Some overwrought commentary has been going around regarding President Trump’s desire to hold a military parade. One member of Congress, in fact, proclaimed that “we have a Napoleon in the making.” Meh. Such processions have lumbered down streets or through inland waterways many times in the past, yet never has any past president become a Napoleon. Yes, the little emperor doubtless liked a good parade. So did Harry Truman after World War II, and so did George Bush after Desert Storm. If political leaders of all persuasions enjoy martial pageantry, chances are such parades tell us little if anything about the character or ambitions of any one leader. Pomp is good politics.
In fact, New York City hosts a naval parade every year, doing our democracy little evident damage. I had the good fortune to take part in Fleet Week ’91, just after returning from the Gulf. (Mark Twain once declared that travel is fatal to prejudice, and so it is. New Yorkers couldn’t have been more hospitable to us sailors during Fleet Week — or done more to belie their reputation for surliness.) And yet New York goes on, free of military rule.
I personally see little need for a parade — but let’s not get carried away at its implications.