CHARLESTON, S.C. – Beneath a massive banner overhead that reads ”Believe in America,” former Gov. Mitt Romney delivered his foreign policy plan here in Charleston today, declaring, “America must lead the world, or someone else will.”
Speaking at the Citadel, Romney delivered his address to an audience filled with hundreds of cadets, whom he called “heroes,” declaring, “This is America’s moment.”
“God did not create this country to be a nation of followers,” said Romney, whose plan includes eight actions he says he will take within his first 100 days in office to place “America – and the world – on safer footing.”
On the very campus that President George W. Bush delivered his speech on the war on terror in December 2001, three months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Romney slammed the strength of the U.S. military under President Obama.
“I will not surrender America’s role in the world,” said Romney. “This is very simple: If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your president.”
“American strength rises from a strong economy, a strong defense and the enduring strength of our values. Unfortunately, under this president, all three of those elements have been weakened,” he said.
Titled “An American Century: a Strategy to secure American’s Enduring Interests and Ideals,” this policy speech was the second of Romney’s campaign. He delivered his economic plan in Nevada last month.
If elected, Romney says he will increase the naval shipbuilding rate from nine per year to 15 and sustain the carrier fleet at 11. He would also establish a unified regional director for the Middle East to “direct our soft power toward ensuring the Arab Spring does not fade into a long winter.”
In Afghanistan, Romney said he would order a “full review of our transition to the Afghan military to secure that nation’s sovereignty from the tyranny of the Taliban.
“I will speak with our generals in the field, and receive the best recommendation of our military commanders,” he said. “The force level necessary to secure our gains and complete our mission successfully is a decision I will make free from politics.”
On the campaign trail Romney has offered even more specifics about his plan for troop withdrawal. At a town hall meeting last week in New Hampshire, Romney said he would like to bring virtually all the troops home by December 2014, and the surge troops home by December 2012. He called Obama’s plan to bring the surge troops home in September 2012 a “political decision.”
A Romney adviser said today that Romney has also discussed traveling to Afghanistan to see the progress on the ground first hand.
“He talks about going to Afghanistan, visiting with the commanders on the ground and doing a full review of the military assistant plan,” the adviser said.
Romney’s plan will also include a campaign to “advance economic opportunity in Latin America,” a policy that advisers say makes this plan stand apart from those of Obama and Bush. Romney also vows to “bolster and repair our alliances” with the United Kingdom, and says he will launch communication with Mexico to tackle issues such as drugs and security.
Interrupted by applause several times during the speech, Romney seemed buoyed by the crowd. “The 21st century can and must be an American century. It began with terror, war and economic calamity. It is our duty to steer it onto the path of freedom, peace and prosperity.”
“Let future generations look back on us and say they rose to the occasion, they embraced their duty and they led our nation to safety and to greatness.”
The Obama campaign had a swift response to Romney’s speech and strategy: “Gov. Romney raised real questions about his capacity to lead this country and wage the fight against terrorism. He didn’t outline a strategy to strengthen America’s security and promote our interests and didn’t even identify defeating al Qaeda as a goal. President Obama has degraded al Qaeda and dealt huge blows to its leadership, including eliminating Osama bin Laden, ended the war in Iraq, promoted our security in Afghanistan while winding down our commitment in a responsible way and strengthened American leadership around the world. Gov. Romney proves once again that he is willing to say anything, regardless of the facts, to get elected.”