A journalist asked me what I thought of President Trump’s proposed grand military parade through the streets of the imperial capital. Here is my response.

The proposed parade is yet one more expression of the president’s narcissism, of course. If it occurs, it is something that he will no doubt enjoy—a large-as-life version of playing with toy soldiers. Critics who complain that such an event will be a waste of time and money are right to do so.  

Yet in a weirdly ironic way, perhaps Trump’s proposed parade-without-a-victory captures something important about the present moment in American history. In former times, we organized parades to celebrate wars won. There was a common understanding that the intended outcome of war was victory. Or to put it another way: the purpose of war was to achieve the political objectives that provided the basis for the war. War was to be, as Clausewitz wrote, the continuation of politics by other means.

In the endless wars since 9/11, we have lost sight of that principle. Our wars have become purposeless, a fact that American elites and the American people appear to find acceptable. Having a parade to honor a military that does not win and that the country has consigned to endless campaigning in distant theaters seems somehow oddly appropriate.

Andrew J. Bacevich is TAC’s writer-at-large.