National defense and the use of America's military in foreign conflicts proved to be a stark dividing line Tuesday night between the two Democratic candidates for the 14th Congressional District.
Dennis Anderson of Gurnee and John Hosta of Spring Grove debated several topics before an audience of about 50 people at Sun City in Huntley Tuesday night. While both candidates agreed a strong military is crucial, they differed when it came to the use of the military and the defense budget.
Hosta said he has two sons who will enlist in the military in the near future. A fully funded defense system is critical to America's future, he said.
"The whole purpose of having an extremely strong military is to preserve peace," Hosta said. "When we start talking about cutting back the defense budget it is very disturbing to me. We need to make sure that our defense is strong."
That includes making sure military training for troops continues even if another government shutdown occurs, Hosta said.
In contrast, Anderson said the changing nature of warfare allows for some defense cuts. It is no longer necessary to maintain as many military bases overseas as it once was, he said.
"A lot of our overseas presence is legacy presence," Anderson said. "Bases in Europe and Asia are legacies. Those bases are no longer necessary. Those bases are tremendously expensive. We could realize some substantial savings there by closing those legacy bases."
Hosta said America's military bases in foreign lands are a deterrent to terrorism.
"We have to be that light of the world," Hosta said. "We have to show a strong presence."
Anderson went as far as to say to military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq were not well thought out. The conflict in Afghanistan should have been done "more surgically," Anderson said.
"What we did was go in and take a government apart, and now it's not working," Anderson said.
He also described the conflict in Iraq as a "war of choice, and the outcome is uncertain."
Anderson also said the one area of defense spending that needs increased support is salaries.
"I would like to know that our soldiers are being paid enough to keep them off food stamps," Anderson said. "And the children of those people should be going to great schools."
The winner of the March primary will face the incumbent, Republican Randy Hultgren, in the November general election.