DISAGREEMENTS in the Joint Chiefs of Staff have a deeper significance than some of the news stories have indicated. Divergent views are normal among military leaders representing different services. But before the military staff conferences late in June the arguments within the JCS took a personal turn because of the domination of the chairman, Admiral Arthur W. Radford. As one Navy man put it, Radford acted as if he were still commander of the Pacific Fleet instead of first among equals on a strategic planning staff.
Seldom in American history has a military adventure been seriously proposed against the unanimous opposition of the service chiefs who would have to implement it. Yet that was the ease in the plan advocated by Radford for a carrier air strike to save the beleaguered French garrison at Dienbienphu — a plan that very nearly became national policy. In a private appearance before Congressional leaders, Radford was forced to acknowledge that his JCS colleagues did not agree with him.
The genial, outspoken Radford has made no secret of his belief that the Communist regime in China must be unseated even if it requires a fiftyyear war to do it. Me has not favored the use of American ground forces in Indochina, but his colleagues fear that his proposals for employing air and sea power would lead to involvement on the ground. At various times Radford has expressed confidence in the capability of Chiang Kai-shek’s armies to make a strong showing on the Chinese mainland, as well as in the power of a naval blockade to cripple China’s strategic supplies.
The split arose not over Radford’s advocacy of these views, but over his disregard for the views of the other JCS members. Unlike the former JCS chairman, General Omar Bradley, Radford is an “operator. In this connection some of his critics hark back to his sub rasa activities in the 1949 squabble between the Navy and the Air Force over the B-36 bomber. Radford has the ear of Defense Secretary Wilson as well as an entry to the National Security Council, and is in a position to make his recommendations felt.
Strongest opposition to intervention in Indochina came from the Army Chief of Staff, General Mall hew B. Ridgway. He argued that involvement in a land war in Asia would be “asinine,”and that the use of sea and air forces inevitably would lead to a demand for troops which the Army is not prepared to send. This opinion was largely shared by General Nathan F. Twining, the quiet and balanced Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Twining believes that air power would not be decisive in Indochina, and he opposed a peripheral engagement that might impair the ability of the Air Force to cope with a major threat from the Soviet Union.
Siviet war potential
The Radford lone-wolf performance has more disquieting implications in the increasing discussion in Washington of preventive war against Russia. There is no indication that Radford or his associates favor such a move, but the continuing frusI rat ions in Asia have given new currency to the idea.
Present concern stems from the new intelligence estimates of the Soviet war potential. The assumption is that Russia does not want war now; but she is rapidly increasing her atomic stockpile. American military men were alarmed at the appearance of the prototype of a jet bomber similar to our B-47 in the May Day Moscow air show, three to four years ahead of schedule. The advent of the Soviet hydrogen bomb contributed to the reappraisal.
Secretary of Stale Dulles, on the other hand, rejects any idea that war is inevitable. He argues that assessments based on military grounds alone leave out the moral and other imponderable factors that actually govern the rivalry with the Soviet Union, and he believes that these factors eventually will tip the balance of power against the Communists. There is every reason to think that the President and most responsible members of the Administration agree with this analysis.
McCarthy vs. Army
Washington was as relieved as the rest of the country at the end of the McCarthy-Army hearings, even though the major issues remained unresolved. Three principal reasons account for 1 he unsatisfactory outcome of the hearings that disrupted Congress and the country for thirty-six days: —
1. The Army had a poor case. It proved beyond any doubt that McCarthy and his counsel, Roy Cohn, had intervened re peat nelly and flagrantly to obtain favors for Private David Sebine. Furthermore, McCarthy’s charges that the Army had coddled Communists turned out to be the usual sham. But the record was so riddled with instances of appeasement, complaisance, and cajolery by Secretary Stevens and Counsel John Adams that the Army’s protests were ineffectual. Stevens, despite his gentlemanly conduct, made a bad witness because of his inability to answer questions precisely".
The transcripts of the monitored telephone calls, introduced after so much argument, reacted against the Army because they showed that Stevens had played along with McCarthy, not only in the Schine affair, but also in the cruel hoax at Fort Monmouth. Special Counsel Joseph N. Welch, witty and urbane though he was in presenting the Army’s side, was not tough enough to make his points successfully against the bludgeoning by McCarthy and Cohn.
2. The committee was stacked. Chairman Mundt, who made little pretense of hiding his sympathies for McCarthy, displayed a great inability to keep the hearings focused on the subject. Most decisions were taken by straight party vote, with the four Republicans lining up against the three Democrats. Committee Counsel Ray Jenkins was notably sharp in his questioning of Secretary Stevens, but deferential in his treatment of McCarthy". The Democrats on the committee made a number of valiant tries to bring out the facts, but allowed themselves to be sidetracked and diverted into inconsequential issues. And the Democrats were not above playing party politics on occasion.
3. There were no firm rules of evidence, McCarthy’s committee was obviously’ not the proper body 1o hear the case, but it complicated its own troubles by allowing procedures that never would have been permitted in a court. There was almost no attempt to rule out the extraneous charges at which Met arthy is a master. Questioning seemingly was interminable. Secretary Stevens was compelled to answer the same question, in one form or another, 152 separate times. Virtually all the participants in the hearings played to the television cameras.
Nevertheless, the hearings had two salient effects. First, they dramatized the nature of McCarthy’s attempted invasion of executive prerogatives. President Eisenhower was forced to take the same stand almost every other President has taken to protect the privacy of executive conferences. McCarthy’s introduction of the doctored FBI letter, as well as his appeal to government employees to bring him confidential papers, backfired badly. The latter efiort plainly was an attempted violation of the Espionage Act. As a result of McCarthy’s performance the Republican National Committee has concluded that McCarthy" cannot be used in the fall campaign. Also as a result of his performance, the executive responsibility to resist legislative encroachments on executive departments is a lot more clearly established than it. was before the hearings.
Second, millions of television viewers had an intimate picture: of McCarthy and his methods. The hearings probably did little to change the views of persons who were ardently pro-or anti-McCarthy, but there is good reason to think that they had a considerable effect in swaying uncommitted opinion against McCarthy. It is impossible to measure this result precisely, but polls taken during the hearings indicate that the drop in McCarthy’s prestige has been substantial.
The Oppenheimer case
Ramifications of the Oppenheimer case continue to echo through the Capital. Scientists were enraged at the construction placed by the Gray Board on Oppenheimer’s attitude toward the hydrogen bomb. No one defended Oppenheimer’s past naïveté and Communist associations; but the security board found that these were not controlling factors. It adjudged Dr. Oppenheimer to be both loyal and discreet. Instead of taking the intermediate and non-punitive course of recommending merely that his contract as an atomic consultant not be renewed, the board majority made a positive finding that he was a security risk.
What seemed to loom largest in 1 he board majority’s decision was Opponheimor’s lack of enthusiasm before and alter the determination to go ahead with the H-bomb project. Actually, the record showed, Oppenheimer’s opposition took place before there was any knowledge of the new process perfected by Dr. Edward Teller that led to the final realization of the H-bomb. Dr. Teller himself acknowledged a statement by Oppenheimer to the effect that if knowledge of ihe new process had been available at the time, he never would have opposed the H-bomb.
The fundamental question raised by the Oppenheimer ease, quite apart from the ruling by the Atomic Energy Commission, is whether the security system is flexible enough really to serve the broad national interest. In this instance it has worked to deprive the country of the services of a man of towering scientific genius who contributed more than anyone else to the utilization of atomic energy. No one can ever be sure of the subjective processes that influence a man’s thoughts; and the search for absolute security in this respect, as a number of scientists have pointed out, could instead produce absolute sterility.
Strauss loses out
Chairman Lewis Strauss of the AEC has been having his troubles with ihe Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. Other members of the Commission complained that Strauss had withheld essential information and was attempting to dominate the Commission. These complaints figured in the decision of the Congressional committee to strike out the language in the amendment to the Atomic Energy Act that would have designated the chairman as the “principal officer” of the Commission. Strauss himself protested in a letter to the committee that he was being persecuted by the same people who had gone after James Forrestal.
The person primarily responsible for the insertion of language emphasizing the equal status and authority of all five atomic energy commissioners is Representative Chet Holifield, a Democrat from California.
Holifield also helped focus attention on the Republican efforts to hamper the Tennessee Valley Authority. He cited an order from President Eisenhower directing the Atomic Energy Commission to enter into a twenty-five-year contract with a private utility to build a new plant and furnish power to the area now served by TVA. The AEC entered the picture only because it has authority to let twenty-five-year contracts; and Holifield charged that the scheme was an abuse of authority that over the period of the contract would cost taxpayers $1)0 million more than if TVA had been allowed to produce the same power in ils own plants. The serious, hard-working Holifield has rapidly become one of the most effective watchdogs in Congress.
Mood of the Capital
Washington is adjusting calmly to the Supreme Court decision ending racial segregation in publicschools. Despite an initial flurry over the redivision of local school districts, the process of integration here is expected to be well advanced by the end of the year. Actually the racial patterns in this traditionally Southern city have shifted markedly within the last few years. A few months ago another court decision outlawed segregation in public restaurants, and before that the downtown theaters quietly lifted their bar against the admission of Negroes. In private industry some effective though unpublicized work has been done by the President’s Government Contract Committee. None of these moves has caused any disruption.
The unanimity of the Supreme Court decision was of course a great factor in the degree of acceptance it has had. All the justices believed that the decision should be unanimous, but the manner chosen for the adjustment and the clarity of the opinion reflected the leadership of Chief Justice Warren. Apart from his judicial work, Warren has become one of the most popular residents of Washington.
Within the Court, Warren has managed the rare feat of winning the praise of both the conservative and liberal wings. His practical knowledge of the law has surprised some of the justices. Alost members of the Supreme Court are appointed from lower courts or from positions within the Administration, and their experience in the law is usually on the side of the national government. Warren’s long experience as a county prosecutor, before he became Governor of California, thus is a refreshing addition. He has brought to the Supreme Court an incisive mind and a humane understanding that are serving the Court well.