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The Press : Parade Rest: U.S. Revelry as Seen From Abroad

June 18, 1991

The big Operation Desert Storm victory parades in Washington and New York inspired considerable coverage and commentary in the foreign media--particularly in Europe. Much of it was highly critical. A sampling:

"Nobody with any sensitivity or grasp of reality can have been eager to join the jubilation, much of it synthetic, whipped up around the victory celebrations in the United States. . . . A modest parade with appropriate speeches and promotions would have been sufficient to convey the gratitude due to the troops for coping so ably with the results of political incompetence.

"Excessive jubilation, by contrast, overvalues the outcome of the war, belittles the immense suffering of the victims and is liable to obscure the real lessons. President Bush approached the conflict with an almost obsessive determination to avoid being sucked into a quagmire. He hoped that a quick victory would be followed by immediate withdrawal. His policies were shaped not by an assessment of realities in the Gulf, but by opinion polls at home, memories of Vietnam and pressure from Arab states. The result was a half-finished job and the desperate exodus of the Kurds and (Shiites), who are now in danger of being betrayed again by another allied retreat.

"A foreign policy that relies on the 'quick fix' looks beguiling to American leaders trying to reconcile isolationist inclinations with global responsibilities. Jump in, jump out, and both constituencies are satisfied. But quick fixes seldom work. If the United States is to rise to the wider duties now thrust upon it by the withdrawal of the Soviet Union, its Presidents will have to provide leadership rather than meekly following opinion polls. They must accept that the whole world is a quagmire from which they cannot escape. . . ."

--The Independent, London

"Yes, America's soldiers, sailors and airmen deserve their cheers. Pride in their courage and their professionalism is abundantly merited. But, while millions in Iraq continue to lie in the shadow of Saddam's revenge, President Bush would have been well-advised to put the glory on ice."

--Daily Mail, London

"President Bush had promised a triumphal return for the Desert Storm troops. . . .

"The few pacifists drowned in the mass of star-studded banners, T-shirts glorifying the army or Kuwait's liberation have doubtless never been so cut out from the rest of the population. The only participants who somehow shared their uneasiness in the largest military parade since World War II were the relatives of the 378 disappeared soldiers, some of whom chose to attend only the memorial ceremony at the Arlington Cemetery."

--Nathalie Mattheiem in Le Soir, Brussels

"America loves parades and heroes, it misses the period of glory. . . . The Gulf War allowed it to renew a tradition reserved not only for the soldiers victorious in world wars but also for the first astronauts . . . and local baseball champions. Victory parades are serving an essential and internal American need, regardless of the reality outside."

--Davar, Tel Aviv

"The words 'tasteless' and 'embarrassing' are insufficient to describe the macabre, kitschy shows. . . ."

--The Mainpost, Wuerzburg, Germany

"Why did (America) feel it necessary to celebrate with the grandest parades in its history the fastest and easiest (in addition to, probably, the most incomplete and ambiguous) of its victories?"

--L'Unita, Rome

" . . . It was an American party. A cathartic event pungent with past humiliations--a break from unemployment and endemic violence--boosting once again the United States as champions of liberty that lights up the world. New York and Broadway have waited for this since 1969, since the first steps of Neil Armstrong on the moon.

"Until Desert Storm the mood wasn't right for a parade. Vietnam passed by with its thousands of deaths and shameful flight from Saigon in 1975. America the Great doubted its strength, and the punches directed at Grenada and Panama changed nothing. None could be astonished by this rediscovered enthusiasm if the objectives of the Gulf War--the famous New World Order of George Bush--found a beginning in the Middle East."

--Dominique Garraud in Liberation , Paris

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