The media is ablaze with commentary about President Trump’s desire to have a military parade in Washington D.C. Unsurprisingly, lawmakers and pundits alike are aghast at the idea of tanks and other imperial weaponry strolling down the streets of the nation’s capital.
But in the era of Donald Trump and the much longer epoch of American militarism and exceptionalism, the proposed parade should be one of the least surprising developments of the president’s reign.
Since World War II, the United States has perpetually ramped up its military power and escapades. America has between 800 and 1,000 military bases around the world and has been actively bombing seven countries since the Obama administration effectively made war cool again.
Now Trump is setting record numbers regarding the number of bombs the military is dropping, as well as the number of civilians dying in the carnage. All of this is being done without any official declaration of war. The constitution be damned, and besides, most lawmakers keep voting to fund the military, anyway. The Pentagon expects to spend $45 billion just on the Afghanistan war this year.
This pervasive war-making is not new — the Gulf War, Kosovo, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Korea. The U.S. has long demonstrated its affinity for militarism rife based on lies and rife with war crimes, but now that this jingoism may actually show its face on U.S. streets — at the whim of a president that half the country loathes, all with widespread media attention — now it matters?
“Dear Donald Trump: You know what would be more useful than asking the Pentagon to waste money on a big military parade? Basically anything,” said Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California, who recently voted in favor of continuing to fund the massive budget allocated to the military — the same military that loses track of overpriced weapons and hundreds of millions of dollars at a time.
Suddenly these lawmakers care, even as Congress moves to boost defense spending yet again.
But Americans, who have been funding this war-mongering all along, are also questioning the military parade. While this is a good thing, it apparently represents a much bigger threat to them than the widespread militarism that has been plaguing their streets for literally decades.
When black Americans took to the streets to protest systemic injustice, police brutality, and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the National Guard was there to forcibly stop them. When college students protested the Vietnam War — a perfect example of America’s military grandiosity and hubris — the National Guard was there, and they opened fire on the crowd, killing four students and wounding nine more. The National Guard is still called in to quell rowdy protests, from Ferguson to Baltimore.
On that note, the infamous police response to demonstrations in Ferguson raised questions about another major example of America’s military empire coming home to roost: the militarization of American police forces. The 1033 program, which allows police departments to obtain military-grade weapons from the Pentagon, has seen grenade launchers, bayonets, assault rifles, and armored vehicles end up in the hands of local police forces, effectively normalizing militarism in the streets of America.
The program, which Obama partially ended late in his presidency following outrage over the police response in Ferguson, was reenacted last year with an executive order from President Trump. It purports to be an effort to combat terrorism but was originally launched to bolster the U.S. government’s war on drugs, yet another source of mounting militarism in America.
SWAT raids, which are pervasive throughout the United States, are often used to enforce drug laws, further desensitizing Americans to the severity and authoritarianism of military tactics being used in their backyards. Unsurprisingly, SWAT was developed largely in response to African-American protests in Los Angeles over police relations with the community.
Militarism has long been woven into the fabric of American society.
Though lawmakers and concerned citizens alike can justifiably balk at the prospect of Trump becoming ‘Napoleonic‘ or wasting money on the pomp and circumstance of military worship, the far more damning truth is that this is only a natural progression of a decades-long fetish for American militarism, which, from the looks of the current climate in the United States, does not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.