WASHINGTON — The White House pushed ahead Wednesday with plans to throw a grand military parade through the streets of Washington, brushing aside criticism that such a display could be an unnecessary show of raw military power.
In a briefing to reporters, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the parade plan reflects Trump’s respect for the armed forces.
“We all know the president of the United States’ affection for the military,” Mattis said. He said the Pentagon has been “putting together some options” for the parade to send to the White House.
The Washington Post, which was first to report the plan Tuesday, said Trump wants an elaborate parade this year with soldiers marching and tanks rolling, but no date has been selected.
Massive military parades of the kind that are common in authoritarian countries like China and North Korea are not quintessentially American. The U.S. traditionally has not embraced such showy displays of military might, such as North Korea’s parading of ballistic missiles as a claim of international prestige and influence.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN that such a parade risks being “kind of cheesy and a sign of weakness” if it’s all about showing off military hardware.
“My hope is this parade will not focus on military hardware, but on military service, sacrifice, and saying ‘Thank You” to those who protect our nation,” Graham said on Twitter.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said a parade would be a “fantastic waste of money.” But White House legislative director Marc Short shot back on MSNBC: “I’m not sure honoring the military is a waste of money.”
Short said it was too early to know how much the parade would cost.
It has long been conventional wisdom that the U.S. does not need to boast of its military strength because it already is recognized as the leader of the NATO alliance and a model of military professionalism that countries across the globe seek to emulate.
Last September, at a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump announced his idea of staging a grand parade of the armed forces in Washington on July 4.
Trump reminisced about watching France’s Bastille Day military parade when he visited Paris in July. He said the two-hour parade was a “tremendous thing for France and for the spirit of France,” and said he wanted one on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington that would be grander than the one he saw in Paris.