- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2011

GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney, laying out his security and foreign policy priorities, vowed Friday to push back against proposed cuts to defense spending, while promising to beef up the Navy’s fleet of ships, revive plans for a expansive national missile defense system and defer to military commanders on troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Speaking at The Citadel military college in Charleston, South Carolina, the former Massachusetts governor shared those ideas and others in a laying out a hawkish foreign policy that he said would be based on the idea of creating the “American Century,” fueled by the conviction that God created the United States to lead the rest of the world.

“God did not create this country to be a nation of followers,” Mr. Romney said. “America is not destined to be one of several equally balanced global powers. America must lead the world, or someone else will. Without American leadership, without clarity of American purpose and resolve, the world becomes a far more dangerous place, and liberty and prosperity would surely be among the first casualties.”

His speech marked one of the first major foreign policy addresses in a GOP primary campaign that has been focused to date on the nation’s pressing domestic problems, including the national 9.1 percent unemployment rate, trillion-dollar annual deficits and a mushrooming $14.8 trillion national debt.

In his remarks, Mr. Romney warned against the growing global ambitions of China and Russia, and talked about the need to keep a close eye on nations such as Iran, Pakistan, North Korea and Venezuela.

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks on Oct. 6, 2011, to supporters aboard the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point in Charleston, S.C. (Associated Press/The Post and Courier)
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks on Oct. ... more >

He also pushed back against the anti-interventionist strain of the Republican Party and appeared to separate himself some of his GOP rivals, including Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman who have advocated for pulling troops out of Afghanistan and reducing the nation’s military presence overseas in order to save money and help put the nation’s fiscal house in order.

“This is America’s moment,” Mr. Romney said. “We should embrace the challenge, not shrink from it, not crawl into an isolationist shell, not wave the white flag of surrender, nor give in to those who assert America’s time has passed. That is utter nonsense.”

But Mr. Romney trained most of his fire on President Obama, questioning his “clarity and resolve” on the world stage. He cast the president as an apologist and criticized his “profoundly mistaken view” that “there is nothing unique about the United States.”

“If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your president,” Mr. Romney said. “You have that president today.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney pushed back at the daily press briefing, saying the president’s “record on foreign policy and national security policy speaks for itself.”

“We are stronger. We are safer,” Mr. Carney said. “We have taken the fight to our principal enemy with a level of aggression and success that is unprecedented. We have improved our relationships around the world with our allies and our partners.”

He also pointed out that Mr. Romney’s remarks appeared to clash with those of House Speaker John Boehner, the Ohio Republican who applauded President Obama’s handling of aspects of the war on terrorism during an appearance Thursday at a Washington forum.

“I’ve been very supportive of the president’s decisions in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Mr. Boehner said, at one point crediting Mr. Obama for outperforming President George W. Bush in areas of the war on terrorism. “When you look at the prosecution of the war effort against the enemy in the tribal areas [of Pakistan], there’s clearly more been done under President Obama than there was under President Bush, in terms of a more aggressive effort focused at them.”

Meanwhile, despite a near consensus for reduced spending on Capitol Hill, Mr. Romney seemed poised to go in the opposite direction when it comes to defense.

He called for a accelerated build-up of the Navy’s fleet from 9 to 15 ships a year and deferring to military leaders on the timetable on when to draw down the nearly 100,000 U.S. troops still in Afghanistan.

Story Continues →