Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.) said yesterday that the Reagan administration's policy in Central America is typical of "the kind of mindless bureaucratic thinking that got us into Vietnam" and that the "principal enemy in Central America is not communism--it is poverty."
In a speech at the University of Michigan, Hart proposed his own peace plan for the region and sharply criticized comments last week by Undersecretary of Defense Fred C. Ikle.
Ikle, speaking to the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs, called for a military victory in Central America and said negotiations alone cannot resolve current conflicts there. He also said lukewarm congressional support for President Reagan's program there could force the United States to deploy troops in the region, "as in Korea or West Germany."
"Here we have the Reagan 'solution'--precipitous and premature commitment of American forces and resources . . . ," said Hart, one of seven Democratic presidential candidates. "It is the politics of the Pentagon, of 'Send in the Marines.' "
"The real roots of the crisis lie in the generations of military dictatorships that have institutionalized political and economic injustice," said Hart, adding that conflicts will continue to ravage the region until the quality of living is improved.
The Reagan administration, Hart said, has decided to defer ending "hunger and repression until military victory is achieved . . . but in the absence of convincing, positive actions by the Salvadoran government to promote social and economic justice, any military victory will prove illusory."
Hart said he would use diplomatic means to end current hostilities and form economic partnerships with other nations to fight poverty and provide security by clearly defining the circumstances under which U.S. military action would be justified.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, interviewed by U.S. News & World Report magazine, said Ikle's comments do not mean that U.S. military involvement in Central America will increase. He said that "a military victory is clearly achievable by the Salvadorans themselves if we can give them a little more support."