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Romney Vows U.S. Military Supremacy If Elected

Friday, 07 Oct 2011 12:33 PM

 

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* Pledges 'American century'

* Says would review U.S. troop pullout in Afghanistan

* Would step up pressure on Iran

By Steve Holland

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney vowed Friday that if elected he would ensure U.S. military supremacy worldwide in a speech aimed at demonstrating he has ample foreign policy credentials.

Romney's appearance at the Citadel military college was an effort to assure Republicans that he would pursue an aggressive U.S. role in an unsettled world and reverse what they feel has been an American retrenchment under Democratic President Barack Obama.

"This century must be an American century," Romney said. "In an American century, America leads the free world and the free world leads the entire world."

Romney, a former businessman who was also Massachusetts governor, has little foreign policy experience. He has packed his national security team with former aides to Republican President George W. Bush.

Some of his policies sounded similar to those of Bush, who launched costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Romney, lest he be compared unfavorably to Bush, said he would employ "all the tools of statecraft" to shape threatening situations before they demand military action.

"The United States should always retain military supremacy to deter would-be aggressors and to defend our allies and ourselves. If America is the undisputed leader of the world, it reduces our need to police a more chaotic world," he said.

The Democratic National Committee immediately dismissed Romney's foreign policy vision with a memo entitled: "Romney Welcomes Back The Same Foreign Policy Geniuses Who Led Us Into Iraq."

Romney leads his Republican rivals by a small margin in polls of Republican voters and has yet to separate himself from the pack despite a well-funded, disciplined campaign.

Conservatives harbor doubts about his convictions and have been tempted by Texas Governor Rick Perry. Romney's strategy is to slowly pick up steam.

His speech at the Citadel was part of that strategy, to make his foreign policy vision look different from that of Obama but not alienate independent voters should he become the Republican nominee to oppose Obama in November 2012.

MORE NAVY SHIPS

Romney said in his first 100 days in office he would order the U.S. Navy built up by increasing the shipbuilding rate to about 15 a year from nine in order to bolster the American presence on the high seas. He would pursue a national missile defense system and order a cybersecurity strategy, to guard against militarized cyber-attacks.

And he would launch a review of Obama's troop drawdown from Afghanistan to ensure the United States has the force level necessary to secure gains against the Taliban.

This sets him apart from top rival Rick Perry, who told Time magazine he thinks U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq should come home as soon as possible.

Romney did not say how he would pay for his bulked-up U.S. military other than to say he would push for stronger economic growth.

"This is very simple: If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your president," Romney said. "You have that president today."

Romney said he would also:

- Step up pressure on Iran over its nuclear program by ordering the regular presence of an aircraft carrier task force in both the eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region and begin discussions with Israel to increase military and intelligence coordination.

- Prevent any massive cuts in defense spending. He has denounced an August agreement between Obama and Congress that could permit deep cuts in the U.S. defense budget as part of an effort to tackle record budget deficits.

- Work to bolster relations with Israel that some critics say have been damaged by what they feel was Obama's favoring of the Palestinians over Israel.

- And strengthen the U.S.-British "special relationship" and begin talks with Mexico on border violence due to the drug trade.

"America must lead the world, or someone else will," Romney said. (Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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