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Outing the US Empire: Trump’s Military Parade

You only had to see him goggle-eyed and enthusiastic beside France’s President Emmanuel Macron last Bastille Day. The tricolours were fluttering, the jets booming above in the manner usual for a lapsed empire, and the President of the United States was thrilled to bits, delighted at the spectacle. “It was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen. We’re going to have to try and top it.”

Donald Trump wetting himself over a military parade in another country was one thing. That he is now attempting to bring that experience back to the United States has local policy figures in a fix. According to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, the president “has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation.”

The good citizens of the United States have tended to associate such military affairs with the goosestepping types, eyes glazed and bayonets erect with purpose before authoritarian clowns. Only foreign types, unmoved by the impulse of American liberty, engage in that sort of thing.

In some ways, having such a parade would be a natural order for a power that remains in denial about its imperial pedigree, bastard or otherwise. There is a near pathological preference to live in the bright delusional light of free world defender of peace. “As distinct from other peoples,” wrote the late Chalmers Johnson, that keen student of US empire and its consequences, “most Americans do not recognize – or do not want to recognize – that the United States dominates the world through its military power.”

An orgiastic display of US military symbolism would be a direct, if discomforting change from the usual pattern. States often tend to have military shows that are inversely proportionate to their economic and social success. More guns do not necessarily imply more butter in the home. The Soviet Union, and the current Russian incarnation, insisted on military parades as matters of pride, though such shows are as revealing as they are concealing. As Moscow terrified with its military prowess and gritty warriors parading before the greys and browns of the politburo, the state was unravelling in sickness, awaiting ultimate implosion.

North Korea similarly insists on the star-studded show, the pantomime of military hardware and vocal troops captivated by supreme leader, Kim Jong-un. To take such an aggressive stance serves to also conceal weakness and internal fragility. Besides, such displays provide epic distractions for troubled populaces, a sort of cinematic release packaged in military grandeur.

To that end, a US military parade would reverse the order of things. To have such a parade could be likened to a coming out ceremony, a grand confession to the globe. The United States, through dozens of military bases webbing the entire globe like Arachne’s thread, prefers the rhetoric of restraint and order while waging a series of conflicts that result in an order of permanent war for permanent peace.

It was the coming of the Cold War, and the emergence of the United States as the pre-eminent power after the Second World War, that prompted the remark by the sharp Charles Beard that the foreign policy of both Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman could be classed as the waging of “perpetual war for perpetual peace”. That assessment duly stuck, though the US public, for the most part, went into a state of permanent amnesia.

One symptom of empire common to all entities which have undertaken this venture is the illusion of some lingering order without disturbance, the civilizing effects of the Pax Romana delivered through soldiers bearing the gift of peace or the more recent Pax Americana. This supplies the nursery story, widely disseminated, that international peace is maintained in such circumstances while swords are turned to ploughshares.

Quite the opposite is true. Such states of affairs ensure a constant demand for conflict, the need for police operations and bloody corrections, the deployment of auxiliaries and allies, and the necessity for a hardened military industrial complex.

A mild acquaintance with those blood thirsty deliverers of peace, the Romans, provides the surest precedent by which subsequent empires supposedly interested in peace thrive upon. The parallels between US narratives of power, and those of Rome, are striking. True, the Roman empire incorporated local power elites and spread citizenship. “It was generosity,” notes classicist Mary Beard, “even if sprung from self-interest.” But it was Tacitus in his inimitable account of Agricola, his father-in-law’s exploits as governor of Britain in the late first century AD, that left a superb critique of empire that remains as pertinent to the US as any other.

Tacitus takes note of the Caledonian resistance figure Calgacus, whose speech does not merely attack the imperial predations of Rome, but the euphemising nature of power and its concealments. “To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace.” There is nothing to suggest that Calcagus ever said anything of the sort in the name of liberty to rouse his troops – Tacitus was a despairing critic of empire and its consequences, being both recorder and analyst.

From matters of conspiracy to an emphasis on the fake news complex; to the suspicions of suited establish doyens who have long steered empire in the shadows while proclaiming the virtues of liberty, Trump’s opportunity for another show is here. It is time to put the US empire on display.

As he has done before, the current president overturns convention and confronts the deep seated psychic disturbances of the US state. Forget the clichés and deceptions about delivering peace. Ignore the alarm from the imperial closeted types. (We, claimed Representative Jackie Speier, “have a Napoleon in the making here”). Put stock, instead, in matters of belligerence, of making deserts. Place that weaponry on show in lusty, persuasive fashion. And most importantly of all, make Little Rocket Man green with envy.


12 comments

  1. Ill fares the land

    Staggeringly, Trump’s supports will probably be enamoured with the idea – but then the image I have of way too many of his supporters is that of beer-swilling, pick-up driving (the US equivalent of the mandatory boofhead or redneck accoutrement, the dual-cab SUV), gun-owning (probably gun-toting) and racist bigots who see the world through their myopic tough-guy haze.

    The reality is you have to look at how the need for a military march defines the inner-Trump. The crazed, power-seeking, bellicose, bullying and belligerent lunatic who likes to see the symbols of his own power – and needs the world to see the symbols of HIS power. However he rationalises it, this is about him and his inner-child. The vulgar shows of strength and power are typically, and perversely, the domain of those who are staving off their inner feelings of weakness, or fear of weakness and who crave strength and power. When you find someone who exhorts that they are afraid of nothing, you will often find the thing they are most fearful of is fear itself, or being thought of as in any way fearful.

  2. David Bruce

    Is it a fact that under the original Constitution of the united States of America, the President could rule by executive order if the united States of America was at “War”? If so, this would explain the “War on Drugs”, the “War on Terror” and other insanities. The ultimate consumer that is the Department of Defense can carpet bomb whole nations and create full employment and considerable wealth for the rest of the population! I wonder if Malware has in mind a similar change in a republican constitution of Australia?

  3. king1394

    The huge military display presided over by the tinpot dictator. Do you think it will be more impressive than what North Korea can do?

  4. Glenn Barry

    wonderful article, the Romans like the Americans, one the whole are nothing to be admired, both predominantly revolting phenomena

    As for Trump, OH the sheer inadequacy of it all, so vacuous

  5. Andre

    The bigger the hat, the smaller the farm.

  6. jimhaz

    [besides, such displays provide epic distractions for troubled populaces, a sort of cinematic release packaged in military grandeur]

    Yes, but it may be much more than that, as the writer inferred in the last para.

    I see it as social engineering to make the population more susceptible to an authoritarian regime and build an expectation that action is required. It goes along with all the other backward authoritarian stuff or propaganda he has been doing. Rallying his mad fightn’ men supporters to cause social anxiety and make the dems more wary of taking him on.

    Little hands wants a big c?ck show, an up yours to China, perhaps setting in play similar displays elsewhere, setting the mood up. Much easier for King Rooster to get more military spending then and a second term.

  7. paul walter

    Interesting. the ABC Drum program had a segment featuring a WA academic whose name escapes me who has written a book on the psychological and ideological reasons why the violent and excessive Korean War has been in the closet for so long and how US ham fistedness and lack of reflexivity is behind so much of anti US feeling in both Koreas.

    As ever, the problem seems to find a home expressed through exceptionalism and denialism, think Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican republic and most of South America, Iran and other parts of West Asia and other neglected places like Puerto Rico and through out the world.

  8. Chris

    Centcom announced that US-led coalition forces in Syria had opened fire at pro-Syrian government forces “in defense” of Syrian Democratic Forces headquarters.
    Some one hundred or more troops of the Syrian Arab Army and allied paramilitary forces have been killed as a result of retaliatory airstrikes carried out by US-led coalition warplanes in the country’s east according to media sources claiming to cite American military officials.

    https://twitter.com/ColoniumKoeln/status/961523913376362496

    https://twitter.com/ejmalrai/status/961557496686137346

  9. Chris

    Australia was present in the form of the command and control aircraft when the coalition forces bombed the SAA “by accident ” last time. I wonder what our involvement is this time ?
    Especially in light of all the “choking up” the LNP coalition politicians have been doing this week….

  10. paul walter

    Saw it on tel, Chris and laughed, it was so blatant.

    Jimhaz so right. yet another corrupt appointment involving ignorant psychos and grafter cranks. I see they have shut down this government again.

    The abysmal failure of US politics at this most crucial of times has been awe inspiring in its nature.

  11. Kronomex

    I can picture Emperor Precious of the Bald Patch stamping his little feet and waving his tiny hands, “If..if…that Macaroon of the country with the big steel tower can have a parade then why can’t I?” he’d cry. “My parade must lots biggerer than his or Little Rocket Mans parade and…and…it must sell popcorn and soda and lots and lots of hamburgers…and the nasty democrats won’t be allowed in if they don’t sign a I Love Donald Trump form.”

    “Anything else Emperor?”

    “Ooh, ooh,” said Precious clapping his tiny hands together in excitement. “I want my own tank to sit in and make “vroom, vroom sounds with machine gun and explosion noises. It will also have a big truck horn and a string I can pull to make it go honk, honk.”

    “Will that be all for the moment?”

    “Zzzz…”

    “Aw, look at that, he’s tired himself out and gone to sleep on his desk with his little thumb in his mouth.”

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