Kirk, Gash Foreign Policy Resumes Differ Candidates Disagree on Rwanda, Agree on Israeli-PLO Conflict

By Krol, Eric | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), October 15, 2000 | Go to article overview

Kirk, Gash Foreign Policy Resumes Differ Candidates Disagree on Rwanda, Agree on Israeli-PLO Conflict


Krol, Eric, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


There are few issues in the 10th Congressional District race with a wider gulf between Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Lauren Beth Gash than foreign policy.

It's not so much a difference in approach to foreign policy - although there are several - but in experience.

Kirk traveled to 42 countries including Bosnia and North Korea on fact-gathering trips while serving as legal counsel to the U.S. House Internal Relations Committee the past four years. He eagerly recounts his role as a Navy Reserves intelligence officer called up for duty in the Panama, Desert Storm, Haiti, Bosnia and Northern Iraq missions.

Gash, on the other hand, sometimes has difficulty answering specific foreign policy questions. The four-term state legislator even acknowledged as much at a debate last month, admitting the topic is not her strong suit. When asked last week to list where she differs with Kirk on foreign policy, Gash, who can rattle off a slew of differences with Kirk on most issues, replied, "I don't know."

With unrest in the Middle East and a changing of the guard in Yugoslavia dominating headlines in recent weeks, foreign policy likely is one of the issues on the minds of many voters in northern Cook and eastern Lake counties as they try to decide who they want to represent them in Washington for the next two years.

Kirk said his experience in world affairs would give him a leg up on Capitol Hill and also sets him apart from his opponent.

"(Gash) made her first trip to Israel only this year as a candidate for Congress," Kirk said. "I'm not even Jewish, and yet I began working on U.S.-Israeli relations back in 1984."

Gash said she possesses more experience in other areas that she thinks voters will find at least as important as Kirk's foreign policy expertise.

"There is no question (Kirk) has spent much of the last 20 years in paid employment in this area," Gash said. "But I have quite a few people telling me they're very comfortable with me because I represent this area and stand for the viewpoints they stand for."

When it comes to overall foreign policy, the two candidates generally agree on the criteria that should be used when U.S. troops are sent overseas. They're the same five points Gen. Colin Powell outlined several years ago: The conflict needs to be in our nation's vital interest, our allies should support us, the American people should support the mission, military forces should be able to accomplish the goal and the country should have an exit strategy.

But Kirk and Gash apply those guidelines differently to the half-dozen most recent conflicts the United States has had the option of entering.

The two agree that the U.S. should have gotten involved in Panama to get rid of dictator Manuel Noriega, in Haiti to avert a humanitarian disaster near the nation's border and in Bosnia and Kosovo to prevent slaughter.

Kirk lists the Persian Gulf War as a "no-brainer" to protect the vital U. …

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