Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Pyongyang on the Potomac

Yet another entry in the 'this is not normal' column, Donald Trump wants a military parade, a canned show of force that allows him to swagger with vicarious valor. The U.S. really doesn't have a tradition of this sort of thing, which is more characteristic of Pyongyang than Peoria:

Trump is basically Kim Jong Un with an even worse hairdo... he's a trust-fund kid who rode on his more talented, ruthless father. This new wrinkle, this ego-boost on the taxpayers' dime and the use of soldiers as props, demonstrates the depth of Trump's venality and an alarming-yet-cartoonish authoritarian streak. While Trump's parade would be a waste of money and resources, veterans' benefits are not being properly funded. Even more egregiously, the war in Afghanistan continues, with the Taliban resuming control of large regions of the country. Throwing a parade without a victory is reminiscent of Suetonius' anecdote of Caligula's 'war on the sea' after his failure to invade Great Britain:

Finally, as if he intended to bring the war to an end, he drew up a line of battle on the shore of the Ocean, arranging his ballistas and other artillery; and when no one knew or could imagine what he was going to do, he suddenly bade them gather shells and fill their helmets and the folds of their gowns, calling them "spoils from the Ocean, due to the Capitol and Palatine." As a monument of his victory he erected a lofty tower, from which lights were to shine at night to guide the course of ships, as from the Pharos. Then promising the soldiers a gratuity of a hundred denarii each, as if he had shown unprecedented liberality, he said, "Go your way happy; go your way rich."

Then turning his attention to his triumph, in addition to a few captives and deserters from the barbarians he chose all the tallest of the Gauls, and as he expressed it, those who were "worthy of a triumph," as well as some of the chiefs. These he reserved for his parade, compelling them not only to dye their hair red and to let it grow long, but also to learn the language of the Germans and assume barbarian names. He also had the triremes in which he had entered the Ocean carried overland to Rome for the greater part of the way. He wrote besides to his financial agents to prepare for a triumph at the smallest possible cost, but on a grander scale than had ever before been known, since the goods of all were at their disposal.

Looks like a case of history repeating, with Little Gloves taking on the role formerly played by Little Boots.

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