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