'This Is A Bad Idea,' Retired Army General Says Of Trump's Call For Military Parade

Feb 7, 2018
Originally published on February 7, 2018 1:59 pm

President Trump has asked the Pentagon to look into planning a grand parade of the U.S. armed forces in Washington this year to celebrate military strength.

But retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom, says Trump’s idea is “not about the military.”

“This is about assuaging a fragile ego that we’ve got with this commander in chief,” Eaton tells Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Interview Highlights

On Trump asking the Pentagon to look into staging a military parade

“This is not about honoring the troops. This is about the president the United States. This has nothing to do with honoring the troops. Parades serve a useful purpose in the soldierization phase of developing a soldier. We do it in basic training, we do it at West Point. Once in a rare, rare moon do we do it, ’91 was the last time we did such a parade to recognize the return of our troops [from the Gulf War] with Gen. [Norman] Schwarzkopf in the lead. That’s the last time we did this. Parades are a huge cost, cost in time and cost in money, and we don’t have enough of either for the circumstances that we’re in today.”

On the criticism that military parades are something seen in totalitarian countries

“This is not the American tradition. This is a totalitarian tradition. This is something that you see in North Korea, China, former Soviet Union and today in Russia. This is not an American tradition. And in 1962 as a little kid, I was at the Bastille Day parade, and saw [French Gen.] Charles de Gaulle — it was magnificent. But it is a peculiar French tradition, and it is something that the French have done for over 100 years. So that’s the only democracy that I can think of that actually does this.”

On the notion that a parade would serve to showcase U.S. force

“Just before the [Berlin Wall] came down, we put the Soviet General Staff in a Black Hawk helicopter and flew them low and slow over tank alley at Fort Hood, Texas. We have thousands of combat vehicles along that tank alley. And if you wanna impress somebody, just do that, and they will be completely impressed. So if you want to signal how powerful you are, bring the guy you want to message, and let them see what we have in various military installations around the United States. That’s how you make a statement.”

On the timing of Trump’s request

“Whenever you do something like this parade that he’s talking about, again, a great many people will spend a great amount of time to prepare and execute this thing. So the timing is bad. It’s terrible.”

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