Military matters were on the minds of citizens and the vice president Tuesday. In Missouri, Bush said in response to a question about the kidnaping in Lebanon of a U.S. Marine officer that the United States reserved the right to use force to free such hostages.
Speaking with student journalists from the St. Louis region, the presidential candidate said, "If an American is seized, America has every right to use force" to gain the release of the victim.
"The problem is finding a surgical way to do that," he said.
His remarks were prompted by the seizure last week of Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, who was on duty with the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization when he was kidnaped a week ago today.
During several stops in the St. Louis area, the vice president also declared his commitment to building a 600-ship Navy. On Monday, Navy Secretary James H. Webb Jr. announced his resignation over dissatisfaction with the Reagan Administration's decision to slow the growth of the fleet as a result of efforts to hold Pentagon spending at the current level.
"I am committed to a 600-ship Navy. The problem is we're in a terrible budget crunch," Bush said. Overlooking the role the Administration played in reaching the current budget agreement with the House and Senate, the vice president said that Congress had provided less than was sought by the Administration, so ship purchases must be stretched out over more years than originally planned.