04 July 2018

The Independence Day and the missing military parade

Niculae Iancu

Launching the US president Donald Trump’s intention, in the public space, at the beginning of this year, to organize a major military parade to celebrate the US Independence Day raised some controversies that divided the politic class, as much as the military associations in reserves and the veterans, that actually represent a really important community among the Americans.

Image source: Mediafax

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The critics of this initiative took advantage of the occasion to accuse Trump’s regime of militarism and totalitarianism tendencies, meanwhile those who support this initiative highlighted the opportunity to celebrate the military career and the sacrifices of those who gave their life for the country, taking in consideration the low attractiveness that this career has nowadays, after the long conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.


But still, the military parade did not happen anymore on Fourth of July, as they previously said. Probably the event will take place in 11th of November, 2018, on Veterans Day. We still have to see how the causes and the consequences of the debates regarding the organization concept of such an event, that has this major relevance for the security and defence policy of the United States, will reflect on the decisions on long and medium term of the actual Washington administration, being already known the impact of these decisions related to the global order and security.  

A lot of critics came from the non-sympathizers of the US president Donald Trump when he was announcing the organization of such an event in Washington for the Independence Day, motivated by the admiration he had for the military parade of France National’s Day that he participated at as a special guest, in July 2017, in Paris. The contests covered all the traditional politics debates areas in the American capital, from ideology to moral, or from electoral promises to the capitalist pragmatism of the new administration. The accusations that president Trump received got from labeling any kind of festive intention of the American defence capacity as an expression of the military profile of an administration that is about to collapse into totalitarianism, to using the expression “petit-fascist” for a president already known as being to influenced by those who support the right of everyone owning a gun.


Moreover, as The Washington Post said in February, the public announcement of intending to organize a military parade on 4th of July was speculated by the president Trump’s enemies to remind that even though he never “wore the military uniform” he did not hesitate to “fill his administration with generals so that he can benefit from this image”. Also, they highlighted the cost of such an event, considering that there are projects that are really urgent for the Pentagon, including those related to financing the veterans.

On the other hand, the majority of the observers treated the subject very carefully and responsible, first watching its potential of coagulating, than to disunite the American society. They considered that the military parade is a major event, created to celebrate the sacrifices of the nation and to promote its principles and fundamental values. In a democracy, all over the world, the most important thing is that the main actors be everything, but not politicians. The attention must be on military Americans, in activity or in reserve, veterans and heroes whose sacrifices, either physical or spiritual, made possible the existence and the continuity of the identity of the nation they are serving. And the proper moment to organize such an event is Independence Day.

Regarding the military corps, although already were some voices of some ex high rang commanders that treated the idea of organizing a military parade quite shy, some of those who wear and wore the military uniform seemed to be open to a debate on this subject. First of them, among others being the admiral James Stavridis, ex supreme commander of the allied forces in Europe, claimed the lack of opportunity by saying “no one is doubting the military power or the professionalism of the American military forces”, the only possible result being “looking fool in front of the allies and the enemies” of the United States. The others, from the majority, remarked that it should not be neglected the positive effects of celebrating the right of the military institutions and refunding the feeling of pride of the veterans and their families, related to the difficulty to attract new recruits to the military service.


The importance of the benefits for the American citizen can be understood regarding the number related to the military, human and material effort of the United States to assure the global security. According to the informations that the Business Insider gave, that are citing the informations the Pentagon offered, on August 2017, the American military forces had in service over 1, 3 million militaries, from which more than 450 thousands were outside the country. The majority participate at military exercises and different types of training and preparing, as much as military operations in the sensitive areas of the world. Among these, it is mentioned the presence of almost 11 thousands militaries in Afghanistan, in the operation called “Resolute Support”, and between 4 and 6 thousands in the operation “Inherent Resolve” from Iraq. Also, around 750 militaries from the special-forces and the infantrymen participate in the operation “Inherent Resolve” from Syria, from a total of 2 thousand of military men located in this country, in April 2018, according to USA Today. In Europe, only from the US army are permanently dislocated 29 unities and big unities are participating now at the operation “Atlantic Resolve”, according to the informations that are available on the US Army Europe site. Moreover, in 2016, there were registered almost 18, 5 million veterans at a national level, according to Statista portal. 


The numbers need no words. The military capacity of the biggest power in the world are really impressive. The financial support assumed by the United States for supporting the global security architecture is huge. That’s why for the American administration the direct connection between the militaries and the civil people is very important, and its significance includes the festive presence of the militaries in the middle of the local community. Also, each of the important dates for the military institution, like the Independence Day, Heroes Day or Veterans Day, but also the celebration of each community, represents permanent opportunities for the presence in official event of the militaries. Not less, the military parade can be seen and actually are really appreciated in sports and artistic events in all America.

But, president Trump’s demand refers to a different type of parade. A parade that has to involve “the highest military levels of responsibility”, according to a military source, cited by The Washington Post. A parade that should take place on Pennsylvania Avenue, historical boulevard, from the heart of the United States capital, that links the White House to the American Congress, and where a lot of marches, manifestations, and parades happened in the history.


Unlike Europe or other territories of the world, such events are not usual in the United States. Actually, according to Smithsonian.com, the last big military parade was organized by the George W. Bush administration, at the end of the First Gulf War, to celebrate the victory against the Iranian forces in Kuwait.  

The celebration took place on 8th of June, in 1991, when 8 thousands militaries walked on Constitution Avenue among tanks and Patriot rackets, being accompanied by fight planes and being applauded by around 200 thousand participants. According to the official dates, the audience did not reach its estimated number of over 1 million participants, but the fireworks during the night attracted over 800 thousands people, all costing around 12 million dollars. The Washington Post noted that the parade from 1991 was actually the biggest of such type, at the end of the Second World War, although the United States participated also in the Korea and Vietnam wars and also in the wars from Afghanistan and Iraq.  But still, a military parade cannot be made is there is no victory of concrete closing of military commitments, as Smithsonian.com says. The same source mentions that the military parades were organized in Washington for the instauration of John. F. Kennedy in 1961 and Dwight Eisenhower in 1953, but also on Fifth Avenue in New York to celebrate the Army Day, in 1962, during the Second World War. We have to notice that there was no military parade organized in 1976, for the celebration of 200 years of independence of the United States, during the Gerald Ford administration, probably because of the effects that existed on the American society due to the Vietnam War.


In the first decades of the United States history, there were organized military parades on 4th of July, during the mandatories of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Martin Van Buren and James Polk.  Also, American history men say that maybe the most impressive military parade in the history of the United States was “The Grand View of the Armies”, held on 23 and 24 of May, in 1865, to celebrate the declaration of the president Andrew Johnson regarding the end of the Civil War.

From the point of view of the historical context, the organization of a military parade by Trump’s administration looks at least atypical. This is where the big debate comes from, that covered all the American societies’ classes, from the political class to the university one. Michael Beschloss, one of the history men of the United States presidential administration, mention in The New York Times that Trump’s intention is a “great thing” if the message he tries to communicate is” I want to show how much respect I have for our military men”, but if the purpose is to imitate other countries, then “this cannot definitely be a good idea”. As a general idea, professor Beschloss reminded that during the Cold War the theme of the big official manifestations seemed “weak”, with the possibility of making the United States collapse into a celebration that reminds of the soviets. There is no way the communists’ parades, in which the geometry and the trigonometry of the coalition plays an important role, to be liked by the Americans. The obsession of putting the mechanism of military movements in limited spaces, defined really well, is seen as an expression of the totalitarianism regimes. Such celebration does not bring a smile or joy on the participants’ faces, but creates an Orwellian space of tension and fear against the military uniform, as Ishaan Tharoor, a The Washington Post correspondent from the extreme Orient declared, in his analysis in 2009, regarding the military parades.

The meeting point between the two visions, apparently in opposition, regarding the consequences of the organization of a military parade in Washington, related to a positive way of thinking oriented through solutions, seems to be situated in a scenario event “not tanks, but planes” type.  Moreover the military parade did not take place on 4th of July, as previously announced, but it will take place on 11th of November, on Veterans Day, according to a memorandum that the Pentagon gave to The New York Times. The parade’s route will be between the White House and the Capitol, and it will be included in the large context of the parade organized on Veteran’s Day each year. The memorandum also mentions that the parade will be concentrated on the “theme regarding the contribution of the veterans during the history of the United States, from the American Revolution and the War from 1812 to the present, and will highlight the price that the American militaries paid for freedom”. Also, the parade will “point out the evolution that the women had in the American army, from their incorporation in separated unities as during the Second World War to including them in mixed unities today”.  The military parade will end with a “heavy aerial component, which would include period planes. The estimated costs are between 10 and 30 million dollars, being at a “medium level” as tanks and other heavy equipment are missing  because it would have “affected majorly the infrastructure” of the American capital.


This is how, this time, the budget limitations represents the buoy to solve a problem with strong ideological, political and emotional connotations, on the background of profound debates coming from the society with the biggest liberal democracy of the world today, through avoiding including the significance of tanks in an event that has the purpose to celebrate the freedom, the emancipation of the human being, and not the mercantilism of the military forces.