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Mason professors give a parade of reasons to reconsider a full-scale military procession

February 9, 2018

Richard Kauzlarich

President Donald Trump desires a large-scale military parade though the streets of Washington, D.C., and top brass at the Pentagon are scrambling to come up with options as to when, where and what to include.

With a few exceptions – such as to celebrate victories in World War II and the 1991 Gulf war, and the inaugurations of presidents John F. Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower -- the United States does not generally partake in military parades, George Mason University professor Richard Kauzlarich said.

“President Trump was impressed with what he saw last summer in Paris for the Bastille Day parade—units from all the French armed forces parading up the Champs Elysees with military aircraft flying overhead,” said Kauzlarich, a retired U.S. ambassador who teaches communication for executive leadership at George Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government. “The French have been doing this since the late 1800s. Recently they have included foreign military units and invited foreign dignitaries, including President Trump last year, to participate.”

The Russians hold a large parade on the anniversary of Victory Day, marking the end of World War II, Kauzlarich added.

Trump has said the purpose of the parade would be to honor the American military, but James Pfiffner, a presidential scholar who teaches public management, among other topics at the Schar School, suggested such a display isn’t necessary.

James Pfiffner

“Popular images of large scale military parades conjure up images of Russia, China and North Korea, which want to display how powerful they are,” said Pfiffner, who received the Army Commendation Medal for Valor for his service in Vietnam and Cambodia. “The U.S. does not need to prove anything.”

“Demonstrating the strength of the U.S. military is not necessary,” he said. “All nations know that we have the most effective military forces in the world. The U.S. has plenty of military displays on a regular basis, such as annual Fourth of July parades, quadrennial inauguration parades, color guards at athletic events and Air Force flyovers at some athletic events.”

Funding a parade would also be problematic, Pfiffner said.

“Secretary [of Defense James] Mattis has recently argued that military readiness has been hindered by a shortage of funds, and a large parade would be expensive.”

Additionally, he said, “We have troops in Afghanistan and in the Middle East still engaged in combat.”

Richard Kauzlarich, a former ambassador to Bosnia Herzegovina and Azerbaijan, can be reached at703-993-9652 or rkauzlar@gmu.edu.

James Pfiffner can be reached through pfiffner.gmu.edu.

For more information, contact Buzz McClain at 703-727-0230 or bmcclai2@gmu.edu.

About George Mason

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 36,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.