Richard B. Russell, Jr., Senator from Georgia

By Gilbert C. Fite | Go to book overview
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19
The Frustration of Vietnam

During the 1960s, Russell found himself devoting more and more time and energy to national defense and the United States' growing military involvement in Vietnam. His continued chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee and the Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations gave him a huge range of responsibilities. After 1961 he worked closely with Secretary of Defense McNamara and others in the defense establishment. His days were filled with meetings, appointments, and committee hearings, as well as visits to military installations both at home and abroad. Russell had become recognized by many as the leading spokesman and authority on military affairs in Congress.

As mentioned earlier, Dick Russell sharply disagreed with most aspects of Republican foreign policy in the 1950s. But he was no more impressed with the leadership and policies in the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies. Russell strenuously opposed the idea that the United States should serve as the world's policeman. American power, he believed, was limited. While he agreed that Soviet and Chinese communism and expansionism were the principle sources of international instability, he did not think that the United States should or could respond to every crisis in the world. The best defense against communism, he believed, was to make the United States so strong militarily that no nation would ever be so foolish as to attack the United States or its vital national interests. Moreover, he did not think that American military power should be deployed unless vital strategic or important economic concerns were involved. If military power were required, he believed that maximum force should be used to achieve the objective as quickly as possible.

Russell also held to another important principle. The United States could not help people resist aggression or achieve democracy if they were unwilling or unable to help themselves. Wherever Russell looked

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