predecessors became embroiled militarily, "

    Simply not true. Trump is appeasing communist sentiment on the Korean peninsula by putting off military exercises that Bush Jr and Obama throughout their terms thought should go forth. The 'sunshine' policy of ex South Korean president Kim Daejung was ended because Bush wanted it ended, no matter what Korean communists wanted. Trump seems happy to follow their lead, this time around, even after North Koreans called America's bluff by their provocative July 4th tests.

  • CGN||

    The writer is absolutely full of shit. I am old enough to remember regular military parades, and they encouraged the nation that any enemies we had were not up to invading us. Given the fact that there was a Nike missile base close enough to my house as a kid that I could ride my bike there, what the writer of this silly argument says is just that, silly. If you have Trump, go ahead and hate him, but if he says 2+2=4, don't prate that he's wrong, it equals 93.

  • Tony||

    North Korea does the greatest military parades. Primo goose-stepping. Does that mean they could kick our ass?

  • Res ipsa loquitur||

    Your ass, yes.

  • mpercy||

    So what happens when the Washington DC 4th of July parade happens, like it does every year. Regiments from all the various services are included. Lots of flags. Does that not count?

  • mtrueman||

    "Does that not count?"

    Any ICBMs strapped to trucks? Then no, it doesn't count.

  • crufus||

    It would be nice if the parade was the worst way that Trump ever misuses the military.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    The funny thing is that it's going to be a colossal pain in the ass for the people having to participate, because most of them likely haven't marched since tech school/AIT, with some refresher instruction during NCO school.

    The whole thing is a massive waste of time and money, more than anything else.

  • mtrueman||

    There are plenty of out of work actors. Money spent on out of work actors has always worked for me. Better looking than the average GI, too.

  • Mike da tiger||

    Partly just want to see the parade just to witness the lefty meltdown. The last time I saw a military parade was after desert storm. What exactly would this parade celebrate, the sinking of a Somali pirate motorboat?

  • vek||

    Just to show how slanted all of these are, EVERY article except one I have read specifically leaves out that he wants to do this on a patriotic holiday, liiike Veterans Day for instance... Which just so happens to be the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI. Not unreasonable to have a little pomp for the military on such a day.

    But if they said that it wouldn't make him sound like an insane dictator wannabe, so they can't possibly mention that right???

    Such transparent bullshit. I have no problem railing Trump for things he deserves, but to distort the facts to make him look worse than he is is total bullshit. There's plenty of legit material to crucify him over, you don't need to lie just to validate your own irrational hatred!

  • TGoodchild||

    Irrational Hatred was Michael Hihn's stage name during college.

  • vek||

    LOL

    Sounds about right!

  • eyeroller||

    We must find a way to rekindle the antimilitarist spirit that hysteria about imagined enemies has extinguished.

    Did Americans used to have an antimilitarist spirit? I don't remember that.

    I wish they did, but I don't think they did.

  • eyeroller||

    Oh, I guess he's talking about 230 years ago.

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