Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney Monday called for the country to take a greater role in leading on the world stage.
Speaking at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney said that in the past, America's leadership has been crucial to the development of the world.
"This is what makes America exceptional: It is not only the character of our country; it is also the record of our accomplishments," Romney said. "America has a proud history of strong, confident, principled global leadership -- a history that's been written by patriots of both parties."
He added, "That is America at its best and is the standard by which we measure every president as well as anyone who wishes to be president."
Romney said President Barack Obama has not been equal to the highest standards of global leadership.
"It is our responsibility and the responsibility of the President to use America's great power to shape history, not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events," he said. "Unfortunately, that's exactly where we find ourselves in the Middle East under President Obama."
Romney blamed Obama for letting the relationship between the United States and Israel deteriorate, a situation that Romney said had emboldened Iran in that country's quest for nuclear weapons.
"Iran today has never been closer to a nuclear weapons capability," Romney said. "It has never posed a greater danger to our friends, our allies and to us."
He added, "And yet when millions of Iranians took to the streets in June of 2009; when they demanded freedom from a cruel regime that threatens the world; when they cried out, are you with us or are you with them, the American president was silent."
Romney said that Obama has also failed to lead in the response to Syrian crackdowns on protesters and an escalating civil war that has drawn in violent extremists.
"The president is fond of saying that 'the tide of war is receding.' And I want to believe him as much as anyone else," Romney said. "But when we look at the Middle East today, with Iran closer than ever to nuclear weapons capability, with the conflict in Syria threatening to destabilize the region and with violent extremists on the march, and with an American ambassador and three others dead -- likely at the hands of al-Qaida affiliates -- it's clear that the risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when the president took office."
Mere hope for a safer, freer and more prosperous Middle East is not a strategy, Romney said.
"We can't support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds, when our defense spending is being arbitrarily and deeply cut, when we have no trade agenda to speak of and the perception of our strategy is not one of partnership, but of passivity," he said.
He added, "It is time to change course in the Middle East. … America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might. No friend of America will question our commitment to support them. No enemy that attacks America will question our resolve to defeat them. And no one anywhere, friend or foe, will doubt America's capability to back up our words."
Romney said he would not hesitate to increase pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear program and deepen America's cooperation with allies in the Persian Gulf while reversing "deep and arbitrary" cuts to defense spending made under Obama.
"I'll make the critical defense investments that we need to remain secure," Romney said. "The decisions we make today will determine our ability to protect America tomorrow. The first purpose of a strong military is to prevent war."
He added, "I'll restore our Navy to the size needed to fulfill our missions by building 15 ships per year, including three submarines. I'll implement effective missile defenses to protect against threats."
If America fails to lead, other nations who don't share the values and interests of the United States will fill that vacuum, Romney said.
"America's security and the cause of freedom cannot afford four more years like the last four years," he said. "I'm running for president because I believe the leader of the free world has a duty, to our citizens and to our friends everywhere, to use America's great influence, wisely, with solemnity and without false pride, but also firmly and actively, to shape events in ways that secure our interests, further our values, prevent conflict and make the world better -- not perfect but better."
by RTT Staff Writer
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