WASHINGTON — With trouble spots from Iran to North Korea, the military’s role in a Fourth of July celebration in Washington should be the least of the Pentagon’s worries.
Yet some retired and active-duty military officers, and, privately, even some Defense Department personnel said the participation of the military in President Trump’s “Salute to America” appears to politicize the armed forces on a day when the nation traditionally toasts its independence in a nonpartisan environment.
“Put troops out there so we can thank them — leave tanks for Red Square,” said Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a retired four-star Marine general and former head of United States Central Command, who until earlier this year served in the Trump administration as a special envoy to help resolve disputes in the Persian Gulf.
On Wednesday, the president defended the show of firepower on Twitter.
“The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth,” he wrote. “We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!”
The festivities have put the Pentagon in a bind in trying to both follow orders from the commander in chief while also trying to sidestep the inevitable accusation that Mr. Trump is being allowed to politicize the military.
The tanks, armored vehicles and military jets that will be streaking over the nation’s capital are part of Mr. Trump’s vision of a grand military parade, a goal he has pursued since attending a Bastille Day celebration in Paris in 2017. The president originally wanted a similar show of military might in Washington on Veterans Day, but it was derailed last August after objections by the city’s officials, concerns from the Pentagon and a price tag of more than $90 million.