Thursday 22 February 2018

Trump asks for grand parade of armed forces in Washington to show US 'military strength'

US President Donald Trump and wife Melania attend the Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Trump is said to have been impressed by the French military celebrations. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump and wife Melania attend the Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Trump is said to have been impressed by the French military celebrations. Photo: Reuters
The Champs Elysees pictured on Bastille Day
French President Emmanuel Macron (L) shakes hands with US President Donald Trump, next to US First Lady Melania Trump, during the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on July 14, 2017. CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULTCHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images
Missiles are paraded across Kim Il Sung Square during a military parade in Pyongyang (Wong Maye-E/AP)

Robert Burns

Donald Trump has asked the Pentagon to plan a grand parade of armed forces in Washington to celebrate US military strength, officials said.

The Washington Post, which was first to report the plan, said the president wants an elaborate parade this year with soldiers marching and tanks rolling, but no date has been selected.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the request. She said Mr Trump wants the Pentagon to "explore a celebration" that will allow Americans to show appreciation for the military.

Pentagon spokesman Charlie Summers said officials are aware of the request and are "looking at options".

Missiles are paraded across Kim Il Sung Square during a military parade in Pyongyang
(Wong Maye-E/AP)
Missiles are paraded across Kim Il Sung Square during a military parade in Pyongyang (Wong Maye-E/AP)

The US has not traditionally embraced showy displays of raw military power, such as North Korea's parading of ballistic missiles as a claim of international prestige and influence.

US military members commonly participate in parades on July 4 and other holidays to mark appreciation and remembrance of military veterans, but these typically do not include major displays of military hardware.

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, and U.S. President Donald Trump watch the traditional Bastille Day military parade (Michel Euler/AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, and U.S. President Donald Trump watch the traditional Bastille Day military parade (Michel Euler/AP)

Although defence secretary Jim Mattis has not commented publicly on the idea of a Washington military parade, the idea is not an obvious fit with his emphasis on focusing strictly, if not exclusively, on military activities that either improve the lethality of the armed forces or enhance their preparation for combat, or both.

The Post report said a January 18 meeting between Mr Trump, Mr Mattis and senior generals at the Pentagon marked a tipping point in the president's push for a parade. It quoted an unidentified military official as saying: "The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France."

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) shakes hands with US President Donald Trump, next to US First Lady Melania Trump, during the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on July 14, 2017.
CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULTCHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images
French President Emmanuel Macron (L) shakes hands with US President Donald Trump, next to US First Lady Melania Trump, during the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on July 14, 2017. CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULTCHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images

It was thus interpreted as a presidential order, the Post said, adding that the cost of shipping tanks and other military hardware to Washington could run into millions of dollars.

The Post also reported that the Pentagon would prefer to hold a parade on Veteran's Day in November, in part because it would coincide with the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. It would thus be less directly associated with the president and politics, the Post said.

John Kirby, a retired Navy rear admiral and former spokesman for the State Department and the Pentagon, reposted on Twitter an article he wrote for CNN's website last summer after Mr Trump mentioned he had been dazzled by the Paris parade.

Mr Kirby said a big military parade in Washington is a bad idea, adding: "First of all, the United States doesn't need a parade down Pennsylvania or any other avenue to show our military strength.

The Champs Elysees pictured on Bastille Day
The Champs Elysees pictured on Bastille Day

"We do that every day in virtually every clime all over the world."

It has long been conventional wisdom that the US does not need to boast of its military strength because it already is recognised as the leader of the Nato alliance and a model of military professionalism that countries across the global seek to emulate.

Press Association

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