Monday, May 4, 2020

Snowbirds vs. Blue Angels/Thunderbirds

This weekend, fast, loud fighter planes flew over both the US and Canada.  And such planes flew over Italy a few weeks ago.  So, why the outrage over the American version of aerial morale

As someone who studies civil-military relations, I can't help but think that the motivation and symbolism are different here.  That President Trump has repeatedly tried to use the military in his political competitions with the Democrats and others.  This is not just the reference to his generals, but also his appearances at military audiences where he attacks his opponents and the media.  Moreover, he has also politicized the military by pardoning war criminals and insisting that they get their titles back while creating such fear among his civilian underlings that they fire naval captains who do what is best for their crew.

What is so galling about this is that Trump likes to try to wear the military's popularity as his own, yet refuses to take responsibility for when things go badly.

In Canada, the response to COVID has not been perfect--it was slow, in part because the big move should have been to close the border with the US.  But Trudeau has not spoken as if he is only the Prime Minister of the Liberal Party.  He has worked cooperatively with politicians from other parties, including Doug Ford, the Conservative Premier (think Governor) of Ontario.  While there have been some partisan fighting over some stuff (how often should Parliament sit), there has been little divisiveness over distribution of PPE, over Red vs. Blue Canada (Albertan alienation is a thing, but is not a core part of the COVID response politics).  The banning of assault weapons is the most partisan event of the past two months.  In short, Justin Trudeau has been acting as a leader of his country, not a leader of his faction.

And that makes all the difference in a time of crisis.  It shapes perceptions and symbolism.  So, sure, flying Snowbirds wastes fuel, like flying Blue Angels or Thunderbirds.  But since Trudeau has not hugged the flag in partisan ways while Trump has violated every norm of civil-military relations, I am ok with the Snowbird flights yet I strongly disapprove of the BA/T-Birds.

1 comment:

Ping-fa said...

In Canada, the military represents Canada service abroad in response to national or international issues. Where we are INVITED. It is also a standard bearer at home for national issues and initiatives. It is not - and never - political. In a similar vein Canada's RCMP stands for "The Right" - and it is symbolically - and actually - the personification of Canada's motto: order and good government. It too does not do force member or musical ride performances for political reasons.