Trump Envisions a Parade Showing Off American Military Might

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Months later, in an interview with The New York Times in the Oval Office, the president called the Bastille Day event “one of the most beautiful parades I have ever seen” and said that “we should do one day down Pennsylvania Ave.”

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“I’ve always thought of that,” he said. “I’ve thought of it long before.”

But the president’s comments on Monday suggested that he has moved beyond musing about the idea of a display of America’s military power. In lengthy comments, he said that his administration had already begun planning for the event, perhaps as early as next year.

“We’re looking forward to doing that,” Mr. Trump said, adding that he had spoken to his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, a retired Marine, and others about beginning the planning process. “We’ll see if we can do it this year. But we certainly will be beginning to do that.”

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Mr. Trump attended the Bastile Day Parade in Paris in July at the invitation of Mr. Macron.

Credit
Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

It would not be the first time modern military hardware has been wheeled down Pennsylvania Avenue. Pershing and Nike missiles were part of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural celebration, recalled Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian, though Kennedy generally disliked military parades.

But for the most part during the Cold War, Mr. Beschloss said, big displays of military might were seen as a sign of weakness because they mimicked the Soviet Union.

“If the message is: ‘I want to express how much I honor our military,’ that’s a wonderful thing,” Mr. Beschloss said. “If the idea is to mimic other countries military might, I don’t think that’s a great idea.”

If the president gets his wish this Fourth of July, it will be the first major military parade down the streets of Washington in more than 25 years. In 1991, President George Bush hosted a similar demonstration of military prowess after the end of the Persian Gulf war.

Gulf War 1991 National Victory Celebration Video by balsamwoods

Amphibious assault vehicles and at least one M1 tank were among the 80 pieces of military hardware that rumbled down the city’s main street for the Gulf War National Victory Celebration about three weeks before Independence Day that year. The cost of the parade: more than $12 million, with about $7 million coming from federal funds and the rest from private donations.

It is not clear exactly what Mr. Trump has in mind for his parade or who would pay for it.

Many countries use military parades to celebrate their might. North Korea frequently puts on displays of its military hardware, highlighting the rogue nation’s missile capabilities by driving them down the streets of Pyongyang on trailers for all to see.

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China held a huge military parade two months ago, with President Xi Jinping riding in the parade in an open-topped Jeep. In May, Russian leaders organized a large military parade through Red Square to mark Victory Day, the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

And at France’s Bastille Day celebration in July, tanks and planes marked not only the storming of the Bastille in 1789 but the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I.

“It was military might and I think a tremendous thing for France, for the spirit of France,” Mr. Trump said Monday. “We are going to have to try and top it.”


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