MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Vladimir Putin restored the Soviet Union tradition of putting on an annual military parade to showcase the country's ability to wage war to the world. It used to be that the annual hours-long show of military wares and troops was a way of intimidating the West during the Cold War. CNN reported on the 2017 event in Red Square:
Russian President Vladimir Putin showed off ballistic missiles, armored tanks and new aircraft systems at a World War II commemorative parade in Moscow on Tuesday.
More than 10,000 troops marched in formation through Red Square to mark Victory Day, an annual event to celebrate the Soviet Union's triumph over Nazi Germany in a series of battles that ended on May 9, 1945....
Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles were among more than 100 pieces of military equipment rolled through the square.
Now, the Washington Post reports, Donald Trump wants to institute a similar parade to demonstrate US military might, to be held on Pennsylvania Avenue sometime this year. The idea is apparently under active discussion between the Pentagon and White House, and Trump is reportedly set on holding it in the next few months. The specific date has reportedly not been set yet.
Trump claims that his inspiration was a special military review he attended on Bastille Day (July 14) last year in France as a guest of French President Emmanuel Macron. Nonetheless, it is hard to think that a president with authoritarian tendencies is not also thinking of promoting US militarization. After all, the US has at least 800 military bases abroad in at least 80 nations. A White House military parade would be a bellicose assertion of US empire. It is consistent with Trump's tendency toward grandiose military statements, such as when he tweeted that he had a bigger nuclear launch button than Kim Jong-un.
Combined with Trump's other authoritarian actions, the idea of a national military parade is another indicator of the president's efforts to consolidate power. The Guardian notes this in criticism of his intentions:
But not for the first time in Trump’s short political career, such a display is likely to prove divisive. On Tuesday retired general Paul Eaton, senior adviser to VoteVets, a progressive political action committee for military veterans, said: “Donald Trump has continually shown himself to have authoritarian tendencies, and this is just another worrisome example.”
In the past, Eaton noted, Trump has praised the tactics of autocrats such as Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Putin. He added: “Unfortunately, we do not have a commander in chief right now as much as have a wannabe banana republic strongman.”
Richard Painter, former White House ethics lawyer for George W Bush, tweeted: “Cool. Just like in North Korea and Russia. But what do we do about those traitors who don’t clap during our Dear Leader’s speech?” – a reference to Trump’s criticism of Democrats who did not applaud during his state of the union address.
Painter's comment about Trump slandering Democrats who didn't applaud him during his State of the Union address brings to mind Trump's hypocrisy. After all, his militaristic jingoism smacks of insincerity, since he avoided service in the Vietnam War due to alleged bone spurs. It's reminiscent of George W. Bush avoiding combat duty in Vietnam by serving a controversial stint in the Texas Air National Guard (amidst allegations that he received preferential treatment in receiving one of the few National Guard slots). However, Trump didn't serve in the military at all during the bloody Vietnam conflict. When it comes to military experience, all Trump has is an empty hat.
The president may be a nationalist, but he's clearly committed to the United States playing the role of the military police of the world. In fact, he proposed an additional $54 billion be allotted to the Pentagon budget for the 2018 fiscal year beyond what Congress had allocated. US militarism and bellicosity is on the rise, particularly given the nation's involvement in "low-intensity conflicts." According to an article in the balance:
The US military budget is $824.6 billion. That's the budget for Fiscal Year 2018 which covers the period October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2018. Military spending is the second largest federal government expenditure after Social Security at $1 trillion. US military spending is larger than the next nine countries combined.
Trump incessantly praises the troops: It is part of building up a hyper-nationalism that is based both on assumption of protecting "the homeland" and projecting power. It also is, however, meant to build a personal loyalty to him as commander-in-chief.
This forthcoming White House military parade of weapons and troops reinforces the reality that Trumpism is its own form of authoritarianism, which incorporates elements of creeping fascism.
In the State of the Union address, the Governing website notes, "the president seemed to call for abolishing civil service protections for federal employees." That is one of the many small pieces of the Trump strongman puzzle that, when assembled, provide a startling rebuke of democracy. A national military parade presided over by a jingoistic commander-in-chief moves us further in that direction.