Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 10:25 | SYDNEY
Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 10:25 | SYDNEY

Rules of thumb for social progress II


Sam Roggeveen


9 September 2009 17:53

Back in March of last year I proposed this simple test that travellers could apply to assess a foreign country:

...the more that local police uniforms resemble military uniforms, the less liberal and democratic that country is likely to be.

Having posted yesterday on the rehearsals for China's big 1 October military parade, I would propose a second rule of thumb for social progress:

A preference for military parades (particularly those featuring heavy weapons) is a strong indicator of significant military influence over the civilian government.

That thought came to me after reading that Turkey had also recently held a military parade. We know the Iranians too are fond of them, and Russia has recently revived the Soviet-era practise.

By contrast, you never see columns of tanks and missiles down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. Even the ticker-tape parades America holds for returning soldiers tend to be sans heavy weapons. Same goes for the parade held on presidential inauguration day, which is largely a civil society affair (eg. school bands, scout groups etc).

As for Australia, I was once told there is a law on the books preventing armoured vehicles from entering the ACT (an anti-coup measure?). That sounds like a myth to me, but needless to say, we're not big on military parades, and again, when we do have them, no heavy weapons, if for no other reason than they would wreck the streets.

To my knowledge the Brits and other NATO countries don't go in for it either, except France, with its Bastille Day parade. I'm pretty sure France has to be counted as an exception to my rule of thumb, but those with a better understanding of the French military's place in the affairs of government might let me know for sure.