What else could Trump's $18 million military parade buy?

What else could Trump's $18 million military parade buy?
Comment: Any counter-protest to Trump's military parade must directly and peacefully interfere with the event, writes Nick Morley.
5 min read
08 Feb, 2018
'We're going to have to try to top it' said Trump at France's Bastille Day[Getty]
Empty history

In 1991, the United States hosted its last military parade, to celebrate victory in the First Gulf War against the Iraqi forces invading Kuwait under Saddam Hussein. This cost American taxpayers approximately $10 million.

In 2017, President Donald Trump happened to swing by Paris, France, for the Bastille Day celebrations that marked 100 years since American involvement in World War One.

Trump, illiterate buffoon that he is, interpreted the parade as a show of French wealth and strength, the same sort of ostentatious and tacky grandiosity he likes to sully with his brand name.

"We're going to have to try to top it," Trump said at the time. Now, he's ordered his generals to plan a military parade down Pennsylvania Ave in Washington, DC.

No victory, no history, no acknowledgement of past or present, just a parade for the bloviating reality TV that once was America's international relations.

An embarrassment of alternatives

With inflation in mind, the Gulf War parade in '91 would cost roughly $18 million today. Let's assume, however optimistically, that the Trumpstravaganza will carry a similar price tag.

Now, in lieu of America's president getting a Pentagon-sponsored, taxpayer-footed, televised ego boost, what could we buy instead? $18 million could:

- Buy more than 13 billion litres of fresh water for anyone in the world.

- Make 11 million hot meals for homeless people in the US.

- Purchase 514,000 Raspberry Pi computers for teaching computer science.

- Buy more than 82 million kg of rice, going by Indian prices.

- Pay off 0.0012 percent of all US student loans.

- Pay 82 percent of the Goldman Sachs' CEO salary from 2016, which was significantly less than his pre-2008 salaries of over $50 million.

- Cover 0.00045 percent of the lost GDP projected for 2016-2025 due to America's rotting infrastructure.

- Buy 900,000 Narcan kits to reverse opiate overdoses.

- Build just nine new public libraries in the US, an increasingly costly thing to do.

- Buy a year of high-speed internet access for over 35,000 Americans.

- Cover 0.00056 percent of all medical costs in the US from 2015, which is undoubtedly a source of considerable financial debt for the average American, or

- Buy fidget spinners for about one in 10 Americans, if you ordered in bulk.

Any of the above choices would be far more useful than whatever military brouhaha President Trump is concocting to inflate his ego, embarrass America's soldiers and ruin the pavement in DC.

Read more:  Trump wants to show off military might in Washington

That a military parade is even on Trump's radar as a president-approved event further gives him away as an insecure autocrat.

He seems to believe that, much like his Miss Universe pageants, in winning the American presidential election he himself has become synonymous with America. He now wishes the country to be his mirror image, to become as hapless, as despicable, as nakedly racist and plainly unscientific as him.

You can see it in his equivocation of all causes, including Nazis and the KKK, except those that suck up to or personally profit him. You can see it in his steadfast refusal, encouraged by Secretary of State John Kelly, to extend special refugee statuses to people from "shithole" countries such as El Salvador and Haiti, and his continued attempts to have majority-Muslim countries have their immigration numbers capped.

You can see it when he huffs and haws at the Democratic congresspeople who don't applaud his every pause in the State of the Union, instead applauding for himself and glaring at them in the moment, later calling them treasonous and un-American for their actions.

Equal and opposite

How to respond to this nationalist narcissism?

Do we host, as The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland suggests, a counter-protest to mock the president ad-hominem?

Do we create a new sense of patriotism, per The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik, from the ashes that Trump has made of Republicans' claims to it?

Or do we place our faith once more in the hands of the "adults in the room", the generals like James Mattis, responsible for swaying the president's opinions with carefully pruned operational choices, as The Atlantic's Krishnadev Calamur alludes to?

Trump's military event gives him away as an insecure autocrat

All of these are lacking in the essential quality that should ideally define a participatory democracy. They lack direct intervention in the event in question.

Should a parade be planned and executed, the counterprotest must directly and peacefully interfere. In the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., a forceless display against the forceful institutional abuses being perpetrated would be the most effective moral response to a totalitarian demand of military worship.

It would also kick at Trump's Achilles heel: Humiliating television coverage.

As many have mentioned, the military in America is culturally sacrosanct, and seen as protecting the country's dominant cultural and economic place in the global order.

This sanctity, though, has ill-effects. As James Fallows wrote two years ago for The Atlantic, the mythic separation between civilians and their all-volunteer defence force has created vast room for misunderstandings and misallocations of resources by the military's civilian handlers.

He described the result as being a "chickenhawk nation": aesthetically militaristic, yet failing to give its military the tools to survive, win wars, or be treated with dignity following service.

Any effective counter-protest to the Trump parade would need to address this dilemma, this love combined with material failure.

Most effective, I imagine, might be rows upon rows of civilians, silent, peacefully sitting down in the way of the parade, blocking the whole of Pennsylvania Avenue with signs that ask our beloved troops a simple question to ponder as they march for the pleasure of America's idiot king:

"Who do you serve?"

Nicholas Morley is a researcher and graduate of Brown University. He lives in Burlington, VT.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.