The Atlantic

The Truth About Military Parades

Military parades say more about those who order and watch them than those who participate in them.
Source: Ron Frehm / AP

It is a safe bet that by the time the Pentagon does actually get around to giving Donald Trump the parade he has demanded, two things will have happened: First, the scale will be considerably less than the hundreds of M-1 tanks roaring up Pennsylvania Avenue deplored by many of the President’s critics; second, the current fuss will be long forgotten in the avalanche of scandals, crises, and constitutional battles that lie ahead.

Yet it is still worth considering what exactly these military parades mean, and why people get so exercised about them. And it is possible to do so without talking over much about draft-dodging presidents and why the troops hate rehearsals.

Victory parades are easy enough to figure out. The Grand Review of the Armies in May 1865 included 145,000 troops from three Union armies—of the Potomac, Tennessee, and Georgia—marching past cheering throngs of onlookers.

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