Durham County

A Trump military parade would be worth the cost, Duke professor says

President Donald Trump’s proposed national military parade would be a great opportunity for the public to connect with U.S. armed forces and might even inspire more young people to serve, says a Duke University Law School professor and former deputy judge advocate general of the Air Force.

In Duke’s “Lawfire” blog, retired Maj. Gen. Charles J. Dunlap Jr. noted that millions of Americans routinely turn out for parades for sports teams, but that it’s been more than 26 years since the U.S. had a national military parade.

Trump has directed the Pentagon to explore the possibility of a military “celebration,” the White House said Tuesday. The Washington Post reported that Trump said he wants “a parade like the one in France,” referring to that nation’s Bastille Day events.

Critics have said a parade, presumably to be held in Washington, would be an inconvenience to those who live and work in the nation’s capital, would be perceived by many as chest-thumping by Trump and the nation as a whole, and would waste money that could be better used for the military itself.

While the Pentagon has not yet offered any details, Dunlap said a national parade would be a major undertaking, but worthwhile.

“Would it cost millions? Probably,” he wrote. “Will there be counter-demonstrations? Sure. Is there a risk of terrorist attacks? Of course. Should we do it? Yes, and here’s why.”

Dunlap went on to cite research about Americans’ connections to and familiarity with their armed forces, including the fact that fewer than one half of one percent of the population will ever serve on active duty, and that with each generation, fewer young people are physically qualified to serve or are even interested in doing so.

But Dunlap also noted research that says young people are more interested in working “for a purpose, not a paycheck,” and that military service provides that opportunity.

“The fanfare of a national parade in a key media market will at least give some of the citizenry who might not otherwise be exposed to the armed forces something of an opportunity to see part of their military, as well as some of the wonderful men and women who serve in it. And, yes, there should be some hardware – the public needs to see the reality of weapons of war – but it shouldn’t be overdone,” Dunlap wrote.

“A major public event like this taking place right here in the U.S. could give Americans a more unfiltered view of their military than the glimpses of overseas combat they see on television. Even for those who will never serve, this very tangible experience might help to remind them that: a) we are still at war; and b) there are real people who are going in harms’ way to defend them. Ideally, this event could be a catalyst for much-needed dialogue about who should serve, and what the nation should be asking them to do.”

Dunlap said most Americans would appreciate the opportunity to show their gratitude – which Dunlap says they owe – to the military for its efforts in wars since 9/11. Their doing so would help service members feel less isolated, he said.

Dunlap cautioned, however, that, “President Trump (or, for that matter, anyone else) needs to restrain himself and not try to exploit this event for his own political gain … or the effort will not achieve its intended purpose.”

Martha Quillin: 919-829-8989, @MarthaQuillin