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National Security & Defense

Literal Marching Orders

From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Literal Marching Orders

Are you ready for a… different kind of parade later this year in Washington?

President Trump’s vision of soldiers marching and tanks rolling down the boulevards of Washington is moving closer to reality in the Pentagon and White House, where officials say they have begun to plan a grand military parade later this year showcasing the might of America’s armed forces.

Trump has long mused publicly and privately about wanting such a parade, but a Jan. 18 meeting between Trump and top generals in the Pentagon’s tank — a room reserved for top-secret discussions — marked a tipping point, according to two officials briefed on the planning.

Surrounded by the military’s highest-ranking officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Trump’s seemingly abstract desire for a parade was suddenly heard as a presidential directive, the officials said.

Shows of military strength are not typical in the United States — and they don’t come cheap. The cost of shipping Abrams tanks and high-tech hardware to Washington could run in the millions, and military officials said it was unclear how they would pay for it.

A White House official familiar with the planning described the discussions as “brainstorming” and said nothing was settled. “Right now, there’s really no meat on the bones,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.

David French: “In the more than 16 years since 9/11 our military has 1) Toppled the Taliban. 2) Toppled Saddam. 3) Defeated the follow-on AQI insurgency. 4) Defeated the ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria. 5) Endured years of grinding deployments while fighting with honor. I’m fine with a parade.”

The politics of this are pretty sharp; by proposing the idea, Trump ensures some of his critics will instinctively publicly oppose the idea. The historically ignorant will insist it’s unprecedented – apparently 1991 is long forgotten ancient history – and some paranoid types will insist the sight of American soldiers marching down American streets is too reminiscent of a military dictatorship, even though occupying forces usually don’t wave and smile as ticker-tape runs down. (Does this country even make ticker-tape any more? I figure in 1991 they had a steady supply of long strands of dot-matrix printer paper edges with holes in them. Right now half my readership is thinking, “oh, I remember tearing those off!” and the other half is asking, “what is Jim babbling about?”) You can see the Fox News chyrons now: LIBERALS OPPOSE PARADE FOR MILITARY. Some of Trump’s more idiotic critics may very well protest the parade.

The Post article above notes that the parade could occur this November 11, to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One, and that does seem like an occasion worth marking on a grand scale – and an anniversary worth considering, as we contemplate coming years with potential conflict among great powers and the modern use of poison and gas as weapons of war.

Having said all that, I just… feel like we’ve got bigger fish to fry.

I’m sure our men and women in uniform appreciate applause and cheers, but they probably could use a raise, better benefits, and all the equipment, spare parts, and training they can get. As we speak, the House and Senate are still hammering out a deal to keep the government open and hopefully give defense spending a boost.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis was characteristically blunt: “It is not lost on me that as I testify before you this morning, we are again on the verge of a government shutdown or, at best, another damaging continuing resolution. I regret that without sustained, predictable appropriations, my presence here today wastes your time, because no strategy can survive without the funding necessary to resource it.”

Mattis said the Pentagon was seeking new investment in “space and cyber, nuclear deterrent forces, missile defense, advanced autonomous systems, artificial intelligence, and professional military education to provide our high-quality troops what they need to win.” That is not small, quick, or cheap.

All of this is occurring while the U.S. Treasury Department announced they expect to borrow close to $1 trillion this fiscal year and more than $1 trillion in the next two years. Some folks will instinctively blame the recently-passed tax cuts, but the amount of money coming in through taxes has consistently hit new records in past years, even adjusted for inflation. For example, from October to December, the U.S. government took in $769 billion, the highest in any three-month span in history. That still left the federal government with a deficit of approximately $225 billion.


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