Foreign Affairs and World War II
Richard B. Russell held a few basic assumptions that guided his views and actions in matters of foreign policy. These included his strong belief in the superiority of Anglo-Saxon culture, his fierce patriotism, and his conviction that the United States should always maintain a strong military defense. Long after World War II, Russell described himself as "by instinct, an isolationist" but one "who supports the flag when it is committed to any danger or trouble."1 As a college student, state legislator, and governor and during his early years in the Senate, he held firm nationalist, isolationist attitudes, which meant in practical terms that he believed the United States should avoid trying to solve world problems except where its national interests were clearly at stake. Although as a young man he occasionally expressed some of the idealism of Woodrow Wilson, Russell considered the Founding Fathers to be more appropriate spokesmen of American foreign policy.
In a speech at Barnesville on Armistice Day, 1928, Russell discussed some of his foreign policy views. Sounding much like Wilson, he told his audience that the United States did not go to war in 1917 for national glory or to enslave others but to insure that all peoples could determine their own form of government. He saw an end to war as the "main hope of mankind" but warned against pacifist propaganda for disarmament. Russell was critical of individuals who enjoyed the blessings of the United States but who were not proud or supportive of their country. He praised the American Legion for its work in encouraging patriotism and love of country. Russell stated that he favored a strong defense and national preparedness. The fact that some people made money from war angered Russell. He declared that he never again wanted to see anyone wax fat on wartime profiteering. Ending his talk on an isolationist note, he mentioned George Washington's Farewell Address and said it was time for Americans to take care of themselves. 2