The future of the U.S. military and its role in the world is underscoring differences among the three Democratic candidates for the 6th Congressional District.
Maureen Yates of Barrington, Leslie Coolidge of Barrington Hills and Geoff Petzel of Lake Zurich are vying in the March 20 primary. The winner will match up against incumbent U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam in the fall.
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Yates, a 76-year-old retired businesswoman will push for reforms in the military if elected.
"I'd like to see a smaller, sectionalized army that runs (U.S. military) drones and (Navy SEALs special forces) Team Sixes that can be immediately mobilized and can fight where it's necessary," Yates said.
Petzel, a 28-year-old business owner, thinks "the (U.S.) military has one purpose -- to stop bad things from happening. It's not to go into a country and create a government that we like. It's to make sure we are protected in the world,' he said.
But the U.S. should intervene in situations such the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan to protect those who can't protect themselves, Petzel said.
Coolidge, a 52-year-old accountant, had high praise for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's efforts, noting "diplomacy is what we should be engaging in a lot more.
"A lot of this is about capturing hearts and minds in parts of the world that are not favorable to us. It's more cost-effective than a large military presence," she said.
The country also needs to work more with its allies as it did in Libya, she said.
President Obama has moved to end the combat mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
"Pulling out of Afghanistan by the end of 2012 would be wonderful but the president's timetable is acceptable," Petzel said.
"I believe in the timetable. We have to get out of Afghanistan, we've been there 10 years, it's cost us huge dollars and a significant number of lives and it's not making us safer."
Coolidge thinks "the president's timeline makes sense. We can't do an abrupt withdrawal. We need to do it in a sensible fashion, but we should be out of there.
"I think we don't know today why we're in Afghanistan. It's a tribal society and the notion anyone can go in there and fix it makes absolutely no sense."
Yates wants to "stop the wars as soon as possible in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Afghanistan has always been a military disaster," she said, noting many countries including her native Great Britain had fought the Afghans and failed. "My father fought in Afghanistan in the 1920s. Everyone has given up. It just doesn't work."
There are growing concerns over Iran's nuclear capabilities and the threat of war with nearby Israel.
For Coolidge, "it seems the key thing is to work with the Israelis to understand what they're doing (regarding potential military action in Iran) and make sure it's not something we're all going to regret later," she said.
Petzel opposes economic sanctions for Iran. "Sanctions lead to military conflicts," he said. "We should work with China and Russia to push for an end to the nuclear weapons program in Iran.
But "if it came to a point where they (Iran) were so close to a nuclear weapon, I would support using the military for strategic airstrikes. I would never support putting troops on the ground," Petzel said.
Yates said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "is not as popular as we have been led to believe. I think there is a big faction of people who don't like him.
"We need to keep on with diplomatic means (in Iran). I don't know if the sanctions are working. They should be stopped eventually and we should rely on diplomacy. It's a far better way of getting our message across without alienating the common people," Yates said.